THC crystals on a flowering marijuana plant.

Mary Jane in the brain


What goes on inside your brain when you’re high

By| Carlos Olloqui

Things melt, time loses all meaning. Your body begins to tingle from head to toe. Everything you touch feels electric. Music seems to play note by note. Pressure builds on your cheekbones, your eyes squint up, your brain begins to tickle, and a bliss takes over. Yup, you’re stoned.

Marijuana, also known by its scientific name, Cannabis, is no longer a stoner drug earmarked for hippies. One in eight adults in the United States said they smoke marijuana, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2016. That means about 13 percent of Americans enjoy getting high.

THC crystals on a flowering marijuana plant.

But what exactly does it mean to get high? What goes on inside of your body after a couple of hits of that sweet Mary Jane? Well, the marijuana plant produces chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The two most popular ones being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). According to Thorsten Rudroff, an assistant professor at Colorado State University who studies cannabis use, THC is the most psychoactive compound which is what gives you that high feeling.

When you ingest THC, in any form, it quickly infiltrates your bloodstream and travels to your brain. Your brain is made up of neurons. Neurons are specialized cells that like to keep their distance from each other. In order to bridge this gap, chemicals called neurotransmitters deliver chemical messages by traveling from neuron to neurons and attaching onto receptors. There’s a special kind of neurotransmitter called an endocannabinoid.

According to the website Greatist, the cannabinoids in marijuana mirror those naturally produced by your own body, which latch onto the existing cannabinoid receptors in your brain. Cannabinoid receptors are activated by anandamide, a neurotransmitter that our body already produces, according to AsapSCIENCE. THC mimics the actions of anandamide.

Highest tree in the yard.

Once neurons fire, they undergo a refractory period, which prevents them from overworking and allows your brain to function calmly. However, cannabinoids interrupt this neuron nap time and cause them to run wild. This means that your neurons keep firing, your current thoughts become more meaningful and intense than ever, as if you could actually see them. You brain gets stuck on a certain specific idea until a new idea takes the spotlight and you go off on a tangent.

According to Leaf Science, these cannabinoids also affect the levels of happiness chemical, dopamine and norepinephrine, which often lead to a sense of euphoria and relaxation.

While this information may seem to put weed up on this high (no pun intended) and grand pedestal, it does come with its downs. Marijuana can affect our memory and learning, coordination, cause anxiety, and limit our cognitive function. Not to mention the cottonmouth, bloodshot eyes, and coma inducing munchies you get after lighting up.

So, next time you feel like interacting with Mary Jane, make sure you think about your cerebrum. That is if you aren’t already too stoned to even think.

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