Article by Amy Eisinger, Hamilton Spectator
Whether you use it yourself, have a friend who does or know someone who moved to Colorado for not-so-secret reasons, you probably have an opinion about weed. Marijuana is no longer a taboo stoner drug reserved for hippies.
Cannabis (the proper name for weed) has been used as medicine for millennia. But as aspirins and opioids rose in popularity, weed use declined, and the drug was officially criminalized in 1937 — against the advice of the American Medical Association.
But we’re not here to debate the pros and cons of legalization. Instead, we’re interested in breaking down exactly what happens in your brain and body when you’re high.
How the plant works:
You typically hear about two types of marijuana: C. sativa and C. indicia. Scientists can’t completely agree on whether those are the only two species. Some think there’s a third or that all species are descendants of sativa. Regardless, they work the same way (up to a point).
Marijuana plants produce chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The ones that get the most attention are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). “THC is the most psychoactive compound,” says Thorsten Rudroff, PhD, an assistant professor at Colorado State University who studies cannabis use in patients with multiple sclerosis. “So when you smoke cannabis, THC gives you the high feeling. The more THC you have, the more powerful the high.”
“You’re more sensitive to sound; you’re hungrier,” says Beatriz Carlini, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Washington. “All those different sensations that people who use marijuana recreationally describe — like being more relaxed — are because of the THC.”
THC also increases dopamine levels, creating that sense of euphoria.