Science Scoop

By Will Owen /// Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered what’s actually going on in your brain when you smoke the reefer?

The “high-inducing” compounds present in the cannabis sativa and cannabis indica species are part of a class of molecules called cannabinoids. These compounds were evolutionarily selected as pesticides for these plants. These molecules would strongly effect the nervous systems of animals that would try to eat these plants. As humans, we are no exception to this phenomenon. However, we’ve developed an immunity to most of the negative effects of these natural pesticides.

The two most prominent (identified) cannabinoids are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidol).

This class of molecules are not just present in cannabis, but are also part of a whole network of neurotransmitters in the human brain called the endocannabinoid system.

When you smoke the flowering bud of the cannabis plant, the oily cannabinoids that are vaporized by the flame enter your lungs, and through your bloodstream they arrive in the enigmatic depths of the human brain.

Upon arrival in the brain, they mimic and overhaul the function of these endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. This accounts for all of the various medically-beneficial effects of the marijuana, such as increased euphoria, appetite, and pain tolerance.

So, with this intense artificial stimulation of the endocannabinoid system, wouldn’t you expect overconsumption to cause dangerous neurological damage?

Actually, when your brain feels overexposed to cannabinoids (such as THC), it has a defense mechanism to prevent any damage. The brain can release a hormone called pregnenolone, which immediately starts inhibiting THC’s intoxicating properties. Thanks to this, most people can enjoy an occasional cannabinoid high without worrying about the negative psychological effects.

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