Although some cultures and media outlets depict the usage of marijuana as an unintelligible phenomenon, there is undoubtedly a science behind getting high from smoking medical cannabis. It has recently been reported by the FDA that an estimated 38 percent of Americans have smoked or tried marijuana, with over 22 million Americans partaking in the herb annually. Marijuana has had a significant impact on America’s culture and as it continues to gain legal standing it is important to understand the science behind getting stoned and the way marijuana interacts with the brain. So in the case it becomes legal, it is possible to be healthily aware.
After being inhaled through the lungs and entering the blood stream the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the marijuana reaches the brain in seconds. There are multiple ways THC can enter the bloodstream; THC is absorbed in the intestines entering the bloodstream after eating edible marijuana recipes, responsible for the usually 30 minute delay for edible consumption. The interaction with the brain and the THC causes marijuana users to feel relaxed, mellow, usually surrounded by a hazy feeling and light-headedness. Many times eyes become dilated allowing colors to seem enhanced. The THC interacts with specific parts of the brain in specific ways to make this possible.
In the brain neurotransmitters allow neurons which process information to the brain to communicate with each other; neurotransmitters fill these gaps between neurons and bind to protein receptors that control various functions in the brain turning them on and off. THC mimics or blocks these on and off actions of neurotransmitters, interfering with normal brain and body functions, the beginning to the science behind getting high from smoking medical cannabis. With the increased understanding of marijuana it is now easier to know how to interact with it safely.
Inside the brain, cannabinoid receptors become activated by neurotransmitters called anandamide, a type of natural cannabinoid produced by your brain. When smoking the medical cannabis THC mimics the anandamide binding with the cannabinoid receptors activating the neurons causing adverse affects on the brain. These areas are located at specific parts of the brain that have concentrations of cannabinoids; the basal ganglia, the hippocampus and the cerebellum, all three targeting mental and physical activities like short-term memory, coördination, learning and problem solving. The hippocampus is a part of the temporal lobe that is important for short-term memory loss and the recollection of events. THC also directly effects coördination interfering with the neurons in the cerebellum. The basal ganglia is directly associated with unconscious muscle movements, offering tribute to the maxim it is not safe to run machinery or a motor vehicle while medicated. These realities pay homage to the belief that understanding the herb benefits users by providing information to help make the mind altering herb safer, especially when it is certainly possible future kids will grow up in a marijuana legal world.
Humanity is fortunate enough to live in a time where it can understand exactly the way medical marijuana affects human brains. As responsible advocates of marijuana benefits it is imperative to understand marijuana fully because one day it will be legal and humans will need to be able to explain to children the facts and science behind getting stoned. The science behind getting high from smoking medical cannabis helps scientists discover ways to manipulate the herb to extract more medical benefits.
Commentary by Zane Foley