It’s just another one of life’s fascinating mysteries: the myriad effects of certain plant-based compounds like THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), capable of causing a high in humans (and other animals). Despite the sense of wonder, we do have some idea of what happens in the brain and beyond when we get high or stoned. THC interacts with certain receptors throughout the body, influencing processes ranging from emotion to pain perception. Even if you’ve never been high, and have no interest in getting high, you may still wonder what it might feel like. In this blog, we give you a glimpse of what being high means, and what effects THC has on a cannabis high.
THC And Brain Biology
Our brains consist of nerve cells (neurons) that convey information to one another, as well as to certain muscular and glandular cells. Recent studies point out that humans have over 86 billion neurons each! Brain cells communicate by means of neurotransmitters produced by the brain. Neurotransmitters convey messages by connecting with molecules called endocannabinoid receptors. Our body generates its own endocannabinoids whenever our internal balance is disrupted. This natural state of equilibrium between all the various processes of the body is called homeostasis. Our balance can get disrupted by external factors like cold or heat as well as by internal ones like stress, inflammation, pain, or fear. When that happens, our endocannabinoids contact our endocannabinoid receptors to try and restore the balance. We call this interaction between receptors and endocannabinoids the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Intriguingly, these endocannabinoids are highly similar to another type of cannabinoids, which are produced by the cannabis plant.
THC is a plant-based cannabinoid: a phytocannabinoid. Our body respond to these in the same way it would to endocannabinoids. In other words, the body regards THC (and other cannabinoids in cannabis) as its own. That means THC from weed plants can also bind to ECS receptors. Two such receptors exist:
- CB1 receptors mainly located in the brain and peripheral nerve system;
- CB2 receptors situated in the immune system and surrounding tissues all throughout the body.
When using cannabis, the (phyto-) cannabinoids connect with these two types of receptors. This is why THC can have all sorts of effects on us, as can other cannabinoids including CBD, CBN, CBG, and THCV. The anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis, for instance, is due to CB2 receptor connections. The effects of THC on the cannabis high stem from the substance’s similarity to the neurotransmitter anandamide. This is one of the reasons why cannabis can cause feelings of euphoria, just like anandamide can.
THC Effects On The Brain
Cannabis contains a variety of cannabinoids, but THC produces many of the special psychoactive effects of a high through the ECS. Other cannabinoids as well as vegetal flavonoids and terpenes all add their own twist to the experience through the entourage effect. That makes every high unique, depending on the composition of a cannabis strain and the consumer’s personality traits. CBD can influence a THC high in its own particular way, for instance. The specific effect depends on which CB receptors are activated in the brain; particularly by THC. Someone using cannabis can experience this both mentally and physically.
CB1 receptors are spread all over the brain and the wider nervous system. The effects of THC vary according to the exact location of receptors.
- Neocortex: The neocortex is involved in complex thought, feelings, and movement. The impact of THC on this part of the brain alters the way we think, judge, and feel;
- Basal ganglia: This part of the brain helps plan your actions and initiate motion. THC can delay response times here;
- Nucleus accumbens: This brain structure controls motivation and rewards. Here, THC causes the sense of euphoria many people seek in cannabis;
- Hypothalamus: Controls appetite and libido. THC binding to local receptors can increase cravings for food and sex;
- Amygdala: this part of the brain governs emotions like anxiety and avoidance of pain. Here, THC can cause paranoia and anxiety;
- Hippocampus: This bran structure processes and stores new information. The hippocampus governs learning. One of THC’s effects here is reduced effectiveness of short term memory;
- Brain stem: The brain stem relays messages between the brain and the spinal cord. THC binding to these receptors can reduce feelings of nausea;
- Cerebellum (hind brain): Coordinates physical balance and movement. The effect of THC on the receptors of this area can reduce motion control;
- Spinal cord: The spinal cord relays messages from the brain to the rest of the body. When THC connects to the receptors located here, it can change perception and sensitivity to pain.
The Effects Of THC On Being High
The experience of a cannabis high is personal and subjective. Every particular weed strain affects everyone differently at different moments in time. The effects of THC depend heavily on the sensitivity of your own ECS, the method of using cannabis (smoking, vaping, or edibles), dosage, and prior experience or expectations. Furthermore, cannabinoids are biphasic, meaning that they have only a small window of positive effects. Use too little and you won’t notice any effect. Taking too much, however, risks overburdening your ECS. That can make you feel nauseous, dizzy, or paranoid, for example. This is why it is wise to know your ideal personal dose – if you want to try it in the first place, that is.
THC Effects At The Right Dose And Mood
Once you find that personal dose, though, cannabis can have a positive effect on your mood. Experiences range from feeling at ease and relaxed to an overwhelming sense of euphoria and joy. Do remember that any cannabis THC high is subjective: you can’t really predict how you will respond personally. As mentioned, your basic mood and the configuration of your ECS are key factors here. That’s why we recommend not trying cannabis when you are in a low, sad, or unstable mood, even though people report positive effects of cannabis on depression and anxiety, for instance.
Every Strain Has Different Effects
The composition of specific weed strains codetermine your experience of the high. The (crude) distinction between indica and sativa cannabis strains can be a useful to know, for instance. Compounds like CBD and terpenes also strongly affect a high and any underlying emotions.
THC can make you feel uplifted, but it can also stimulate your creativity, making you feel like painting, writing, or making music. You could also feel the urge to engage in deep conversations on the meaning of life. And we’re not even mentioning all the reasons for using or growing medicinal weed… Still, this doesn’t mean everybody ought to try weed for themselves: ultimately, the choice is yours alone!
Handling The Effects Of THC Responsibly
No matter how interesting the effects of a THC high may sound, you always stay in control over what you will and will not do. Never let others talk you into using cannabis, and always be honest about it to yourself and people around you. There’s much more to tell about responsible use of cannabis, be we will have to return to that in other blogs. At least now you know more about the effects of THC on your brain, your feelings, your perception, and everything associated with these.
You can read more about the specific effects of cannabis strains in the description of our marijuana seeds in the web store.
Disclaimer: Local laws and legislation on cannabis cultivation and germination of seeds vary between countries and states. Amsterdam Genetics products and information are exclusively intended for use in areas where such use is fully legal. Check your local rules; do not act in conflict with the law!