How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?
Marijuana’s impact on the brain is complex and varies from person to person. How quickly cannabis works depends on how it is consumed. When smoked, the effects are felt almost immediately because THC goes quickly into your bloodstream via your lungs. This causes brain cells to release dopamine, creating the sensation of euphoria. Eating cannabis causes its effects to be felt more slowly, sometimes taking as long as an hour or more.
THC, CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the human brain at sites called cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are found on human cells and are involved with various process that help maintain consistency within the body despite changes in the body’s environment, a concept known as homeostasis. The main cannabinoid receptors are referred to as CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors seem to influence cognition, memory, motor movements, and pain perception. Most CB1 receptors exist in the brain, but some can be found in the nerves of the liver, thyroid, uterus, bones, and testicular tissue.
Unlike CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors are mostly found in immune cells, the spleen, and the gastrointestinal system.
CB2 receptors are also found in the brain, but to a lesser extent. CB2 receptors play a role in human reproduction, too, from embryonic development to sperm survival. Cannabinoids act on CB2 receptors to reduce the gastrointestinal inflammation found in conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Cannabinoids and Endocannabinoids
Your body makes its own cannabinoids, which are called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids perform a wide range of activities related to maintaining homeostasis, from nursing to growth to responding to injuries. The cannabinoids in marijuana interfere with the body’s natural regulation of various chemicals, including dopamine. Researchers suspect that cannabinoids allow more of these chemicals to be released than would normally be the case.