It’s commonly known that smoking or ingesting marijuana makes you feel good. People wouldn’t use it if it didn’t provide a pleasurable sensation, and leave them feeling happier overall. But why does smoking a joint or eating a hash brownie make us feel like that? And what are the physiological effects of marijuana that you can’t see?
Why does marijuana make you feel good?
Marijuana is full of a compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. When THC reaches the brain cells, those cells release dopamine, the “feel good” chemical. This chemical makes everything seem better, from your mood to commonplace things such as eating.
The physiological effects
Other than just making you feel good, marijuana has a number of other physiological effects including:
- Balance and coordination are thrown off. THC can interfere with the cerebellum and basal ganglia areas of the brain. These are responsible for things such as balance, coordination, and reaction time, which is why users might sometimes find they have difficulty with speaking, walking, and driving.
- Anxiety, panic, distrust, and/or fear. Any or all of these are some of the most common side effects of the drug, with 20 to 30 per cent of recreational marijuana users reporting these symptoms.
- Sleep deprivation. THC has been proven to interfere with the most important REM stage of sleep. This of course can cause people to have a lack of focus and concentration, and extreme fatigue throughout the day after using marijuana.
- Heart rate increases. After just a couple of minutes after smoking marijuana, a person’s heart rate can increase 20 to 50 beats per minute. If other drugs are taken along with marijuana, this can cause the heart rate to even double. After about 20 minutes, the heart rate goes back to normal.
- Blood vessels in the eye expand. Red eye is a tell-tale sign that someone has used marijuana, and this is the precise reason why.
- Dry mouth. Excessive thirst or dry mouth is another side effect because cannabinoid receptors are located in our mouths, and they’re the same receptors responsible for saliva production. When these receptors are activated by cannabis, they can no longer create saliva, leaving that feeling of a mouthful of cotton balls.
- The munchies. This is another side effect that’s so common it’s become a stereotype. It is true however, that THC activates the hypothalamus portion of the brain over and over (think of a button being pushed) and this is the area of the brain that’s responsible for signalling things such as hunger.
It’s true that the “feel good” feeling is one of the first physiological effects you’ll feel after using marijuana. However, there are also a number of other physiological effects going on that explain why users might act and feel the way they do after smoking a joint.