How Does Marijuana Affect The Brain?

How Does Marijuana Affect The Brain?

Marijuana is called cannabis. In our brains, we have an endocannabinoid system and varying cannabinoid receptors. THC, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main active ingredient in marijuana which causes the brain to become intoxicated. This ingredient interacts with the cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain, causing different effects on the brain both structurally and responsively. The brain also produces its own cannabinoids, which are brain chemicals, that interact with the cannabinoid receptors. Together, the cannabinoid receptors and the cannabinoid chemicals create the endocannabinoid system.

People who become heavily intoxicated from marijuana describe the experience of being “stoned”. Feeling slowed down and heavy in the brain and body is caused by the cannabinoid receptors being flooded by THC and other cannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system is far reaching in the brain, interacting with different areas which cause different effects. Primarily, the cannabinoids slow down communication between the cells of all the different areas of the brain, slowing down brain function as a whole. As a result, the brain cannot function normally, creating that “stoned” sensation and all of its effects.

Areas of the brain and how they are affected by marijuana

  • The amygdala is the brain’s resource center for regulating fear. Under the influence of THC, the amygdala cannot process emotion and fear, causing the common experience of paranoia marijuana users get.
  • People who are “stoned” feel like they are moving slow- and many times they are. The basal ganglia is part of the brain which dictates muscle movement. THC slows down the body’s movement timing.
  • More movement is impaired due to the slowing down of the cerebellum, the part of the brain which dictates balance and coordination.
  • THC also slows down the hippocampus which processes new information and sorts information for memory storage. As a result, people under the influence of marijuana have impaired memory.
  • “Munchies” or being extremely hungry, is a common side effect of being high on marijuana. This is caused by the hypothalamus slowing down, the area of the brain which regulates eating or cravings for food.
  • Being high on drugs is addicting primarily because of the state of euphoria drugs cause in the brain. Euphoric sensations come from the nucleus accumbens, which is the reward center of the brain. Though THC can affect the nucleus accumbens, its the production of another brain chemical called dopamine, a neurotransmitter for pleasure, which floods the reward center.

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