People often react very differently to cannabis consumption. For many, it’s a relaxing, even meditative experience, while others often feel anxious and paranoid. Some find a small, light dosage effective. Others need high quantities of extremely strong cannabis to feel any effects at all. So why do our reactions vary so widely? Today, we’ll explore a few fundamental components of our reactions to cannabis consumption.
The Endocannabinoid System
Our bodies process the cannabis plant through the endocannabinoid system. This system helps us maintain homeostasis. It works by producing endocannabinoids, natural chemicals that help our bodies with bioregulation. Endocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system play a crucial role in regulating a variety of biological functions, including our reaction to chronic stress, nervous system functions, and even our body’s response to cancer.
Cannabinoids are chemicals naturally secreted by the cannabis plant. They mirror the endocannabinoids produced by our body, and interact with the endocannabinoid system in a similar manner. These interactions help cause the plant’s psychoactive effects and therapeutic effects.
THC vs CBD
One of the most well known cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This cannabinoid is primarily responsible for the high we associate with the cannabis plant. It also stimulates appetite, can reduce muscle spasms and vomiting, and relieves pain. For some, THC can cause anxiety. Understanding your sensitivity to THC can help you better regulate the psychological effects you experience, and help you deal with any feelings of anxiety or paranoia.
You may also be familiar with cannabidiol, or CBD. Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not cause any psychoactive effects. It does, however, produce a wide variety of therapeutic benefits. Early research shows that it may be effective in treating several particularly difficult diseases, including multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder, and Crohn’s disease. It can also reduce anxiety, and may strengthen the painkilling effects of THC.
While THC and CBD are naturally found in the highest relative quantities of all the cannabinoids, it’s important to remember that there are over 100 different cannabinoids, and they all have different effects. Cannabinol, or CBN, for example, can induce sleep and help relieve pain. Additionally, because everyone has a different endocannabinoid system, different consumers experience some effects more strongly than others.
Cannabinoids are not the only factor at work in our reactions to cannabis. The essential oils of the cannabis plant, called terpenes, can alter the kind of psychoactive effects experienced, as well as what therapeutic benefits result.
Psychological factors are also important. How comfortable you feel with your environment, your mood while consuming cannabis, and what you expect to feel can alter the intensity of psychological effects and whether or not you experience anxiety. Gender may also be a factor — recent research indicates that women may be more sensitive to THC than men. As we explored today, we all experience cannabis differently. So take your time, and find out what works for you.