How Marijuana Affects the Brain & Body | Dr. Andrew Huberman

health and wellness

9th February 2024 | 00:21:37

How Marijuana Affects the Brain & Body | Dr. Andrew Huberman

How Marijuana Affects the Brain & Body | Dr. Andrew Huberman

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TLDR: Cannabis' psychoactive effects stem from THC and CBD binding to CB1 receptors in the brain. Sativa strains elevate mood, alertness, and focus, while indica strains induce relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. Indica strains impair short-term memory due to reduced activity in the hippocampus. Both strains suppress activity in the basal ganglia and cerebellum, affecting motor planning and balance. Common effects include reddening of eyes, dry mouth, increased appetite, and pain relief. The unpredictability of effects and lack of dosage guidelines make it challenging to determine safe consumption levels.
Cannabis and the Brain's Cannabinoid System: A Journey into Psychoactive Effects
Stepping into the realm of cannabis consumption, whether through smoking or ingesting edibles, tinctures, or other forms, marks the initiation of a rapid journey of psychoactive compounds into the bloodstream. Within a mere 30 seconds, these compounds, predominantly THC and CBD, permeate the brain and bodily tissues, reaching their peak concentrations and biological effects within 30 to 60 minutes. This swift delivery sets cannabis apart from substances like alcohol and nicotine, underscoring its potent psychoactive nature.
Lipophilic Properties and Extended Presence
THC, CBD, and other components of cannabis possess a unique characteristic: they are highly lipophilic. This affinity for fatty tissues allows them to effortlessly pass through and accumulate within cell membranes, particularly those of neurons. This attribute grants these compounds an extended presence in the body, with their detection window spanning at least 80 days post-ingestion. Despite efforts to accelerate clearance, the lipophilic nature of cannabis constituents ensures their prolonged residence within fatty tissues, including visceral fat and neural membranes.
Diverse Effects: A Balancing Act
The subjective effects of cannabis consumption vary widely, influenced by factors such as the strain (sativa or indica), dosage, individual metabolism, familiarity with the compound, and frequency of use. Sativa strains, often associated with elevated mood, alertness, and talkativeness, are believed to exert these effects by activating CB1 receptors in the prefrontal cortex. This activation leads to increased neurotransmitter release, resulting in heightened focus, creativity, and a sense of flow.
In contrast, indica strains tend to induce relaxation, sedation, and stress reduction. These effects are attributed to the suppression of activity in the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear and stress responses. However, the paradoxical experience of anxiety and paranoia in some individuals consuming sativa strains remains a topic of ongoing research, with no clear predictors to identify susceptible individuals.
Impact on Brain Regions: A Symphony of Effects
Cannabis, through its interaction with CB1 receptors, orchestrates a symphony of effects across various brain regions:
  • Hippocampus: Disruption of electrical activity within the hippocampus, regardless of strain or THC-to-CBD ratio, leads to deficits in memory, particularly short-term memory.
  • Prefrontal Cortex: Sativa strains predominantly activate the prefrontal cortex, enhancing cognitive processing, focus, and planning. Indica strains, on the other hand, suppress activity in this region, promoting relaxation and reducing cognitive engagement.
  • Basal Ganglia and Cerebellum: Both sativa and indica strains generally suppress neural activity in the basal ganglia and cerebellum, areas involved in action planning and motor coordination. This suppression contributes to the reduced physical mobility often associated with cannabis consumption.
  • Eyes and Mouth: Activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the eyes and mouth causes reddening of the eyes and dryness of the mouth, respectively. This is due to the inhibition of tear and saliva production.
  • Hypothalamus: The dense presence of CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus, particularly in the arcuate nucleus, mediates the phenomenon known as "the munchies." THC and CBD stimulate appetite through cognitive mechanisms, intensifying cravings and narrowing focus on food, while also signaling the gut to increase blood sugar levels.
Complex Interactions: A Journey of Discovery
The effects of cannabis on the brain are a tapestry of intricate interactions between CB1 receptors, neurotransmitter systems, and various brain regions. While research continues to unravel the complexities of these interactions, the unique properties of cannabis, its rapid onset of action, and its diverse effects on brain function and behavior make it a fascinating subject of scientific exploration.
Q: What is the mechanism of action by which cannabis impacts the brain and body?
A: Cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which consists of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (naturally occurring cannabis-like molecules), and enzymes that synthesize and degrade endocannabinoids. When THC and CBD bind to CB1 receptors, they can either activate or suppress neural activity depending on the brain region. For instance, THC activates CB1 receptors in the prefrontal cortex, leading to increased focus and mood, while it suppresses CB1 receptors in the amygdala, reducing anxiety and stress.
Q: Why do different strains of cannabis have different effects?
A: Different strains of cannabis contain varying ratios of THC and CBD, as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes. These variations in composition can result in different effects on the brain and body. Sativa strains tend to have higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD, producing an energizing and uplifting effect, while indica strains have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC, resulting in a more relaxing and sedative effect. However, individual responses to different strains can vary significantly.
Q: How long does it take for cannabis to take effect?
A: When smoked or vaporized, cannabis effects begin within seconds to minutes and peak within 30 minutes. When ingested, effects take longer to appear, typically within 30 to 60 minutes, and can last for several hours.
Q: How long does cannabis stay in the body?
A: THC and CBD are lipophilic, meaning they can accumulate in fatty tissues. The detection window for cannabis use can vary widely depending on factors such as the amount consumed, frequency of use, and individual metabolism. Generally, THC and CBD can be detected in urine for up to 30 days and in blood for up to 12 hours after use.
Q: What are the potential benefits of cannabis?
A: Cannabis has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits for a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, nausea and vomiting, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and anxiety. It may also stimulate appetite and improve sleep. However, more research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
Q: What are the potential risks of cannabis use?
A: Potential risks of cannabis use include impaired memory and attention, increased risk of accidents, respiratory problems, and potential for dependence and addiction. High doses of THC can also cause anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. Additionally, cannabis use during pregnancy may adversely affect fetal development.
Q: Who should avoid using cannabis?
A: Cannabis use is generally not recommended for individuals under the age of 25, pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with a history of psychosis or schizophrenia, and those who operate heavy machinery or engage in activities requiring alertness and coordination.

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9th February 2024

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