Smoking Marijuana is something that many people assume to be a safe and risk-free recreational activity. The drug, which has countless street names (such as Pot, Herb, Green, Ganja, Chronic, etc.), has gained a reputation for helping to facilitate good times and relaxation. However, many users aren’t even aware of how the drug affects the body or why they feel the “high” that they do when they smoke it.
At its most basic form, Marijuana is a shredded plant, and the typical form found on the streets is leaves, stems, and seeds that are all shredded up into flakes (think Oregano). This compound can then be put into a pipe (or bong), or rolled into a cigarette-like tube (joint). More potent varieties of Marijuana, such as Hashish and Hashish Oil, are found in similar forms (except for Hashish Oil) and are consumed in similar ways.
The active ingredient in Marijuana, THC, affects the brain on several levels. Though many users experience different reactions to Marijuana, it has a relatively universal effect on the brain. THC binds with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, causing reactions across the body depending on where in the brain these receptors are located. The distribution of these receptors is relatively uneven, explaining why some people experience a massive loss of function while others are less affected.
When you consume THC (typically by smoking Marijuana), the compound travels quickly through your body. It is absorbed into the bloodstream and is carried into the brain where, depending on the dispersion of the cannabinoid receptors, it will begin to have various effects. Once the user has ceased consuming THC or if the THC has reached its highest saturation point, maximum effects will be noticed by the user. This “high”, or feeling of euphoria, can typically last from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the quantity of THC consumed and the tolerance of the particular individual.
The typical results of THC consumption:
- Loss of coordination. Cannabinoid receptors located in parts of the brain associated with coordination and movement can drastically inhibit motor skills and coordination. This is why many users become quite clumsy and unable to efficiently conduct themselves when they are “high”. This type of result is usually moderately pronounced, though it tends to taper off as the individual begins to sober up.
Users typically report experiencing this type of effect during the peak of their “high”, when the THC is at maximum saturation within the brain, and that it is not as evident immediately after consumption or when the effects are slowly beginning to wear off.
- Audio or visual distortion. This is a result of cannabinoid receptors that are located in the parts of the brain associated with hearing or vision. These receptors set off a chemical reaction within the brain that can cause many different effects, from slurred speech to the inability to piece together a coherent sentence. It can also result in “looping” audio, where one particular sound (that is usually one syllable in duration) will repeat over and over again, as perceived by the user, until it is either replaced by a different sound or the effects of THC begin to wear off.
Users report that these symptoms begin to manifest within minutes of consuming THC, and can last throughout the entire duration of their “high”.
- Lack of time perception. Once again, this is the result of the cannabinoid receptors location in relation to the time perception areas of the brain. This can create feelings of longevity, or “time passing by slowly; this can also create the sense that time is passing quite quickly. Given the nature of the symptom, there is no way to quantitatively state when it begins to manifest.
- Feelings of euphoria, insecurity, joy, or paranoia. As THC triggers various reactions within the brain, different people will experience different results. These results are dependent on the environment and surroundings that they are in when they consume THC, the people that are around them, as well as their state of mind or mood before consumption.
Intense feelings of happiness and joy are quite common, with uncontrollable bursts of laughter being quite common. Feelings of paranoia and worry are also quite common, though they are not as intense as the feelings created by other, more dramatic drugs.
The reality is that the effects of Marijuana are not identical within each individual, and though we certainly don’t encourage experimentation or consumption, it is impossible for us to state with any level of certainty the effects of Marijuana on each unique individual.