Why smoke marijuana? Most use this illicit drug to reap the effects of THC (nomenclature for tetrahydrocannabinol). Some seek to alter their state of mind (recreational), while others wish to lessen discomfort (medical). This health blurb neither promotes nor discourages breaking the law, it’s all about THC effects.
THC is a natural chemical found in marijuana, for which the plant’s buds contain the highest concentration. How THC gets to your brain and other organs is via the bloodstream. Because the quickest route there is through the lungs, most opt for inhaling. Basically, the buds are dried, crumbled, rolled, lit and smoke inhaled. THC enters within the smoke. Some prefer to ingest it (like mixed in brownies or tea), but its absorption out of your digestive tract is markedly slower.
THC has an affect on cannabinoid receptors. These binding sites are located throughout your body, with the highest distribution in your brain. So the effects of this interaction causes changes to occur in the brain, as well as other parts of the body. What happens after getting “high” on THC? Here’s a bit of body function breakdown.
Cannabinoid receptors are highly concentrated in areas of your brain that are involved in pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, perception and coordination. THC acts on these receptors and they become over active. The effects of such an excess causes normal function to be distorted. Range of symptoms caused by this chemical’s interference with normal brain processing include:
- disrupted memory
- altered perception of time & space
- thinking & problem solving difficulty
After your euphoric feeling wears off sleepiness or depression may take over. In some, THC produces feelings of anxiety, fear, panic or paranoia. And inhaling a high dose can lead to disorientation, hallucinations and delusions.
THC has an impact on numerous other body functions as well. For instance, movement takes a hit by generating slow reaction time, imbalance and incoordination. Another is a boost in appetite compelling many to binge on snack foods, aka the munchies. And those giggles, likely attributable to THC igniting a dump of dopamine.
Some effects of THC are not so outwardly noticeable. Take for instance the the immune system, it can help reduce swelling for pain relief. Also, your heart rate and rhythm can be affected, bringing on palpitations and arrhythmia. What about your lungs? THC has a relaxing effect.
The effects of THC are typically felt within the first 10 minutes after initial inhalation. And can last for several hours afterwards.
Regular, long term users may experience withdrawal symptoms with abrupt cessation, such as irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite and drug cravings. Do these signify an addiction or dependence on THC? Likely dependent, but addicted is arguable.
Smoke note: As with any type of smoke inhaled, irritants and carcinogens are in the mix. For some, respiratory system problems are encountered with heavy use. As for lung cancer, there’s an association with introducing high levels of polluted air into your lungs. In contrast, recent studies reveal THC may offer some benefits against cancer growth.