FEB 03, 2023 8:00 AM PST

How Do We Get High?

WRITTEN BY: Helaine Krysik

While you may be a cannabis enthusiast and feel that the plant provides you with a variety of positive effects and health benefits, you may not know how that happens, or the way it interacts with our bodies.

So how do we get high? What happens within our body chemistry?

The answer is a fascinating one. The human body has a whole system called the endocannabinoid system, that uses compounds similar to those found in the cannabis plant.

When we consume THC and CBD, the cannabinoids trigger the CB1 receptor, and to a lesser degree, the CB2 receptor, by binding to the receptors. The result is the high and/or non-psychoactive relaxing effects that we feel, effects that manifest a bit differently in each individual user.

The endocannabinoid system is known for playing a major role in our learning and memory, which has led to the long-held theory that heavy THC usage temporarily disrupts short-term memory, which returns with THC abstinence.

The main difference between the CB1 and CB2 receptors is that CB1 receptors are ample in the brain, central nervous system, and lungs, while CB2 receptors are found throughout the body in the immune system’s cells.

Furthermore, the receptors seem to have different functions. CB1 receptors appear to regulate sleep, appetite, memory, mood, and the senses. CB2 receptors seem to influence the body’s immunity and inflammation reactions, helping to regulate intestinal inflammation, contraction, and inflammatory bowel pain.

Lastly, THC binds very strongly to the CB1 receptor, but considerably less to the CB2 receptor. And while CBD does bind to both receptors, they bind weakly, mostly interacting with both receptors by influencing their related systems.

As cannabis continues to legalize and more opportunities for research expand, we will learn more how the plant interacts with our endocannabinoid system, both positively and negatively.


Sources: Harvard Health Publishing, Frontiers, National Library of Medicine

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Helaine is a cannabis industry writer and marketing consultant. She has been active in the Illinois cannabis industry since 2020, and writes for a variety of national publications.
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