Brielle Syewart, contributor

Our brain it seems is so vast and yet it is so delicate. The average human brain only makes up a mere 2% of our total bodyweight, Yet it plays a role in everything we do. So what happens to our brains when we smoke cannabis?

The cells in the human brain have an intricate and efficient way of communicating via electrical signals. When a signal is being sent out thousands of microscopic channels are being opened, allowing positively charged ions to flood the membrane. This process repeats for each signal. Medical cannabis contains molecules that resemble those produced in our very own brains: cannabinoids. The chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) resembles a natural transmitter in the brain, that is released when neurons are firing. The neurons temporarily become unresponsive after firing to prevent them from being too dominant. This allows your brain to function in a calm and controlled manner, but cannabinoids interrupt this approach in some parts of the brain. Instead, they remove the refractory period of neurons that are already active, and cause your thoughts, imagination and perception to repeat itself.

When someone inhales THC it hits the brain and a brain chemical called dopamine gets released. Dopamine is part of the brain’s pleasure center so a rush of dopamine activity in our brains can make us feel euphoric. Marijuana causes the blood vessels in the eye to expand as well which brings on the stereotypical “bloodshot eyes”. A unique and infamous side effect of smoking cannabis is called “dry mouth.” The uncomfortable, dry feeling isn’t just the result of smoking cannabis — there’s actually cannabinoid receptors located where our saliva is produced. When these receptors are activated by cannabis use, the production of saliva is lessened. Ever feel hungry after smoking medical cannabis? The term “munchies” are thought to be caused by THC interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in the hypothalamus — a an area of the brain which governs many physiological functions such as hydration, hunger, sleep, mood, and sex drive. Medical cannabis and it’s effects on our brains are still being researched with many more breakthroughs on the horizon and for now the effects of cannabis on our brains remain somewhat of a mystery.

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