Red eyes, dry mouth, the munchies: all common experiences after smoking – or otherwise consuming – marijuana. We know all about what happens, but why do these effects occur? In this post, we’ll go over seven incredible effects that cannabis has on the body.
1) Marijuana heightens your senses
Have you ever spotted that colors are more vivid and sounds are more noticeable after taking cannabis? And surely you know that delicious food tastes even better after a smoke. Colors become more vivid due to pupil dilation.
While unproven in humans, studies on animal models have demonstrated that THC activates the olfactory bulb, a section of the brain responsible for detecting smells. Mice administered with THC became more aware of the food around them following treatment. So, don’t be surprised if food becomes more appealing after a spot of cannabis.
2) Cannabis can sometimes reduce sexual performance
It’s not uncommon for men to experience delayed orgasm or an inability to orgasm at all due to cannabis use. Many scientists attribute the interactions between cannabinoids, testosterone and other male sex hormones for this drop off in sexual performance.
Studies on animals have shown that testosterone levels pick up dramatically after taking cannabis, before gradually falling back to normal as the effects wear off.
Male sex hormones can be affected by several other factors, however. Exercising regularly and eating healthily promotes hormonal balance, making it less likely that you’ll endure troubles in your sex life. Moreover, many couples choose to consume cannabis prior to and during sex, claiming that it enhances the experience. And who are we to argue?
3) Marijuana regulates neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals present in the brain which facilitate communication between neurons, or brain cells. Cannabinoids in cannabis interact with neurotransmitters, tweaking chemical signals that are sent in the brain.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a psychoactive cannabinoid that influences many of the brain’s neurotransmitters. The most notable impact THC has on neurotransmitters is its ability to produce a dopamine spike. Dopamine is a chemical that essentially makes us feel happy – it also influences concentration levels, pain, attention and reward mechanisms.
Cannabidiol’s (CBD) interactions with neurotransmitters are somewhat different. The non-psychoactive cannabinoid regulates the release of several neurotransmitters. CBD’s primary role is to keep the brain’s chemical makeup balanced – for example, if you’re feeling down, CBD products can help to improve your mood.
4) Cannabis increases your appetite
‘The munchies’ are perhaps the most famous effect of psychoactive cannabis, but what is responsible for this spike in appetite? When THC is in the body, it links up with the CB1 receptor, which oversees metabolism and appetite.
THC increases activity among two important hormones: ghrelin and leptin. The former is known as a hunger hormone, while the latter instructs the brain to stop keeping calories as fat after a certain point.
Combine that with the dopamine spike the body is also experiencing thanks to cannabis, and the act of eating becomes even more pleasurable, leading us to keep eating, eating and eating.
5) “Cotton vagina” could be a myth
“Cotton vagina” is often touted as a side effect of cannabis among women, however it’s possible that it’s not real. You may be more familiar with cotton mouth, or dry mouth, which happens when saliva reduces due to cannabinoids linking up with a unique receptor found in your salivary gland.
Lubrication in the vagina is set off by increased blood flow, not activation of the salivary gland. Essentially, the genital area begins to sweat due to the added pressure of the heightened blood flow, making vaginal lips moist.
Dr Jordan Tishler spoke to Learn Green Flower to clarify the reactions needed to create lubrication in the mouth and vagina. Tishler says that the “assumption” that oral and vaginal secretions are controlled in the same way is “just not valid,” since the two are “fundamentally under different control.”
In fact, if there were no other forces at play, cannabis would actually increase vaginal lubrication, since the herb is a vasodilator. However, marijuana’s relationship with oestrogen puts paid to that. Oestrogen levels are at their highest just prior to ovulation, the period where a woman’s sensitivity to THC is also at its greatest. Vaginal lubrication is naturally higher during the ovulation phase.
Since everybody’s hormones are different, there’s no one answer to the impact that marijuana use has on sexual performance. However, the menstrual cycle and your hormonal balance can influence the effects marijuana has.
6) Cannabis causes a spike in heart rate
People with heart conditions are often warned against dabbling with marijuana, as the plant causes an up-to-three-hour spike in heart rate after your last toke. In fact, your heart rate after using cannabis is higher than during sex and comparable to intense exercise. However, if you facilitate an increase in heart rate when your blood pressure is low, it can make for an unpleasant trip.
7) Cannabis affects blood pressure
As a vasodilator, THC expands blood vessels to increase blood flow – this process also reduces blood pressure, explaining why people tend to get red eyes after using cannabis. For people with glaucoma, and anybody suffering from eye pressure complaints, the blood pressure reduction caused by cannabis can be very helpful.
Some scientists have speculated that cannabis raises the risk of a heart attack, however there are no recorded deaths from usage of the plant. But for those who do suffer from heart problems, bear this in mind and be cautious when using cannabis.
The medicinal potential of marijuana is staggering, and researchers are identifying new uses for the herb all the time. This article is merely focussing on seven effects of using cannabis – it’s not an extensive list.
However, if you have had some slightly weird experiences on cannabis, then this article may help to give your thoughts some clarity. You may find that your body’s unusual response to the herb is actually quite common.
Let us know your tips and tricks for managing an uncomfortable trip.