This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

The THC You're Toking on 4/20 Is Nature's Version of the "Bliss Molecule"

Weed's most notorious psychoactive chemical puts the brain's natural cannabinoids to shame.

Let’s talk about THC. Anyone celebrating 4/20 will be riding high on the compound’s mind-altering effects, delivered by way of that sticky icky-icky. But contrary to what rapper Mick Jenkins will tell you, THC doesn’t stand for “The Healing Component,” although its obvious why he’d think it: Tetrahydrocannabinol mimics a compound called anandamide, a naturally occurring brain chemical also known as “the bliss molecule.”

Occurring naturally in the resin of both Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, THC is thought to be their natural defense mechanism against plant-fiending predators. Clearly, nature didn’t plan for human herbivores — or maybe we were already too stoned to recognize poison when we first saw it — who have been smoking and eating the plant to reap THC’s effects for over three millennia.

Over the years, we’ve gotten more creative with THC extraction, adding vaping and skin absorption to the ways we get high, but whether you’re scarfing brownies, hitting a grav’ bong, or dabbing shatter, ultimately it makes no difference in the way you get stoned: They’re all just highways for THC to roll up into your bloodstream and park in your brain.

Article continues below

Beat the "Sunday Scaries" with a weekly newsletter that mixes soothing science and relatable advice to get your mind & body ready for the week ahead.

Once it’s in your system, THC makes its way to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, which are found scattered among areas of the brain that process thoughts, memories, and pleasure, together with coordination and the perception of time. Grabbing hold of THC molecules, these receptors go into overdrive — after all, THC is not what they evolved to bind — disrupting the normal mental and physical functions usually controlled by those parts of the brain. We all get a little dumb after THC binds in the brain’s cerebellum and basal ganglia, which control our reaction time and motor skills. Likewise, memory formation gets hazy when the molecule binds receptors in the thought-processing hippocampus. These lapses are a small price to pay for the THC-triggered upside.

Ultimately, the THC signaling cascade also triggers the release of larger-than-normal amounts of euphoria-triggering dopamine, the chemical at the heart of the brain’s reward and pleasure system, which also governs our love of food, sex, and chocolate. Throwing this system off-kilter means we get more reward for none of the effort, ultimately, as cannabis crooner Rick James put it, taking us to paradise.

When you’re not stoned, the brain’s cannabinoid receptors are usually busy binding anandamide, the brain’s natural cannabinoid. Its name, inspired by the Sanskrit word for “bliss” or “extreme delight,” is largely aspirational: Its effects on pleasure and motivation, though similar to those of its marijuana-bound counterpart, aren’t nearly as potent, as far as scientists can tell.

Depending on how dank a strain you’re smoking, bud can contain anywhere from a soft 0.3 percent THC by weight to a massive 15 percent. If you deal with dabs like shatter, waxes, or resins, which concentrate THC and related cannabinoids like CBD, the THC level could reach up to 80 percent.

So far, nobody’s ever died from a weed overdose, but getting too high — especially off edibles, which have highly variable THC levels — can land you in the emergency room with anxiety, hallucinations, palpitations, and vomiting, as inexperienced weed tourists in Colorado have unfortunately discovered. You can smoke weed every day. Just don’t overdo it.

Media via Wikipedia

Is the Limitless Pill Real? Best Nootropics to Sharpen Your Mental Acuity

The limitless pill may not be real but there are Nootropics that can give your brain a boost. 

We’ve all seen the movie Limitless. And after what Bradley Cooper accomplished in that movie everyone was left wondering where they can get some. The fact is, we all want to be better, smarter and faster. I can’t think of many people who would turn down the opportunity to accomplish just a little bit more every day.

Is Chernobyl Safe? It Depends How You Define "Safe"

Thirty years later, the question still persists.

On April 26, 1986, a fire from a test at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl resulted in one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history. To this day, the very name of the disaster site evokes thoughts of destruction. And on the 30th anniversary of the meltdown, the current — and future — safety of the location is still unclear.

Finally a Set of Sheets Perfect for Summer

These 100% cotton sheets will have you sleeping on Cloud 9.

When it comes to sleeping in the summer, sometimes it’s just too hot to even consider, but what if it didn’t have to be? What if you didn’t have to go another summer wrestling with your blankets trying to find some kind of equilibrium between too hot to sleep and not cuddled enough to sleep? What if there were sheets that were the perfect amount of comfort and breathability?

6 Products You Need to Help You Get a Perfect Nights Sleep

Sometimes you just need a little help to catch some zzz's.

Filed Under Amazon & Sleep

It’s no secret that sleep is critical to our physical well being and mental health. Time and again studies continue to document the adverse effects of poor sleeping habits.

Whether you choose to forgo sleep to burn the midnight oil or for whatever reason sleep remains elusive to you, there are considerable long and short term effects. Poor sleep quality has been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Moreover, poor sleep quality, even for one night, can have adverse effects on mood, productivity, and focus.

Temperatures Are Heating Up. Best Water Bottles for Hydration

Refillable water bottles are good for you and good for the environment. 

It’s no secret that we have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a beverage. But truth be told there’s none better for you than good old H2O. There’s no sugar, no calories and our bodies are 60 percent water, you really can’t go wrong.

It would seem though that when most folks reach for water, they gravitate toward the bottled variety. Most likely because they think it’s better than what’s on tap. But a quick internet search on bottled water would prove otherwise.