7 things that affect your high
Whether you’re a regular cannabis consumer or fairly green about green, it’s likely you have some questions about how flower can better fit into your life. Namely, you want to understand how things like diet, drinking and stress could affect your session.
The endocannabinoid system is an integral part of your physiology and is responsible for maintaining balance; balance between stress and euphoria, pain and pleasure, etc. The chemicals responsible for its effects are called endocannabinoids. Cannabis contains compounds that are to similar to our endocannabinoids, but the body can’t really tell the difference between those you personally produce and those you inhale/ingest/absorb. These compounds lock onto cannabinoid receptors, allowing them to work their magic. And what you’re feeling – physically and mentally – will affect how these compounds affect you.
The individual human endocannabinoid system is like your thumbprint, and is unique to you. How cannabis affects you will be dependent on the levels of cannabinoid receptors found within specific areas of your brain and your body.
The overarching purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to calibrate your body, create balance, and set your system at ease. The body stresses when starved for periods greater than six hours, and for some, only four hours.
Ghrelin, a hormone released when it’s time to eat or when you’re starving, increases endocannabinoid levels in the first 24 hours of starvation. Ever feel euphoric while hungry? This happens because of an increase of endocannabinoids, along with other feel-good chemicals in the brain.
But it doesn’t last. Continually stress your system, and you’ll have fewer CB1 receptors over time. This is a part of your system required for cannabis to work; these receptors are like doorways into your body, ones that only allow a designated chemical in. It wouldn’t matter if you’re still taking in the same amount of cannabis – fewer doorways means you can’t absorb it. Eat at regular times, and you’ll find your sensitivity to cannabis is heightened. Stress yourself, and you’ll need more than your usual dose.
The endocannabinoid system needs a little help from its friends, too. Omega-3 has been found to help balance natural cannabinoid levels in the body. Probiotics increase CB1 receptors, as do flavinoids found in red clover, soybean and chamomile tea.
Want to help your high-CBD strain to be more effective? Echinacea and black pepper contain natural compounds that mimic the effects of CBD, making them complementary. This is also why these foods have been known to help reduce the ‘high’ effects of THC, in the same way that CBD helps neutralize THC’s effects.
Alcohol and cannabis is an interesting combination. Small amounts of alcohol – the ‘tipsy’ stage, if you will – slightly increases levels of endocannabinoids in the body. Leap over into the ‘drunk zone’, and your body goes into panic mode, spiking your endocannabinoids.
Chronic alcohol use decreases the amount of CB1 receptors in the brain. What does this mean? Taking small amounts of alcohol with your cannabis use can increase your sensitivity to both substances, while binge drinking or frequently consuming alcohol in large amounts can damage your endocannabinoid system, making cannabis less effective overall.
So many strains, so little time. Each comes with its reputed effects and terpenes – the aromatic compounds found in myriad things from trees to fruit – which play a key role in what you’ll feel after smoking a joint.
Terpenes dictate the smell of your weed, and smell is powerful. Scent can recall old memories long forgotten, tell your brain a rotten food isn’t safe, and even tell you how to feel. If you’re familiar with aromatherapy, you’ll know that lavender can help you feel at ease, while peppermint under the nose can increase alertness.
The smell of citrus, orange, and lemon indicates that there’s a lot of limonene present in a strain, and there’s a high chance a few minutes after smoking that a fit of giggles will follow. A floral scent is characteristic of linalool, a calming and relaxing terpene also found in lavender and rosewood. A whiff of pine, earth, wood or spice is a good indication that the strain can help with pain, insomnia and inflammation.
Medical research surrounding cannabis is still nascent, but nevertheless, scientists have gone into high gear and given us some preliminary findings.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Aspirin and Celebrex will have additive effects when paired with cannabis. Tylenol (acetominophen) may act similarly, but there is yet to be conclusive evidence in humans.
Glucocorticoids, such as cortisone and hydrocortisone, will increase cannabinoid sensitivity if taken once in a while, but if taken chronically, will decrease your natural levels of cannabinoids over time.
Opiates and general anesthetics will work with cannabinoids to increase their potency and pain-relieving effects. Anti-anxiety medication is super additive in combination with cannabis, meaning that you can expect a significant increase in the potency of your medication; it also increases the effects of anticonvulsants. Individuals who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders have fewer cannabinoid receptors available in their amygdala, a region of the brain that controls anxiety and response to stress, among other things. Fewer receptors means fewer effects from cannabinoids, meaning a higher tolerance to cannabis.
How cannabis interacts with anti-depressants is less clear, due to the diversity of anti-depressant medication. However, it has been found that some anti-depressants can increase levels of CB1 receptors, making users more sensitive to THC.
Anti-psychotic drugs have not shown to effect the ‘high’ or ‘euphoric’ effects of THC, but can reduce levels of dysphoria, a nasty side effect of anti-psychotics. On a less satisfactory note, cannabinoids can worsen verbal recall and distractibility.
Most importantly, check with your doctor before consuming cannabis while taking any prescription or non-prescription medication!
Greasy hair, breakouts, and unruly weight gain/loss are only a few results of chronic stress. Another bummer is the effect it has on your endocannabinoid system. Stress causes the release of cortisol, a hormone which then signals to your body to start producing endocannabinoids to help you relax. A constant signal to your brain to produce endocannabinoids slows down their production in the long run, and takes away from your ability to absorb them.
Pardon the pun, but, don’t stress – meditation, deep breathing and yoga have shown to help reduce the effects of stress on the endocannabinoid system. Deep breathing can help give you immediate relief, while meditation can be used to reconfigure your brain on a macro level.
The endocannabinoid system has some serious implications in the way that you perceive and experience pain. For this reason, it is being heavily studied in its therapeutic role in chronic pain management. However, pain is a form of stress. Chronic pain can result in a significant decrease in cannabinoid receptors, and thus, fewer endocannabinoids absorbed by your body. This also decreases your sensitivity to cannabis.
Moderate exercise can lead to a natural ‘high’ produced by endorphins, dopamine, and – you guessed it, endocannabinoids.
While you exercise, your body releases cortisol, which initiates the production of endocannabinoids. These levels fall during recovery, but one remains in effect at least 15 minutes post-exercise. This endocannabinoid is akin to CBD, which is the cannabinoid known for its anti-inflammatory effects.
Regular exercise has shown to increase baseline energy levels, which is due to a variety of factors, one that includes endocannabinoids. It increases your natural levels, making you more sensitive to the effects of cannabis. Your metabolism is also revved up, helping you excrete THC and other cannabinoids, helping to keep your tolerance low.
Remember, it's a great idea to keep a diary of strains/situations for future reference, to guide you through your cannabis journey.
Story by Katarina Kostovic
Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.