Cannabis use is becoming increasingly common and accepted in the United States. As legalization spreads, more people are looking to understand how cannabis works and its effects on the body and mind. Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about cannabis.
Why Does Cannabis Make You Hungry?One of the most well-known effects of cannabis is the “munchies” – feeling hungry or getting snack cravings after using cannabis. This is caused by THC interacting with the endocannabinoid system in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus helps regulate appetite and food intake. THC mimics the endocannabinoid anandamide, which can increase appetite by activating CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus. This makes you feel hungry even if you just ate.
How Does Cannabis Affect Dopamine?THC causes dopamine levels in the brain’s reward system to rise. This is similar to other pleasurable activities like eating or laughing. The elevated dopamine levels induce euphoria and relaxation. It also reinforces the pleasurable feelings associated with cannabis use. Chronic, heavy cannabis use may blunt dopamine signaling over time and potentially lead to a lack of motivation or enjoyment in activities that previously brought joy.
How Does Cannabis Affect Serotonin?Research shows that THC also activates serotonin receptors. Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter that regulates mood and happiness. Increased serotonin activity from cannabis likely contributes to relaxation and anti-anxiety effects. It may also play a role in the introspective or creative thoughts some users experience while high. However, frequent cannabis use can potentially disrupt normal serotonin signaling and function over time. This may exacerbate underlying mood disorders in susceptible individuals.
What’s the Difference Between Indica and Sativa Strains?Cannabis strains are often categorized into indica, sativa, and hybrid types. But what do these labels mean? Indica strains are known for providing a “body high” – deep relaxation, pain relief, and sleepiness. They grow short and bushy. Sativa strains tend to provide more uplifting, energetic cerebral effects. They grow tall and thin with narrow leaves. However, most strains today are hybrids with complex cannabinoid and terpene profiles that don’t always fit neatly into indica or sativa categories. A strain’s unique chemical composition and an individual’s body chemistry ultimately determine the effects experienced.
Which States Have Legal Adult-Use Cannabis?As of January 2024, 24 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island