We’ve all been there—that first puff after a long day. Our worries seem to melt away. We experience joy in the form of unstoppable smiles or laughing until we cry. Music sounds better, food tastes better, even monotonous tasks like laundry are more enjoyable under the influence. Have you ever wondered why does weed make you happy? It turns out there are three main ways bud boosts your mood. Let’s take a look.
1. Endocannabinoid System Impacts
To simplify, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) includes the molecules, enzymes, and receptors that help our bodies maintain balance. Without the ECS, our organs, cells, and body systems wouldn’t function like they should. What does this have to do with marijuana? Take a look at the word—endocannabinoid. Scientists discovered ECS when researching how cannabinoids, the active components in cannabis like THC and CBD, affect our bodies. That’s when they discovered that we produce cannabinoids on our own.
If you’ve done yoga before, you may have heard the term ‘ananda.’ The Sanskrit word for bliss, joy, and delight is also used scientifically. Discovered in 1992, anandamide is the bliss molecule, the cannabinoid that our bodies produce. Anandamide makes us happy—it relaxes and calms us and binds to receptors, just like THC and CBD. Not only is THC like anandamide, but it also interacts with the brain in similar ways. It contributes to healthy emotional processing, and may actually play a role in psychiatric disorders like depression.
2. Serotonin Increase
Speaking of depression, many of us are familiar with serotonin—the neurotransmitter responsible for keeping us happy. A so-called ‘happy chemical’, serotonin helps to regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. For years, some scientists have associated low serotonin levels with depression. This has resulted in an increase in prescriptions of SSRI antidepressants that help to increase available concentrations of serotonin in the brain.
At low doses, cannabis was found to have a similar antidepressant effect. Marijuana works to increase the activity of serotonin-producing neurons. Some studies even found that these low doses contributed to neurological changes that may last years. It’s important to realize, however, that high doses may result in a completely opposite effect—lower serotonin levels. Turns out, too much of a good thing may actually be bad.
3. Dopamine Release
Another feel-good chemical, dopamine, is released when cannabis enters the brain. Dopamine is how we experience rewarding activities, like good food, sex, and sleep. Like with serotonin, marijuana’s impacts on dopamine have to be taken with a grain of salt. In the short term, THC releases dopamine (making us happier). However, in the long term, regular cannabis use may impair the dopamine system.
Cannabis is one of the world’s most complex plants. It contains more than 100 cannabinoids and these all impact our bodies in a different way. While many users experience feelings of ease and joy and reduced anxiety, this is dependent on brain chemistry as well as how much cannabis was consumed. But, for many, weed does make us happy—and there’s scientific evidence to back that.