Have you ever noticed that you and your friend will have totally different reactions to the same herb? Turns out, there are scientific reasons why that happens. Everything from genetics to your time of the month can change the way you experience a high. Here are 5 reasons why cannabis affects everyone differently.
The father of THC knows why cannabis affects everyone differently
Shortly after Israeli chemist, Rafael Mechoulam discovered psychoactive THC, he decided to test it out on his friends. He invited them over for some cake and gave them each 10mg of pure THC. And then? He recorded the results. Here’s what he had to say about the experiment:
All of those who took THC were affected. But, surprisingly, they were affected differently. Some said: ‘well, we just feel kind of strange, in a different world, we want to sit back and enjoy. Another one said ‘nothing happens’, but he didn’t stop talking all the time. A third one said, ‘well, nothing’s happened’, but every 15-20 seconds he’ll burst out laughing.
These effects are all well-known today. People are differently affected. In one case however, one of the participants got into an anxiety state. She felt, I believe, that her psychological guards [were] breaking down.
Mechoulam figured out that cannabis affects everyone differently back in the 1960s. But, it’s only recently that we’ve discovered why the herb affects individuals so differently. Here’s why:
Your genes may influence how you experience cannabis. Recent research has shown that some with a certain genetic mutation are more inclined to feel anxious, paranoid, and experience psychotic effects from cannabis. Additional research has shown that genetics contribute to varying levels of cognitive function while high. Specifically, your genes might make you more likely to have memory impairment from THC than your smoking buddy.
Yet another study has found that some people naturally have more endocannabinoids thanks to an awesome genetic mutation. Endocannabinoids are compounds like THC and CBD that the body produces naturally. When you consume cannabis, compounds in the plant take the place of your natural endocannabinoids.
These endocannabinoids are communication molecules make up a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system regulates everything from appetite, cognitive thought, sex drive, and digestion.
Apparently, about 20% of American adults have a genetic mutation that increases natural levels of endocannabinoids in the body. Folks that have this genetic mutation are less prone to anxiety. These people are also thought to be less inclined to use or enjoy cannabis. They already have a ton of natural THC, so why bother smoking?
If these lucky few do smoke cannabis, they experience less severe withdrawal symptoms than those without it.
As you can see, genetics can cause quite a lot of variability. We’re only just beginning to understand how cannabis and genes interact with one another. But, the research so far has been fascinating.
2. Biological sex
Cannabis affects men and women differently. Men are more likely to get the munchies than the ladies. Yet, women are more sensitive to the herb overall. Females tend to find more pain relief from the herb than men do. Men will have to consume more of the herb to get the same pain-fighting effects.
Is it that time of the month? Well, that has an influence, too. THC, the primary psychoactive in the plant, works closely with estrogen. The effects of THC are most powerful after estrogen levels have peaked and are on the decline.
3. Unique biochemistry
Some people are just going to be more sensitive to cannabis than others. Do you know someone who drinks just one cup of coffee and is bouncing off the walls? What about someone who is drunk after two beers? People respond differently to all kinds of things. Cannabis is one of them.
This is where the endocannabinoid system comes into play yet again. Several factors can influence the ECS. Genetics, diet, stress, and lifestyle all contribute to how the ECS works in every individual.
For a diet example, endocannabinoids come from fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids especially. If your diet is low in fatty acids, your endocannabinoid system is going to be out of wack. Cannabis feels good to those who don’t have many endocannabinoids. Yet, the herb may feel a little over-the-top to those who don’t need a boost.
Your biochemistry at any given moment can influence your high. Further, no two people are alike in terms of biochemistry. So, while we can expect some general trends from the herb, the experience is quite individual.
4. Overall health
Let’s say you have PTSD or fibromyalgia. Cannabis is going to feel wildly different for you than it does for someone without any health issues. If you have a medical condition, chances are your biochemistry is altered in some way. When you consume cannabis, a substance that produces a chain of chemical interactions in your body, you alter your biochemistry.
In those with PTSD and fibromyalgia, this alteration is the desired effect. Rather than make you feel completely high and off your rocker, you’re more likely to just feel normal. Instead of being stuck on the couch in pain or with zero motivation, cannabis is more likely to give you some get-up-and-go.
Both of these conditions (as well as many others) are linked to undesirable changes in the endocannabinoid system. When these patients consume cannabis, it improves what’s referred to as endocannabinoid tone.
Here’s a no-brainer to finish us off. If you smoke a lot of cannabis, you’re going to respond very differently to the herb than someone who does not. The more you consume, the greater your tolerance for the herb. Your body becomes used to it, and you are less sensitive to the plant’s effects.
Someone who has never tried cannabis before will react a whole lot differently to the same strain and same dose. Their body simply is not used to the sudden influx of plant cannabinoids.
Well, there you have it! There are many reasons why cannabis affects each person differently. Your health, genetic makeup, and lifestyle all contribute to how you experience the herb. So, the next time you feel like ordering a pizza while your friend is too paranoid to answer the door, there’s a reason for that.
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