Ahh, cannabis. You’re pretty sure you know how it works, right? Smoke it, vape it, eat it, dab it, or hell, rectally insert it and enjoy the high. While the process is simple, the chemical dance between your endocannabinoid system and the more than 500 chemical compounds found in weed is beautifully complex, kind of like those Magic Eye posters from the ’90s. So what exactly is going on when you get high?
Dr. Kevin Hill, author of Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed; biologist Brent Leighton; and biochemist Mac Hyman of IRON Laboratories lay it down.
THC: the A-list celebrity of cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with receptors in your brain. You’ve probably heard of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that gets you high. “THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, and this binding affects the production of dopamine, a brain chemical or neurotransmitter that activates reward circuits in the brain that produce the high,” Dr. Hill says. Dopamine is the same chemical your brain releases when you play Call of Duty or bone your Tinder date. It basically gives you a hit of pleasure.