In the US, the most commonly used illegal drug is marijuana.
Some people use weed recreationally to feel happy or relaxed. Others use medical marijuana calm anxiety or induce appetite.
While the effects of weed are well-known, the process through which those effects come about is less understood. So how does weed get you high?
Keep reading to learn more about all the bodily systems and processes involved in getting high from ingesting or inhaling cannabis.
How Does Weed Get You High? The Pharmacological Explanation
There is a pharmacological understanding of how weed gets you high. This process is known in pharmacology as pharmacokinetics. It measures the Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Elimination of any particular substance, otherwise known as ADME.
In terms of weed, ADME measures help us understand the bodily processes involved in the intoxicating effects of marijuana and how long they last.
The absorption rate of cannabis is rapid. The active psychoactive compound, THC, enters the bloodstream within minutes of smoking marijuana. Immediately after smoking, THC can be found in the bloodstream at concentrations between 10% and 30%.
THC likes fatty tissue and, as such, it accumulates in all major organs of the body. This characteristic is associated with the distribution of cannabis in the body, where it can remain for up to 30 days.
Cannabis, like many other substances, is metabolized in the liver. The liver uses hepatic enzymes to break down THC. This can be problematic when a user is taking other medications requiring this enzyme to breakdown and have their intended effects on the body.
Finally, the elimination of THC varies. While some estimates put the elimination time as low as 6 minutes, others estimate it can last as long as 22 hours.
While ADME explains how weed and THC interact with your body from a pharmacological perspective, it doesn’t quite answer “how does weed get you high?” For that, we need to understand the endocannabinoid system. We’ll talk more about that next.
The Endocannabinoid System
The real answer to “how does weed get you high?” lays in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Human beings are only able to feel the effects of THC because of this system and its receptors, which are found in the human brain as well as the immune system.
The ECS is found in all mammals, including human beings. It’s a biological system responsible for regulating several biological processes. Scientists have identified two types of receptors in the ECS: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 was first identified in the brains of a rat in 1988. This receptor is associated with cognition, emotion, motor coordination, and memory.
CB2 was located in the immune and central nervous system in 1993. It wasn’t until 1995 that scientists realized that human beings also have an ECS consisting of endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters) and their receptors.
The entire purpose of this system is to create homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis refers to balance among all your body systems and processes.
The ECS and Cannabis
Now that you know what the ECS is, you’re probably wondering what that has to do with how weed gets you high. Simply put, your ECS reacts with naturally-produced endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are essential to homeostasis, which is a critical aspect of our overall health and wellness.
But, the ECS is also capable of interacting with cannabinoids that are derived from plants. And here’s where “how does weed get you high?” comes in.
Human beings have an entire bodily system designed to work with the cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plants. One of those cannabinoids, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), interacts with that system in a way that gets you high.
When THC binds to your CB receptors, the euphoric feeling and other sensations associated with taking marijuana are experienced. It does this by throwing off the normal signals between naturally-produced endocannabinoids and your brain and immune systems. It boosts some signals and interferes with others to give you the sensation of being high.
But that’s also why the effects of marijuana are different for everybody. Ingesting or inhaling marijuana can cause a range of sensations, from relaxation and pain relief to anxiety and paranoia.
How Quickly Does Weed Get You High?
In the same way that the effects of marijuana are different for everybody, so too is the onset and duration of the high. The duration is impacted by factors such as how much marijuana was taken, how it was taken, and how potent that strain is. Depending on how often you consume marijuana and your tolerance for such substances, you may also be affected differently.
Smoking or vaping marijuana can bring effects within minutes of inhalation. Typically, this method peaks at 20 to 30 minutes. The effects usually wear off within 2 or 3 hours.
When cannabis is ingested through edibles, it can take as long as 30 to 90 minutes for the cannabinoids to be metabolized and distributed throughout the body. The effects typically peak at about 3 hours and completely subside within 24 hours.
What Does Being High Feel Like?
The intoxicating effects of marijuana depend on both the individual as well as the strain of cannabis taken. While chronic users experience a rather soft effect over time, first time and new users may experience very strong effects.
In addition to the drug itself, the circumstances in which an individual consumes marijuana will impact their experience. It’s believed that the setting and the company in which a person takes cannabis has an effect on how they feel.
Trying Marijuana Concentrates
Cannabis is an intoxicating plant that can be smoked or ingested. It’s absorbed into your bloodstream, distributed throughout the fatty tissue of your body, metabolized by the liver, and eliminated in as little as minutes or hours.
But to truly answer “how does weed get you high?” you have to understand the ECS. The THC cannabinoid from marijuana binds to the receptors of this system. It interferes with the normal functioning of the ECS to create the effect of being high.
Now that you know how weed works, you may want to try it for yourself. Check out our extensive inventory of concentrates to get started.