Whether you're an avid stoner or never touched marijuana in your life, chances are you're familiar with the things that happen when you smoke weed — or, rather, their effects. The drowsiness, the giggles, the sudden deep desire to discuss eighth grade philosophy, and other such overt symptoms are all the result of hidden processes going on in your body when you get high. Many have at least a vague understanding of how weed works: The chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, zips through your bloodstream after ingestion and interacts with parts of your brain like the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex to cause a high. It's more complicated than that, of course, but the general concept isn't difficult to grasp (unless you've had one too many pot brownies).
However, the layman's knowledge tends to stop there. Most people know the overt symptoms of toking up, but what causes the red eyes? Why do some people experience cotton mouth or "weed dick?" Perhaps most importantly, what's the deal with the munchies? Fortunately for the curious — or those who prefer to know what's going on inside their bodies — there's plenty of research devoted to answering these questions. Let's take a look at six things that happen to your body when you smoke weed below.
1. Dopamine Floods Your Brain
Like most drugs, marijuana's high comes from the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with our brain's reward system. Acting through cannabinoid receptors, THC stimulates the release of dopamine in large amounts, causing feelings of euphoria.
2. Body Fluids Dry Up, Including Your Vagina
Talk about a mood killer. Research has shown that weed can temporarily dry up mucus membranes throughout your body, including your vagina — hence the term "cotton vagina" that's been, well, cottoning on in some circles.
3. Your Blood Pressure Drops
Weed causes blood vessels across your body to dilate, creating a drop in blood pressure. This is most apparent in your eyes; as your blood vessels expand, they appear red, and your pupils may become dilated.
4. Your Senses Get More Intense
In addition to triggering the release of dopamine, THC binds to brain receptors associated with our senses of smell and taste, which has been shown to heighten their sensitivity. Combined with the side effect of pupil dilation, many of your senses can become temporarily heightened.
5. Your Heart Speeds Up
Smoking weed is known to speed up your heart rate for up to three hours after getting high. Although this is often harmless, it can increase your chances of having a heart attack, especially when combined with the drop in blood pressure.
6. THC Fools Your Brain's Feeding System
Even if you don't smoke, you're no doubt familiar with the munchies. Researchers (and stoners) have long known that marijuana increases appetite, and recently, science has begun to shed light on the reason: According to a 2015 study, THC "flips a switch," so to speak, on the neurons that were previously responsible for telling your body to stop eating. When you get high, these neurons begin signaling that you're actually starving — and suddenly you find yourself in the Taco Bell parking lot surrounded by what used to be seven burritos.
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