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  • For centuries, humans have been using substances to alter their state of mind.

  • From caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol, to more extreme drugs.

  • But as the most commonly used illicit drug in North America, where does marijuana fit in?

  • And how exactly does it effect your brain?

  • First, we need to understand how the brain functions.

  • Your neurons are the cells that process information in the brain,

  • by releasing chemicals called "neuro-transmitters" from the axon of one neuron to the dendrite of another.

  • They change the electrical charge of the receiving neuron, consequently exciting or inhibiting it.

  • If excited, the signal is passed on.

  • Though it sounds simple, these signals work together and the effect is quickly compounded into complex configurations within milliseconds, flushing over the entire brain.

  • This is what happens every single time you think, breath, or move.

  • So what is going on inside your brain when you are smoking marijuana?

  • Well, unlike alcohol which contains molecules nothing like those in our body.

  • Cannabis contains molecules that resemble those produced in our very own brains.

  • Cannabinoids, though naturally these cannabinoids circulate in much lower quantities compared to the large influx imposed by smoking.

  • Specifically the chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, resembles a natural transmitter called Anandamide.

  • These cannabinoids are specialized neurotransmitters released by neurons having just fired.

  • Neurons temporarily becomes unresponsive after firing, to prevent them from overreacting or being to dominant.

  • This allows your brain to function in a calm and controlled manner.

  • But cannabinoids interrupt this approach in some parts of the brain.

  • Instead, they remove the refractory period of neurons, that are already active and cause your thoughts, imagination and perception to utterly magnify itself.

  • This means once you begin your train of thought, it becomes the most significant and profound thing ever.

  • You can't see the big picture or even recall your last epiphany, because you are caught up in the momentum of a particular idea, and your neurons keep firing.

  • Until a new idea takes hold, and you go off on a new tangent.

  • These cannabinoids also effect the levels of dopamine and norephinephrine in your brain.

  • Often leading to a sense of euphoria, relaxation, pain modulation and general enhancement of an experience, though sometimes causing anxiety.

  • Furthermore, there are cannabinoid receptors in areas controlling short term memory, learning, coordination, movement control and higher cognitive functions.

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For centuries, humans have been using substances to alter their state of mind.

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