What Cannabis Actually Does to Your Brain and Body



People all over the world use cannabis for medical and recreational purposes, however, do you ever wonder what cannabis actually does to the body and brain? In this blog, we’re taking a look at this popular drug, it’s health effects on the body and brain, and any potential concerns about it.


While cannabis has been used for centuries as a medicine and drug, there’s not much medical information on the health effects of using it. This is due to there being essentially no controlled studies on it because of the way it is classified by the federal government. The DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3, 4- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.” Because of this classification, in order to do clinical research on cannabis you would need a license from the DEA, your study approved by the FDA and to obtain the researched-grade cannabis, you’d have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Based on this process, it has proved problematic for researches to study the potential medical benefits of cannabis.


That being said, here is what we do know about cannabis and how it effects our brain and body:


1. Cannabinoid Receptors


Compounds in cannabis interact with our brain cells which contribute both a psychoactive and therapeutic effect. Different cannabinoids have different pharmacological effects.


The primary psychoactive in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and has a psychoactive effect because of the way it engages with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. It is known that these receptors are located in the central nervous system which control: pain, pleasure, motor function, memory, mood, appetite.


The second most popular cannabinoid is CBD (cannabidiol) which can have a therapeutic effect. CBD does not directly interact with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), instead, it affects signaling through CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partly explains why, in contrast to THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. Because of its medicinal qualities, CBD remains in high demand among medicinal users.


CBD is especially effective at clearing glutamate, a toxic chemical that accumulates following traumatic brain injury. These cannabinoids used together or separately, have also shown consistent effectiveness to protect nerve cells damaged by MS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, stimulating bone growth, easing pain and nausea, killing certain kinds of cancer cells, preventing seizure, controlling muscle spasms, and killing viruses and bacteria.


2. Memory


THC appears to impair short term memory in two significant ways. The first being difficulty forming new memories while under the influence. The second being difficultly recalling events while under the influence and sometimes after the high wears off. The good news is that in most cannabis users, these two memory impairments are temporary and wear off around 24 to 48 hours.


In addition, cannabis may potentially fight bad memories. Preclinical research shows that THC and CBD can “disrupt the reconsolidation of negative memories“. Veterans regularly complain that pharmaceutical treatments prescribed to them by doctors, such as the highly addictive anti-anxiety medications Xanax and Valium, don’t work well and sometimes worsen symptoms.


3. Concentration and Attention


Cannabis can impair some attention and concentration for light users. However, it doesn’t appear to affect heavy users concentration within 6 hours of using it. Researchers have found that after 3 weeks since last using cannabis, attention in users returns to normal. In other studies, no concentration or attention deficiencies were found at all for subjects who were abstinent for a month to a year.


For more information on medical cannabis and the health benefits it provides, follow our blog or contact us for more information.


Recommend Cannabis Before Prescription Drugs


Due to a confluence of legal and cultural factors, healthcare professionals generally recommend cannabis as last resort; considered only when other treatments have been unsuccessful. This attitude persists even though extensive data shows that cannabis provides safe and effective symptom relief with minimal side effects. The avoidance of this treatment, in favor of one with the opposite attributes is hard to justify in its own right. In the midst of a harrowing drug overdose epidemic, on track to claim over 50,000 lives this year, the practice becomes an abomination. Doctors must be allowed to offer cannabis as a front-line treatment, instead of leaving it for desperate situations.




America is highly medicated. Seven of every ten Americans take a prescription drug and fifty percent of Americans take at least 2. Many of these drugs cure or prevent the progression of disease; like antibiotics and blood thinners. However, other popular classes of drugs alleviate symptoms; like pain relievers, sleep aids, anti-anxiety/depression medicine, and anti-emetics. While the latter classes of drugs are absolutely essential, they also present substantial risks. Narcotic pain relievers and anti-anxiety cause addiction and dependance, and contribute to a large percentage of overdose deaths. Others cause side effect that disrupt a patient’s quality of life to varying degrees..


Cannabis is objectively safer than the vast majority of pharmaceuticals, be they curative or palliative. The risk of overdose from cannabis is non-existent while risk of addiction or other side effects are minimal, even less so under the supervision of a doctor. Formulations can be obtained that have no intoxicating effect whatsoever. Further, it works. Peer reviewed research indicates that cannabis can treat some forms of pain, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, spasm, and seizure.


If we can recognize the problem: the over-consumption of pharmaceutical drugs which has lead to a nationwide epidemic of addiction and overdose; and have at our disposal a means to address this problem: a safe, effective, plant-based alternative with minimal side effects; we should take the logical next step: encourage the medical community recommend cannabis before they prescribe riskier pharmaceuticals.


This is admittedly only an option for doctors in states with an active medical cannabis program. However, some of the the country’s most prominent states have these programs. If attitudes in these states begin to shift we may see the federal change required for a broader evolution in opinion.


How to Talk to a Loved one about Medical Cannabis


Medical cannabis has become nearly mainstream. Millions of people around the world use cannabis to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. Twenty-nine states in the US recognize the therapeutic value of cannabis and are willing to defy the federal government to ensure their citizens have access. Both public opinion and the scientific community recognize that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine. Despite the massive progress that has been made on this issue, some of those nearest and dearest to us have not yet been persuaded.


Americans have been inundated with unscientific propaganda opposed to cannabis for several generations. It is understandable that a significant number of us have negative opinions about the plant. Many of us rely on cannabis and want our loved ones to understand the importance of the therapeutic benefit it gives us. Some of us have a friend or family member who might benefit from cannabis medicine but have dated understandings of its effects. The following facts should make even the most ardent cannabis skeptics reconsider.




It’s Safe


The first thing they should know is that cannabis is safe. It’s surprisingly nontoxic. Even at very high doses it does not cause damage to organs or tissue. There has never been a recorded overdose attributed to cannabis. Cannabis use does not correlate with higher rates of disease. Even when it causes strong intoxication, cannabis use is far less likely to induce the kinds of risky behaviors associated with alcohol intoxication


It Doesn’t Cause Dependency


Drug dependency occurs when a person begins taking a drug regularly, and due to the persistent use their body becomes reliant on the chemical. When that occurs if the person stops taking the drug they experience painful medical symptoms. Drugs that have the potential to cause the most powerful dependencies are well known and widely available; opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and tobacco. Other kinds of drugs that cause dependency but are not generally thought of as dependency causing drugs include anti-seizure, anti-depressant, and anti-psychosis medication.


Cannabis does not cause users to experience painful symptoms of withdrawal, even if used long-term. People who stop using cannabis only risk the resumption of the symptoms that drew them to cannabis in the first place. Further, cannabis is an effective alternative to many dependency causing drugs like many of the classes of drugs listed above.


It’s Effective


Millions rely on cannabis for effective relief. The American Academy of Sciences has done a thorough review of medical cannabis research and found that cannabis has extensive therapeutic potential. Veterans attest to its ability to banish PTSD induced nightmares. Parents of epileptic children move their families across the country to get legal access. Sufferers of HIV and cancer swear that cannabis is the only medicine that allows them to keep food down and maintain their weight. Both the clinical and anecdotal evidence is conclusive: cannabis works!


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