How are we able to think, feel, see and move? 👁️💭
And how does cannabis alter how we think, feel, see and move? 🧠🌿
I’ve asked myself these questions for quite a while until I stumbled upon Neuroscience, and now everything makes way more sense. 🧠💡
In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between cannabis, neuroscience and our awareness to help you understand how your nervous system operates regularly and when you’re high.
Let’s get started by exploring what neuroscience is.
Neuroscience & The Nervous System
"Neuroscience is the scientific study of our nervous system."
Okay. So, if neuroscience is the scientific study of our nervous system, then what is the nervous system?
The nervous system is:
"The organized network of nervous tissue in the body that is the fundamental building block of our existence, allowing ALL parts of our body to communicate through neurons."
Now you might think. Alright. What the …?! 🔥
The nervous system is the fundamental building block of our existence?
Yes. Because the nervous system is the connection of the brain to all of your limbs and organs, allowing you to:
- move 🏋🏻♀️
- see 👁️
- feel 🤗
- and even think. 💭
Now, let’s stop one second here and ask ourselves what happens when we consume cannabis.
think… think… think… 💭
- sometimes we have less control over our movement
- we may have times when our vision changed
- some people tend to feel less pain after toking one up
- and most importantly, our entire thinking changes
Notice the correlation? 🧠✅
Let’s move on to the last part of our definition, which is “[the nervous system allows] all parts of our body to communicate through neurons.”
So, what are neurons?🤔
"Neurons are the nerve cells that send messages throughout the body using electrical signals, so you can literally do anything you are capable of! The messages between neurons are communicated by neurotransmitters like Glutamate or GABA, which excite or inhibit the electrical communication between the neurons (this process is called neurotransmission). The messages in the form of electrical signals (neurons firing and wiring together) represent the language of our mind."
There are about 80-100 billion neurons in our nervous system that are connected to each other through about 100 trillion synapses.
"A synapse is a tiny gap or junction between the neurons where they communicate by transmitting chemical or electrical signals."
As mentioned in our Neuron definition, the neurons communicate with each other through a process called neurotransmission that enables us to do literally anything we’re capable of.
But because we don’t have to perform and move around all the time, not all neurons are constantly firing those electrical impulses at each other. Whether a neuron fires or not depends on all the excitatory (Glutamate) and inhibitory (GABA) signals a neuron receives.
Consequently, the sum of possibilities for around 100 billion neurons firing or not is approximately 10 to the millionth power (a 1 followed by a million zeros), which is the number of possible states of our nervous system. 🧠♾️
To put this number into perspective, the amount of atoms in our entire universe is estimated to be “only” about 10 to the eightieth power. 🪐🌎💫
This is the number 10 to the 80th power:
Now imagine adding 999,920 more zeros to this number, and you'll have the potential of different states of your nervous system.
This is why the author of the book The Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson, who provided us with all this insight into the nervous system, says
"Our brain [and our entire nervous system] is perhaps one of the most complex objects in the universe."
Last but not least, our nervous system also creates the fundament of our thought life because our mind is made up of
"The experiences and information represented by the nervous system, which means that our thought life reflects the architecture of our nervous system formed by firing neurons that are wired together."
Isn’t that mind-blowing? 🧠💥
Now that we know what our nervous system is, how it operates and how it correlates to our minds, let’s explore how cannabis influences all of this.
What does cannabis do?
So what exactly does cannabis do?
Cannabis operates through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is one of the most vital systems in our body.
“The endocannabinoid system is the largest neurotransmitter system that regulates all of the other neurotransmitter systems.”
(Michele N. Ross, PhD, Vitamin Weed, GreenStone Books, 2018, page 56)
The purpose of the endocannabinoid System is to maintain homeostasis or balance within our nervous system by fine-tuning the communication (neurotransmission) between the neurons in our body. 🧠🌿
Given that we just learned that the communication between the neurons enables us to do literally anything we’re capable of, whether it is seeing, tasting, feeling or thinking, it should be quite clear that the balancing of this neuronal communication is immensely significant to our physical and mental well-being. 🌻
This is why Dr. Rachel Knox, MD / MBA, said in her Ted Talk: “The Endocannabinoid System and the Revolution of One” in 2019:
“The Brain is not the boss. The endocannabinoid system is.”
Because the endocannabinoid system operates as “a switchboard functioning in and across all physiological processes and organs, acting and reacting to external and internal stimuli to direct, correct and overall manage your health." 🤯
I was pretty mind-blown when I watched Dr. Knox’s Ted Talk for the first time, and yet it made full sense to me as I understood that our actual thought life and our actions are a result of the communication between the neurons rather than the neurons themselves.
Consequently, I see our brains more as the substrate for most of our neurons, while the endocannabinoid system is what actually regulates our physical and mental well-being. 🧠❤️
How this regulation generally works is that the endocannabinoid system responds to stressors within our nervous system by the targeted release of enzymes that create so-called endocannabinoids on demand to regulate this particular neuronal stress within our nervous system.
The endocannabinoids perform this regulation by docking on so-called CB receptors that are located in our central and peripheral nervous systems as well as our immune system, where they influence the communication between the neurons by sending particular signals from the receiving neurons back to the firing neurons to influence the electrical messages backwards (this process is called retrograde signalling).
What’s important to consider here, before we dive into the effects of cannabis, is that the endocannabinoids are made within our bodies on demand to regulate targeted disbalances within our nervous system.
Or, to put it more simply
You experience stressors in your nervous system, so your ECS produces endocannabinoids in the stressed areas of your body to deal with this particular disbalance.
However, when you consume cannabis, instead of producing demanded and targeted endocannabinoids from within, you’re now bringing external phytocannabinoids into your nervous system that dock onto various CB receptors in your entire nervous system and therefore mix up the neurotransmission in your entire body.
Of these phytocannabinoids, THC is one of the most active neurotransmission busters, as it performs like our endocannabinoids but doesn’t only dock on targeted receptors but various CB receptors in our body, especially the brain.
This explains why we feel and act so differently after smoking THC-rich cannabis.
Because all the communication between our neurons - that creates our entire being - is being fundamentally changed through the interaction between THC and our endocannabinoid System.
Last but not least, since we now know that the state of our nervous system can vary greatly - up to 10 to the millionth power - it's easy to see why cannabis affects everyone so differently.
Now that we've explored the fascinating world of neuroscience and how cannabis affects our nervous system, it's time to delve into the implications of this knowledge on our awareness.
But before we get there, I think it is essential to mention here that research has shown that our endocannabinoid system is not only influenced by cannabis. Instead, the endocannabinoid system is especially influenced by our nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness practices.
Living with greater awareness
Understanding our nervous system and the role of the endocannabinoid system explains the profound impact of cannabis on our physical and mental well-being. By recognizing how cannabis influences the communication between neurons, we can make more informed choices about its use and its potential effects on our lives.
When it comes to using cannabis, responsibility and self-awareness are crucial. We need to be aware of the potential impact it may have on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. By being responsible and self-aware, we can make informed decisions about cannabis use, minimizing its negative effects. ☝🏻✨
But, besides being aware of our cannabis consumption, we should generally be even more aware of the state of our nervous system and our thought life, as this is the starting point of our cannabis experience. 🧠💭✅
This is why it’s so crucial to be aware of our Set and Setting when consuming weed 🌿 (or any mind-altering substance 🍄). Because the set and setting are the external and internal stimuli our endocannabinoid and nervous system react to.
To help us become more mindful of our cannabis experience, we’ve built the effect grading system as part of our TDC Cannabis Grading System. 📲✨
The effect grading system helps us assess:
- Our Set, including how much we consumed, what we consumed and how we felt after consuming
- Our Setting, including how we felt before consuming, where we were, and what type of people were around us
- Our experience, including the level of intoxication, our energy levels, mood, focus and a personal summary of the experience (if we feel like writing something)
Using the effect grading system together with our bud or joint grading system allows us to pay close attention to the cannabis we consume, how we felt before consumption and what effects the cannabis had on our nervous system after we consumed it. 🧠🌿
Tracking our products and consumption shines a vital light on our consumption behaviours that can help us realize beneficial and adverse consumption patterns. This realization allows us to further explore our relationship with cannabis, which empowers us to make better consumption decisions.
Whether it is your cannabis use or your thought life and well-being, developing greater awareness is key to understanding your nervous system and yourself better, which will drastically improve your life. 🌻✨
"Attention is the key to life. Whatever you really give your attention to, you become"
“We never really experience the world. We only experience our own nervous system”
Eknath Easwaran, Dhammapada, Nilgiri, 1986, p. 180.
Summary & Next Steps
In summary, we’ve learned that our nervous system and particularly our endocannabinoid system shape our existence and perspective.
We explored the limitless potential of states of the nervous system and understood that the endocannabinoid system is there to maintain balance in this vast neuronal network to direct, correct and overall manage our health.
We understood that while endocannabinoids act targeted and on-demand, THC acts when we consume cannabis and docks onto various CB receptors in our nervous system, making us high by changing the communication between various neuronal pathways.🧠🌿
Lastly, since our nervous system shapes our physical and mental lives, we learned that it’s essential to pay close attention to our thoughts, the cannabis we consume and the set and setting of each experience we have.
If you like this article and want to support us, please share this blog post on your socials and feel free to text us your feedback via email to email@example.com or on Instagram: @urbanisticscopes.
Lastly, you can use our publicly available TDC Grading System here! 📲✨
The Grading System has greatly improved our understanding of the various cannabis products on the market and helped us to pay more attention to our consumption patterns which empowered us to use cannabis more mindfully and responsibly. 🌿🌻✨
We hope this article and our cannabis grading system help you to understand the complexities of cannabis, the endocannabinoid system and our nervous system on a deeper level to enhance your cannabis knowledge and self-awareness.
- Book: Ross, Michele N., Vitamin Weed: A 4-Step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Endocannabinoid Deficiency. GreenStone Books, 2018.
- Book: Hanson, Rick. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. New Harbinger Publications, 2009.
- Video: Youtube, The endocannabinoid system and the revolution of one | Rachel Knox | TEDxPortland, 2019
- Study: Augusto, R., Isaac, A. R., Freitas, H. R., De Almeida, M. M., Schuck, P. F., Ferreira, G. C., & Trevenzoli, I. H. (2021). Quality of Life and a Surveillant Endocannabinoid System. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15, 747229. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2021.747229