The question of how cannabinoids interact with the human body is a vastly complex issue, as there are numerous effects that are transmitted from the chemicals. After cannabis ingestion both psychological and physiological effects begin to appear as the chemicals, THC specifically, interact with the vastly complex body receptor system.
In the late 1980’s scientists first identified the CB1 receptors in the nervous system, cannabis’ psychoactive and behavioral effects being produced via the stimulation of said receptors. A few years later, in the early 1990s, CB2 receptors were discovered in the immune system, and identified as responsible for the control of many biological tasks, such as inflammation and pain response. Endocannabinoids, chemicals found naturally in the body, possess a molecular structure nearly identical to herbal cannabinoids and act as neuromodulators and cytokine modulators inside the receptor system, regulating such functions as appetite, blood pressure, bone growth, immunity, inflammation, memory, muscle tone, and more. In theory, a healthy endogenous cannabinoid receptor system is vital to healthy living and certain diseases may be symptoms of weaknesses within the system. Supporting this theory, a National institutes of Health review states that modulation of the endocannabinoid system shows promise in a large variety of diseases, from mood or anxiety disorders to movement disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, stroke, glaucoma and others.
The standard psychological and physical effects experienced after consumption of cannabis is difficult to define simply because the experience is different for each individual. A majority of the plant’s effects are largely dependent on the percentage of THC and other cannabinoids contained in the specific strain of cannabis. Additionally, those who consume cannabis more regularly will receive altered effects compared to new or infrequent consumers because of a higher tolerance to the psychological and physiological cannabinoids present in the plant. If an inexperienced subject were to take too much cannabis at once, for example, they would be subject to a panic attack or heightened paranoia. These experiences are temporary and do not show any actual long-term risk to the subject’s health. Tolerance of the physical effects of cannabis will normally build as consumers continue to use cannabis and learn to temper their dosage in order to avoid the anxiety and paranoia that could ensue from overuse.