The psychoactive compounds found in the cannabis plant can have potent effects on the human brain and nervous system. This holds true whether we’re talking about the intoxicating high of THC or the potential medicinal applications of other cannabinoids and terpenes.
Today, we’ll explore how an individual’s age can impact these effects. Keep reading to learn more about how cannabis compounds interact with human anatomy and what role our age can play in this interaction.
How Does Cannabis Affect The Brain/Body?
When we consume cannabinoids like THC or CBD, whether by taking a tincture, eating an edible, or smoking weed, those cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system is a complex cell signaling apparatus that plays a significant role in maintaining homeostasis. It does this by modulating several key life-sustaining functions such as appetite, sleep patterns, memory, and mood. Essentially, the endocannabinoid system helps us stay balanced.
Typically, the endocannabinoid system works by sending messages in the form of neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids which attach to endocannabinoid receptors located throughout our body, brain, and central nervous system. However, endocannabinoids aren’t the only things that can activate endocannabinoid receptors. THC, CBD, and other minor cannabinoids can also interact with endocannabinoid receptors in different ways. This interaction is the mechanism that creates all the effects we glean from cannabis and explains why cannabinoids affect the same functions regulated by the ECS.
High THC Vs. Low THC
The effects felt from high THC cannabis are radically different from low THC hemp. Most notably, high THC is intoxicating, meaning it produces the “high” we associate with marijuana use. The reason THC has such a different effect compared to other cannabinoids has to do with the way it interacts with endocannabinoid receptors.
Unlike other cannabinoids like CBD or CBN, THC directly binds to the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors located primarily throughout the brain and nervous system, sending a flood of signals through the endocannabinoid system.
Long Term Effects Of Cannabis
In the short term, ingesting THC can impact several functions regulated by the endocannabinoid system. This can often look like:
- dry mouth
- shifts in perception
- increased appetite
- increased anxiety
- short term memory loss
The long term effects of cannabis remain somewhat more mysterious due to the dearth of research created by the DEA’s designation of cannabis as a Schedule I Drug. However, research does indicate people with a genetic or environmental predisposition to certain mental health disorders like schizophrenia may be at increased risk for psychosis.
Additionally, there is some debate in the medical community regarding the long term effects of cannabis on memory, though current research strongly suggests that age plays a large factor.
Legal Smoking Age Explained
Studies suggest that engaging in frequent cannabis use as an adolescent when the brain is still developing and maturing can reduce cognitive function and impair memory down the line. Adults who consume cannabis may experience cognitive impairment during the time of intoxication; however, researchers have been unable to confirm any permanent decrease in cognitive ability in adults who regularly consume cannabis.
So what happens when you smoke weed at a young age that’s different than smoking weed as an adult?
Scientists speculate that the difference has to do with cannabis’ effects interfering with normal brain development. This accounts for the implementation of legal smoking ages, even in states with legal recreational marijuana.
Potential Health Benefits Of Hemp For Seniors
While it’s in the best interest of children and adolescents to avoid cannabis use, seniors on the other side of the age spectrum may find several health benefits from the compounds in cannabis and hemp.
According to preliminary research, CBD’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties may make it an effective tool to combat arthritis and joint pain.
Additionally, new research from the Salk Institute suggests that cannabinoids may help prevent dementia by reducing cellular inflammation and may promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta—the toxic protein responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease.
Further research suggests that cannabis can help combat the “wasting” associated with terminally ill cancer and HIV/AIDS patients, as well as reduce nausea caused by cancer treatments. CBD has also been proven to help reduce seizures in individuals with certain forms of epilepsy.
Research into both the potential positive and negative effects of cannabis is still in its relative infancy. Hopefully, as more cannabis reform legislation passes, scientists and medical professionals will be freer to study the effects of this powerful plant.