Does Weed Make You Happy?
Though there is still much research to be done, there is evidence to support that weed makes people happy. THC, the most active ingredient in marijuana, affects the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine stimulates the brain’s reward centre and is commonly released after happiness-causing situations such as eating a tasty meal, going for a run, or having sex. The happiness-inducing effects of marijuana can be compared to the “runner’s high” that many people experience.
However, there is evidence that overindulging in weed can actually dampen the body’s response to dopamine, thus cancelling out its feel-good effects. A study from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse looked at how a group of heavy weed smokers reacted to Ritalin, a drug that elevates dopamine, compared to non-smokers. Even though both groups produced the same amount of extra dopamine, the weed smokers did not experience its effects nearly as strongly as the control group. They also reported feeling restless and anxious, even though their body was producing a feel-good chemical.
The study “suggests that cannabis users may experience less reward from things others generally find pleasurable and, contrary to popular stereotypes, that they generally feel more irritable, stressed, and just plain crummy,” according to Raul Gonzalez, a neuropsychologist that was not involved in the research. The researchers themselves believe that excessive marijuana use may have damaged the smoker’s brain’s reward system. It is important to note that this study observed marijuana users that smoked an average of five joints a day, five days a week, for ten years. It may not be representative of how smoking weed affects recreational users.
While the specific effects of weed on happiness have not been studied extensively per se, we can extrapolate from other clinical studies that weed influences happiness. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that suicides among young men (aged 20-39) fell by about ten per cent in states where medical marijuana was legalized. This could be explained in many ways and certainly warrants further study, but it is certainly possible that marijuana has a positive effect on suicide rates and therefore happiness.
An article published in the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology found more evidence that weed could be used to treat depression and to increase happiness in general. The study found that THC affects emotional processing in the brain — it reduces brain activity when exposed to negative emotional content, but it increases activity when exposed to positive emotional content. The researchers stated that these results show that THC reduces the negative bias that humans have during emotional processing. In addition to increasing day-to-day happiness, this reduction could be helpful in treating psychiatric disorders like depression.
Some studies have also found marijuana to be an effective treatment for PTSD. People suffering from PTSD have lower levels of a cannabinoid called anandamide. The cannabinoids from cannabis can help make up for the patient’s lack of anandamide. Many PTSD sufferers also claim that weed helps with emotional processing.Back To FAQ