Before I get into the deeper connections I’ve experienced with Alexandra and others, I want to summarize how marijuana affects me each time I consume it. For those of you who have never tried it, consuming marijuana is slightly different than consuming alcohol in that alcohol initially makes you feel good (or “buzzed”), but then you generally get depressed, tired, nauseous, and sick if you drink too much. Alcohol seems to trigger the release of dopamine, which initially makes us feel good but, after too much alcohol, other brain chemicals are altered, which enhances the feeling of depression (and drunk crying).31
You could die from alcohol poisoning if you drink too much since alcohol is technically a toxin that kills cells.32 Comparatively, marijuana, at the right dose, makes most people just feel relaxed, at ease, lighter—like a weight lifted off your shoulders. For me, it does all of this, but it also makes me feel more connected to things and to people. This connectivity can be summarized a few ways, but, in general, marijuana makes me more aware of my feelings and the feelings of others.
I have summarized a few ways that marijuana makes me feel as follows:
As another example, think about when you’re in a nice hot shower with awesome water pressure and you just get lost in your thoughts. You are hopefully able to tune out all of the troubles of your day—kids, significant other, work, financial issues, physical issues—and just focus on yourself and your thoughts. (Unless, of course, you bring a waterproof phone into the shower with you, but why would you do that? Don’t you get enough screen time during non-showering hours?) Think about what happens when you’re in this zone—your thoughts are likely all over the place and generally freeing. Some people sing in the shower, some people cry in the shower, some people are creative in the shower. Whatever the case, you are letting your mind wander free and it hopefully feels damn good. That’s how I feel when I’m high.
a) In a study published in 2014 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers compared forty-eight adults who used marijuana at least three times a day, for an average of eight or nine years, and sixty-two people who didn’t use marijuana. It turned out that the brains of the chronic marijuana users showed greater connectivity, which is generally a measure of how well information travels between different parts of the brain. The researchers said they don’t know for sure why chronic marijuana use is linked to these brain changes, but they think it may have something to do with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, which affects cannabinoid receptors.33
b) THC may increase the level of “neural noise,” or random neural activity in the brain. In a 2015 study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers measured the levels of this random neural activity in twenty-four people under two conditions: after they had been given pure THC, and after they had been given a placebo. They found that the people showed greater levels of neural noise after they received the THC compared with their levels after they took the placebo.34 The neural noise seems to be an increase in certain neurotransmitters, which are often referred to as the body’s chemical messengers. They are the molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons or from neurons to muscles. Sometimes neurotransmitters can bind to receptors and cause an electrical signal to be transmitted down the cell (excitatory). Marijuana seems to increase the activity of certain neurotransmitters, including GABA, dopamine, and noradrenaline.35
So, according to this research, the greater connectivity I feel while high is happening, and theoretically, it increases my ability to form and sense thoughts, more so than when I am sober. When I take edibles, I feel like my mind is going at warp speed for two to three hours afterward, and then my mind needs to cool down after generating so many thoughts and connections. Most of the concepts I’ve written about in this book have been while my mind has been in this warp-speed phase. After my warp-speed phase, I go into my staring-at-the-TV phase for two to three hours before “knocking out” (picture Jim Breuer’s character in Half Baked, or go watch the movie if you haven’t seen it). I will go into more detail about what I think is happening during this warp-speed phase later in this book.
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