Please note: the following explanation is a deliberate oversimplification of a complex mechanism for the purposes of generally summarizing its function. It is no way intended to be a comprehensive examination but presupposes you’ve already read my prior post, “What in the world are neurotransmitters?”
In the brain are various receptors, some of which are activated specifically by Cannabis, which mimics what the body naturally produces. There are many different kinds, including synthetically manufactured cannabinoids, natural phytocannabinoids and your body’s own endocannabinoids.
When Cannabis attaches to a receptor it’s able to activate an internal signal to which neurotransmitters respond.
The most famous phytocannabinoid is psychoactive, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), for which marijuana is known. When THC binds to a receptor it stimulates a sense of euphoria, a.k.a. feeling “high”.
As a frame of reference, other psychoactive drugs are Tylenol 3 (which contains codeine for pain), diphenhydramine (a.k.a. Benadryl for allergic reactions), pipe/ chewing tobacco or snuff, cocaine (which has medical uses, e.g. decreasing bleeding during nasal surgery), methylphenidate (a.k.a. Ritalin used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy), as well as psychedelic mushrooms/ cacti (a.k.a. mescaline).
Conversely, the phytocannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t bind to receptors very well; it inhibits them, which makes it an effective complement to THC. The result of pairing them is a mellowed effect without the high or commonly induced paranoia. This makes it ideal for treating anxiety and sleep disturbance.
Furthermore, CBD has been found to reduce pain, seizures and the risk of Diabetes. It’s no wonder so many people are using it and recommending it to me for treatment of my Fibromyalgia and neurological symptoms of my corn allergy!