Disclaimer: My Rationale for Understanding the Science
Not everyone loves learning the scientific specifics, but lucky for you I do. And what I like to do with this information is gather it up, trim the fat, translate the jargon, and present it to you. Everything I explain has a point. I want you to experience an Informed High. I want to help create informed consumers making informed decisions.
Neurotransmitters for Stoners
Neurotransmitters have a long name, but it does tell you exactly what these compounds do. The ‘Neuro’ means that it involves neurons and other parts of the Nervous System. The ‘Transmitter’ part is just that, the relaying of messages through compounds. Combined, we know that the word is talking about compounds that carry and convey messages or signals throughout the nervous system. These compounds are Endogenous – meaning that our body creates them internally, on demand, as needed. Neurotransmitters also all share the quality that they affect the activity of the target cell. These chemical messengers relay these messages by traveling within the nervous system, and to other tissues in the human body.
Neurotransmitters and The Synaptic Lake
For example, neurotransmitters like Anandamide travel across synapses (think of the synapse as a lake with different neurons all around the lake). These messages cross the lake and activate, or attach to, neurotransmitter receptors on the targeted cell(s) (like a key for a lock). The synaptic cleft is the term for that lake I described. The synaptic vesicles are like homes on the waterfront, which release the neurotransmitters into the lake. Neurotransmitter can also float from a neuron over to a targeted cell that is not nervous system tissue, like a muscle cell, for example.
Neurotransmitters and Electric Binding
The brief binding of the neurotransmitter to the receptor site on the targetted cell produces an intended effect How do Neurotransmitter change the activity of the target cell? Through either an excitatory or inhibitory effect. Human nerve cells not only use chemicals, but they are electrical in the sense that they carry a voltage. A neurotransmitter can shift the voltage up or down based on its chemical structure (and associated voltage effect). Doing this will either increase or decrease the chance (or rate) that the target cell is activated. By activating, I mean triggering of an electrical current that travels through the neuron. Neurons trigger based on an all-or-nothing principles. This electrical signal travels along a neuron, that’s all we’ll say about this today.
TL;DR – Why Should I care about Neurotransmitters if I Smoke Cannabis?
Neurotransmitters play a vital role in everyday functioning, more than 100 different neurotransmitters have been identified. One type of Endogenous Neurotransmitters are called Cannabinoids (Anandamide and 2-AG). An example of neurotransmitter receptors include Cannabinoid Receptors (CB1 and CB2). We have also discussed how Phytocannabinoids (not endogenous) like THC and CBD act upon these CB1 and CB2 receptors in ways that mimic Anandamide and 2-AG.
Whether you are a Recreational or Medicinal Cannabis user, knowing how the compounds work inside of our bodies that help empower us by becoming Informed Consumers and Patients that experience an Informed High.