Learn | 08.13.2019

This Is Why Some People Don’t Get High From Psychoactive Cannabis

Is it possible to smoke THC and not get high? The short answer is yes, sort of. Here’s why.

Cannabis affects everyone differently. Like any other substance, there are some people who may be more or less sensitive to the herb than others. It all depends on your present internal body chemistry and genetics. There is some early evidence that those with certain medical conditions may experience the effects of cannabis differently. Further, a particular hormone may block the high caused by THC. Here’s why someone could not get high off of psychoactive cannabis.

What causes a high?

The way cannabis engages the body contributes to these differences. In total, there are over 400 different chemical compounds in the cannabis plant.

About 100 of these compounds are molecules unique to the cannabis plant, called cannabinoids. The primary psychoactive in the plant is a cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

When you consume cannabis, THC enters the bloodstream and connects with special cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors. Thus far, researchers are aware of two distinct cannabinoid receptors, named CB1 and CB2. When THC connects with these receptors, specifically the CB1 receptor in the brain, it causes the classic psychoactive high.

But, your ability to feel “high” depends on many different factors. In general, the majority of people will feel a high from psychoactive cannabis. However, evidence suggests that the cannabis experience is quite variable.

Could someone not get high off of cannabis?

Some people with certain medical conditions, for example, consume the herb and feel more normal. It’s not uncommon to hear people with fibromyalgia or post-traumatic stress disorder explain that cannabis gives them energy and makes them feel soberer.

There is some early, theoretical evidence to back up these claims. Neurologist and medical researcher Dr. Ethan Russo thinks that some people may have what is called an endocannabinoid deficiency. Humans naturally produce their own versions of cannabis, called endocannabinoids.

When you inhale or eat the psychoactive plant, THC hijacks the cell receptor that human endocannabinoids would normally land. By doing so, THC taps into a larger network called the endocannabinoid system.

This system is the largest neurotransmitter network in the body, and it controls a variety of key bodily functions. Some of these functions include:

  • Appetite
  • Sleep
  • Pleasure
  • Pain
  • Mood
  • Motor skills

Russo theorizes that people with certain medical conditions may not produce enough of these endocannabinoids in the first place. Specifically, those with migraine, fibromyalgia, and IBS.

Some mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder may also have some sort of endocannabinoid disfunction. If this is the case, those with some of these conditions may experience cannabis a bit differently than others.

The outcome of your high may be dependent on your endocannabinoid tone in the first place.

I don’t have a medical condition, why am I not high?

Apart from specific medical conditions, there is another reason why some people may not experience a cannabis high after consuming THC. Research published in 2014 in the journal Science found that a particular hormone may block you from experiencing a cannabis high.

The hormone in question is pregnenolone, which is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Pregnenolone is thought to protect the brain from cannabis intoxication. Interestingly, you can buy this hormone online and at vitamin supplement stores.

People take it to improve mood, ease anxiety, and enhance brain function. Like cannabis, it also is thought to have a slight negative effect on memory and can make you sleepy.

In the study, researchers treated rodents with very high levels of THC. They noticed that the rodents began to produce pregnenolone in response, as if the hormone which seemed to block the effects of the THC.

In another experiment, the scientists injected the rodents with pregnenolone after treating them with THC. Not only did the injection reduce THC intoxication, but the rodents were less likely to self-administer THC after the fact. When treating human cell lines with the hormone, scientists found similar results.

It is entirely possible that some people may be more effective at producing pregnenolone than others, and therefore better able to adjust after consuming THC.

Though highly theoretical, differences in individual metabolism may also contribute to whether or not cannabis has a strong or weak effect.

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