Weed, or cannabis, can affect how we think, feel, and perceive the world, which makes it a psychoactive substance. In high amounts or when eaten in edibles, the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, can sometimes lead to experiences that are a bit like those people have on psychedelics. These might include deep thinking, a sense of time slowing down, and even, in rare cases, seeing things that aren’t there.
However, the changes in perception caused by weed are usually less intense and less dreamlike than those caused by true psychedelics. Also, while psychedelics like LSD work primarily by affecting our brain’s serotonin system, weed works differently. It interacts mainly with a unique system in our brain called the endocannabinoid system.
So, while weed can sometimes create experiences that feel a bit like a psychedelic trip, it’s not actually a classic psychedelic. It has its own unique set of effects and works in a different way in our brains.
Psychedelic substances are a category of drugs known for inducing profound shifts in consciousness. This category includes compounds such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). But what precisely constitutes a psychedelic?
Two defining characteristics distinguish a substance as psychedelic. Firstly, the subjective effects: psychedelics are renowned for their ability to trigger vivid, surreal, and often intense hallucinations. When one consumes a psychedelic substance, the everyday world can dissolve into a cascade of shapes, colors, and patterns, creating a dreamlike state that can feel completely removed from normal reality.
Psychedelic substances also tend to distort our sense of time and space, making minutes feel like hours, or causing the surrounding environment to appear expanded or contracted. Moreover, many individuals report spiritual or mystical experiences, accessing profound insights or feelings of unity and interconnectedness.
Secondly, it’s the science behind these experiences that also defines a substance as psychedelic. These substances act primarily on the serotonin receptors in our brain, particularly the 5-HT2A receptor. By binding to these receptors, they disrupt the usual patterns of serotonin transmission, leading to the unique and often profound experiences associated with a psychedelic journey.
In essence, psychedelic substances offer a direct, intense interaction with our consciousness, unlocking doors to realms of perception typically hidden from our everyday experience. Whether used for spiritual exploration, therapeutic application, or simply curiosity, these substances embody a fascinating intersection of chemistry, neuroscience, and the human experience.
Psychoactive substances encompass a wide array of drugs that have one main feature in common: they alter mental processes. This broad category includes substances ranging from caffeine and alcohol to cannabis and psychedelics.
A psychoactive substance acts on the central nervous system and can modify brain function, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. These substances work by interacting with various neurotransmitters and receptors within the brain, thereby altering its normal communication pathways.
To give you an idea, let’s look at a familiar example, caffeine. When you drink coffee, the caffeine blocks the receptors in your brain that adenosine usually binds to. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep and relaxation. When it’s blocked by caffeine, the result is increased alertness and wakefulness – a clear alteration of your mental state.
Contrary to popular belief, not all psychoactive substances are illegal or harmful. For instance, many people start their day with a psychoactive substance when they drink their morning coffee. Similarly, prescription medications such as antidepressants and anxiety medication are also classified as psychoactive substances.
However, it’s essential to note that misuse of any psychoactive substance, even those that are legal or prescribed, can lead to harmful effects, including dependency and various physical and mental health problems. Psychoactive substances are a diverse group of substances that influence our minds in different ways. They have immense potential for therapeutic use, personal growth, and enjoyment when used responsibly, but they can also carry risks and should always be approached with respect and caution.
When considering the different types of cannabinoids, the term ‘psychedelic cannabinoids’ may seem a bit of a misnomer. While there are many cannabinoids found in cannabis, none of them are psychedelic in the classic sense. The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). While these cannabinoids can alter perception and mood, they do not induce the profound shifts in consciousness associated with classic psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin.
THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. When consumed, THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, specifically CB1 and CB2 receptors, creating a variety of effects. These effects can range from feelings of relaxation and euphoria to altered sensory perception. However, these alterations are typically more subtle and less intense than those produced by classic psychedelics.
In high doses or when consumed through edibles, THC can sometimes produce effects that are similar to those of a mild psychedelic experience. This is due to the liver metabolizing THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a more potent form of the compound. However, these effects are still significantly different from the powerful hallucinations and alterations of reality that classic psychedelics produce.
CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and is often associated with therapeutic benefits such as anxiety and pain relief. It does not produce a ‘high’ or any form of altered perception.
There are also other lesser-known cannabinoids such as CBN (cannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol), and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), each with their unique properties and effects. However, none of these compounds produce psychedelic effects. While certain cannabinoids can induce changes in mood and perception, none can be classified as truly psychedelic. The effects of cannabinoids, even the psychoactive THC, are different in nature and intensity from the reality-altering experiences associated with classic psychedelic substances.