Happy Highs - Why Smoking Weed Makes You Laugh
We’ve all been there. You have a couple of pulls of a joint or a nibble of a brownie and before you know it you’re crying with laughter. You don’t know why and you don’t know what it was that triggered it, but you just can’t stop. This little quirk is one of the most enjoyable things about cannabis’ famous effect. But why does weed make you laugh uncontrollably?
Why Does Weed Make you Laugh?
To understand the science behind weed’s laughter inducing properties, you first need to understand laughter itself. And while a good chuckle may seem like one of the simplest human expressions, it’s not as easy as delivery + punchline = funny.
In fact, what we consider funny is a complicated mix of social/cultural influences and some serious head-chemicals. Finally, however – after years of the funniest research in history – scientists have been able to narrow down the precise chemical that gets you lolling: Anandamide. Known as the bliss receptor, anandamide, which is a naturally occurring endocannabinoid in the human brain, gets triggered when something great happens. You can expect a flood of this to fill your brain every time you do something that you’re programmed to enjoy, such as completing a gruelling workout, after some good ol’ fashioned coitus, or when you experience something you think is funny.
[caption id="attachment_2009" align="aligncenter" width="750"] THC boosts the part of the brain that produces positive feelings.[/caption]
Now, most of the anandamide-driven process to positivity takes place in the temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex. You know, the part of your brain responsible for language, visual memory and emotions – the important part if you want to have any fun. And it’s this part of the brain that THC is most responsive to: It swims on up there, straight into your cerebral cortex and increases blood flow to the area. This results in an increase in cerebral activity and – for reasons that remain unknown to scientists – stimulates laughter.
One theory is that as anandamide’s make-up is so similar to THC’s genetics, THC temporarily tops-up ‘bliss receptors’ when administered.
[caption id="attachment_2007" align="aligncenter" width="750"] THC. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption]
Cannabis and your mood
In fact, doctors have noted that patients suffering with anxiety or depression tend to have reduced activity in this part of the brain. Essentially, they are operating on a deficit of anandamide and so are more prone to prolonged negative emotions. Therefore, it’s cannabis’ (or more accurately, THC’s) ability to artificially top that up that makes weed such an effective treatment against those ailments. Cannabis literally stimulates the area of the brain associated to humor and works to increase the natural cannabinoids that regulate positive human emotions.
Despite all the above linking bursts of good vibes to brain-stuff, though, laughter fits as a result of cannabis use might be as much a social symptom as a medical one. Much how laughter tracks on a sit-com end up making the show much more hilarious than the writing probably deserves (seriously, have you seen Friends without canned laughter?), people are just much more inclined to find things funny when they’re with their buddies. Think about it, if you smoke weed alone, the length and potency of any giggling you might do is almost always nothing in comparison to when you do it with friends. In fact, researcher and social scientist Sophie Scott claimed in her Ted Talk that people are 13 times more likely to laugh when they’re in a busy social setting. It’s like that scene in Spartacus; it just takes one person to get the ball rolling and soon everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
As we can see, laughter is not just the result of a good joke. Even during a chuckle there’s some major work at play – especially when cannabis is involved. And though the final theory to why does weed make you laugh might still be sitting in a laboratory somewhere, it’s clear that cannabis’ laughter inducing properties are not only fun, but incredible medicine for people suffering with a whole host of illnesses.
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