Marijuana and the Five Sensory Organs
It is commonly known that the consumption of marijuana induces an altered state of mind. People desire the high-like effect, relaxation, and over-all bliss that results from consuming tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids found in marijuana. Each of the five senses is affected in peculiar ways, resulting in heightened awareness of one’s environment.
What Are the Senses?
We experience the world through our five senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. These organ systems assist us in understanding and processing the surroundings in which we are in. When substances, like THC, are ingested, these organs are altered.
How Are Our Senses Affected?
The cannabinoids found in marijuana interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps our bodies stay in homeostasis. There are currently two types of receptors, CB1 and CB2, that are found within the ECS. These receptors can be found throughout the body and produce distinct effects based on their location.
“The human eye happens to express high levels of one particular cannabinoid receptor, the CB1. Vision processing centers of the brain also feature a bounty of these landing sites.” Marijuana has been shown to increase sensitivity to light, improve the ability to see at night, and decreased reaction time to light. Interestingly, it also has been shown to reduce symptoms and progressions of eye disease, like glaucoma and neuro-degenerative blindness.
Many components in Marijuana, like CBD and THC, are praised for lessening pain for many individuals. Anandamide, a neurotransmitter that is “involved in regulating mood, memory, appetite, pain, cognition, and emotions” is disrupted when THC is present due to the action it takes on the communications pathways. This leads to the reduction of pain, as sensory receptors can no longer communicate the presence of pain effectively.
The use of marijuana is believed to increase the sensitivity of smell and permanently modify how an individual smell thereafter. In a study that was conducted, researchers “put a bunch of mice in a labyrinth. Scientists marks the end of the maze with some cheese. Half of the mice were given a dosage of THC, while the other half weren’t. Those mice with THC in their system found the cheese faster than those without—assuming those mice without could find it at all.”
The hormone, ghrelin, is responsible for regulating appetite control in the body. When ghrelin is released, it induces the feeling of hunger to increase food intake. Marijuana use leads to the production of ghrelin and dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter), thus causing individuals to feel hungry and satisfied after consuming food.
The sense of hearing is one of the only systems that has shown not to be affected by the use of marijuana. There was a study conducted to examine the effects of marijuana on hearing in 1976. The researchers performed hearing tests on all the subjects and then separated them into two groups, one smoked marijuana, and the other was given a placebo. After performing a second set of hearing tests, there was no significant data found that would indicate that marijuana use altered hearing. Although many individuals state that after using marijuana, their hearing is enhanced, past research, including the 1976 study as mentioned earlier shows this is not the case. The belief of improved hearing may be due to elevated dopamine levels in the body.
The alteration of the senses after marijuana is introduced into the body, is quite amazing. It allows for people to see and digest the world in an entirely different perspective, without having any known adverse long-term effects. As society becomes more comfortable with marijuana, more research can be done to better understand the impact it has on the senses, especially hearing.