Is There a Link Between Cannabis and Dopamine?

Is There a Link Between Cannabis and Dopamine?
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Mental health specialists have often described dopamine as the pathway to pleasure because it makes people feel pleasure and is an essential “feel good” chemical in the human brain. 

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the human brain and paramount for behaviour regulation, sleep, movement, mood, memory, and motivation. This chemical also impacts the way the brain’s reward system functions, motivating you to repeat a beneficial behaviour and rewarding you for doing something enjoyable like engaging in physical activity, eating something delicious, or having sex. It is essential to how happy you feel because it also interacts with other feel-good chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin. When you have healthy levels of dopamine, you feel motivated to seek and repeat the activities that triggered them; hence your motivation enhances, and you’re more productive. Your brain quickly learns the activities that drive your happiness and make you feel attentive, focused, and excited about life. High dopamine levels make you more extroverted and social, boosting your empathy for others and making you more willing to match their requests and needs. The chemical also increases your creativity levels because it offers a pleasurable feeling. 

When you have a dopamine deficiency, you feel restless and fatigued and can suffer from anxiety, depression, and lack of motivation. It has a negative impact on your ability to focus, your mood worsens, and you might experience trouble sleeping or falling asleep. This happens because your body struggles to maintain a sense of vitality when your brain lacks the necessary amount of dopamine. 

Image source https://unsplash.com/photos/RNiBLy7aHck

Can you increase dopamine naturally?

Some lifestyle changes can help you increase your dopamine levels naturally. Taking natural supplements, exercising, meditating, reading, getting a massage, and even gardening can increase the amount of dopamine in your body. Also, getting regular and good-quality sleep daily balances your dopamine levels. Interestingly, the chemical compounds in cannabis, known as  cannabinoids, can impact dopamine levels. To better understand how cannabis use can increase dopamine levels, it’s essential to research how it affects the human body. 

The endocannabinoid system and dopamine

Cannabis can influence the amount of dopamine your body produces because it interacts with your endocannabinoid system – which plays an important part in dopamine function. The endocannabinoid system impacts several body functions as it’s made of chemicals (called endocannabinoids) that interact with the enzymes and receptors in your body. It has receptors spread throughout your body and a high density of endocannabinoids in the brain, so it maintains the body’s homeostasis and regulates multiple bodily functions. The chemicals from cannabis are able to bind to the natural endocannabinoids and trigger effects similar to them. Increasing dopamine levels is just one of the functions they can play. 

Products grown from cannabis seeds create pleasurable feelings, increasing dopamine concentrations. If you’re dealing with a dopamine deficiency and want to solve it in a natural way, using cannabinoids can be helpful and enjoyable because they stimulate positive and euphoric feelings. However, it’s crucial to pay attention to how much cannabis you consume because an extra dopamine stimulation can also negatively affect your body. If this happens, the natural production of dopamine is blunted due to the external stimulation, and you might require more external stimulation to experience the feel-good effect of dopamine.  

What effects should you expect if you consume cannabis products?

Experts reveal that the relationship between THC, the most active chemical in cannabis, and the dopamine system is complicated. While most users register an increase in dopamine levels when consuming cannabis, some experience a decrease. Therefore, it’s safe to say that cannabis and its related products have a biphasic effect on dopamine, meaning that a small dose of the ingredient can spike a boost of dopamine, but a larger amount can cut down the levels. However, it’s important to highlight that cannabis doesn’t trigger dopamine releases like other drugs but works together with the endocannabinoid and dopamine systems to enable the body to produce the chemical naturally. THC doesn’t stimulate dopamine directly, but it encourages its release by reducing the release of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). The cannabinoids from the hemp plant don’t act on dopamine directly but bind to the endocannabinoid system, suppressing the GABA inhibitors for a short time. GABA neurons inhibit dopamine production, so when they’re suppressed, the amount of dopamine in the body increases. 

THC-infused products have a limited impact on the amount of dopamine released in the body. While the changes are clinically relevant for someone with a dopamine deficiency because they trigger experiential and behavioural effects, they don’t cause any disruption in the natural processes as other drugs might do. The experts from Seedsman state that cannabis products can lead to a euphoric flood of pleasurable and happy feelings, which are beneficial for someone with a dopamine deficiency. Someone with anxiety can also benefit from cannabis because it can improve memory, cognitive performance, and motivation. 

How to tell if you have a dopamine deficiency?

As stated above,  dopamine is the feel-good hormone and gives you a sense of pleasure and motivation to do the things you love. It’s also part of your reward system, so it makes you feel pleasure when you engage in the activities you need to survive (eat, drink, reproduce). As a human, your brain is hard-wired to seek the behaviours that trigger dopamine release. 

When you have the right amount of dopamine, you feel:

– Focused

– Alert

– Happy

– Motivated

On the other hand, if you have a low level of dopamine, you feel:

– Unhappy

– Unmotivated

– Tired

– Find it hard to focus

– A lack of sex drive

– Memory loss

– Mood swings

Final words on the use of cannabis for dopamine deficiencies

With its biphasic effects, cannabis can help improve dopamine production, but only when used correctly. This article shows the connection between cannabis and the dopamine system to help you figure out how it can help you if you experience an impairment in the dopamine or endocannabinoid systems. 


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Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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