Does Marijuana Actually Make You Happier — Or Is It Just An Illusion?

The legality of marijuana is a hot topic lately, in part because our new president hasn’t made his intentions on its categorization by the federal government clear. Will he reschedule the relatively safe drug? Or will it remain a controlled substance just like heroin or cocaine? We’ll have to wait to find out the answer, but for now we can explore the reasons why someone might — or might not — want to try the drug for the first time.

Many people who consume marijuana in some form will experience a boost in happiness. It has the reputation for making people giggly. But the same can be said of alcohol, and we know that alcohol has a depressing effect up to two weeks later. Is marijuana’s effect a similar illusion?

We’re always telling you to get outside for a walk or run. Believe it or not, consuming marijuana can provide that same feeling because of a chemical called anandamide, which was first discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1964. Anandamide is already present in our brains, and it’s one of the chemicals associated with the processing of emotion, glee in particular.

Dr. Gary Wenk wrote: “Cannabinoid neurons…influence the function of our cortex and various limbic (emotion-controlling) regions; when we stimulate these receptors, we impair higher cognitive functions as we experience euphoria, and when they are blocked, we feel depression.”

Don’t celebrate too much yet, though. It’s far too early to know for sure if marijuana has a long-lasting effect on overall happiness, or if it just helps in short bursts. It’s also worth mentioning that everyone experiences the effects of THC differently, and not everyone experiences the giddy, euphoric sensation for which marijuana is known. 

Science does seem to show that marijuana can impact growing brains in a negative way, meaning you should still keep it away from your children — along with the alcohol.