5 things chemically similar to a cannabis high

We bring you 5 things that act more or less like a cannabis high. 4 of them relate to humans and the last to wild tigers and domestic ones as well.

Cannabis contains many cannabinoids that interact with your body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Some of them, like THC, induce euphoric effects in your brain and body. But cannabis isn’t the only thing that causes the high we know so well. In fact, everything from exercise to guilty pleasure foods can provide chemically similar sensations to cannabis high.

1. Running

cannabis high and running

Runner’s high does exist and, until recently, was generally associated with the release of endorphins, hormones that essentially function as pleasant painkillers. But scientists at the Central Institute for Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg Medical School in Germany have established a link between runner’s euphoria and the endocannabinoid system. The researchers ran laboratory mice on a wheel and noticed elevated levels of endorphins and endocannabinoids after their run. The mice showed less anxiety and better pain tolerance. Blocking the endorphin receptors did not change their behaviour, and the mice still felt the runner’s euphoria. However, when the scientists blocked the mice’s endocannabinoid system, the mouses were just as anxious after their run as before, and they were also more sensitive to pain. Moreover, the runner’s feeling of euphoria only appeared after a certain number of kilometres. Mice that ran more than 5 km per day showed less anxious behaviour (I’m not sure what this means in human kilometres, but having run a number of marathons and half-marathons, I can tell you that the feeling of euphoria clearly appears in long-distance races). Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Marcelo Gleiser believes that this study makes evolutionary sense:

“We evolved to chase fast-moving animals and to escape equally fast predators. Such long runs are tiring and painful. If we get a reward for working hard, our chances of running longer and faster are increased. And with it, our chances of survival. As Christopher McDougall pointed out in Born to Run, his inspirational book about long-distance running, running is built into our DNA, into the way our bodies have evolved to have an Achilles tendon and sweat glands and a series of other adaptations that make us all potential marathoners.”

That’s right, your body has in fact evolved to become an efficient running machine. And not only does running mimic the cannabis high you get, it’s also healthy for you.

2. Love

cannabis high and love

Apparently, when love is in the air, you can feel pretty damn good. Scientists recently discovered that higher levels of oxytocin can release anandamide, an endocannabinoid that plays a role in the neural generation of motivation and pleasure, among other behaviours. Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in social bonding, sexual attraction and reproduction, childbirth and mother-baby bonding. These feelings of love increase your oxytocin levels, which in turn increase the effects of anandamide in your body. Anandamide is similar to THC internally, in that THC can bind to cannabinoid receptors on neurons in the brain and activate them in a similar way to anandamide. So getting a hug from the pretty girl you like will produce chemical effects similar to cannabis high from Megaton.


cannabis high and chocolate

In 1996, researchers discovered that chocolate contains anandamide, as well as two substances that can mimic the effects of anandamide, N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine. That’s right, chocolate, that delicious treat that has been making people eat their feelings since 1900 BC. According to researcher Daniele Piomelli of the San Diego Neuroscience Institute, the old wives’ tale that chocolate is an aphrodisiac may be due to the blissful effects it provides thanks to anandamide. But we’re talking about something much, much milder than cannabis high.


cannabis high and cheese high

If you’re more of a cheese fan than a chocolate addict, I’ve got some good news for you. Researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered that cheese contains a chemical that is also found in drugs. In fact, many processed foods are associated with addictive eating behaviour, but cheese in particular contains casein, a protein commonly found in mammalian milk. Casein provides your body with amino acids, carbohydrates, calcium and phosphorus, and it can also trigger opioid receptors in your brain and give you feelings similar to cannabis high. Although the casein in milk only provides a tiny dose of effects, to make one pound of cheese, you need about 10 pounds of milk. Casein separates from the liquids and coagulates the solid fats in milk, which is why it is more concentrated in cheese and can be addictive.

5. Catnip

Catnip, or Nepeta cataria of the genus Nepeta, is a species of plant commonly used in cooking and for making herbal teas. Oh, and about 66% of cats are crazy about it. However, it produces no effects like cannabis high in humans.

How catnip gets cats high

An essential oil called nepetalactone, found in the stems and leaves of the Nepeta plant, can have powerful effects on cats (and not just domestic cats, but other species such as tigers, panthers and leopards). It is thought that sniffing the plant stimulates receptors in the cat’s brain that respond to happy or pleasant pheromones, while eating it may produce milder effects.

Fun fact is that catnip is related to the cannabis plant; in fact, author Michael Pollan wonders if both cannabis and Nepeta cataria use their respective chemicals to confuse their pests as part of an evolutionary strategy. Killing pests can be counterproductive, as they are building up resistance very quickly. This happens with many types of toxic plants, as it does with pesticides. But if the plant is simply diverting the pests or disabling their memory, it can defend itself against their excess but this is a pure speculation.

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Published by Sakul


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