When a person smokes marijuana, the THC in the drug is quickly passed from their lungs into their bloodstream. The bloodstream then carries the chemical to the user’s brain and other organs in their body. If the marijuana user takes the drug in their food or drink their body will ingest it more slowly than when the drug is smoked.
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No matter how the user ingests marijuana, the THC in the drug acts upon specific molecular targets on brain cells. These brain cells are called cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are ordinarily activated by chemicals similar to THC called endocannabinoids, e.g. anandamide. These chemicals are naturally occurring in the user’s body and are part of their neural communication network (the endocannabinoid system). The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in normal brain development and function.
The largest number of cannabinoid receptors is located in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. When the user smokes (or eats/drinks) marijuana the drug proceeds to cause their endocannabinoid system to become over active. The high the user experiences when they use marijuana is caused by their endocannabinoid system being over-activated. Common sensations brought on by using marijuana include distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.