The possible effects of using it
If you have ever spoken to someone who has used marijuana, you may have heard of its ability to alter the user’s sensory perception.
But to what extent can we talk about hallucinations? Can the most common hallucinogens be compared to cannabis?
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Let us try to clarify and better understand how the two substances interact with our organism and the effects they produce.
What is a hallucination?
The term hallucination refers to a state of alteration. From an etymological point of view, this word derives from the Latin ‘alucinari’, which literally means ‘wandering in mind’.
More precisely, this term refers to sensory experiences of various kinds. To be defined as such must originate in the mind and therefore not be directly linked to any external stimulus.
Although hallucinations are most commonly associated with sight, in reality, they can affect any of the five senses.
They are classified as visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and gustatory.
The truth about these phenomena is open to different interpretations. For example, some aboriginal cultures are considered manifestations of parallel universes, which we would not be able to perceive without the altered state. This current of thought is also supported by several researchers, who claim that these experiences can safely be considered accurate.
On the contrary, the medical viewpoint is firm in stating that these phenomena are only and exclusively due to chemical changes in the brain. Furthermore, it is supported by the fact that many individuals report contacts with intangible entities and travel to parallel dimensions under conditions of total sobriety.
The scientific explanation in these cases attributes such events to clinical disorders, such as high fever, sleep disorders, side effects of taking certain drugs, or in more mild cases to mental illness.
However, to return to the subject at hand, it is necessary to differentiate between these phenomena and those occurring after the intake of psychotropic chemicals, such as the THC contained in cannabis.
Read also: Marijuana: helpful information
Let’s take a brief look at how hallucinogens work
The main characteristic of these substances is that they can alter sensory perceptions in the user.
How is this possible? The substances contained in the most common hallucinogens, such as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, bind to the serotonin 2A receptor. By binding to it, they inhibit its primary functions.
Serotonin and its serotonergic system play a key role in regulating emotions, mood, sexuality, cognitive functions, appetite and sleep. The antagonising effect of hallucinogenic drugs on this system is the cause of the sensory alteration experiences induced by these substances.
Although recreational use is widespread in modern times, hallucinogens were initially used and in some cultures still are used to seek mystical experiences associated with spirituality and communication with deities.
What do typical hallucinogens have in common with cannabis?
The main contributor to the drugging efficacy of cannabis is identified as THC tetrahydrocannabinol. This active ingredient can condition the dopaminergic system via the CB1 and CB2 receptors. As mentioned above, hallucinogens interact with the serotonergic system.
Therefore, the association of cannabis with the most common hallucinogens in terms of its effects on the body seems too forced.
What occurs when talking about marijuana is a kind of ambiguity, which is also reflected in the classification of the substance itself.
Cannabis has a variety of effects on the user’s body, but none are predominant enough to allow it to be confined or labelled under one specific category over another.
Marijuana users report depressive, hallucinatory and even stimulant effects. However, it is impossible to define the main ones since they manifest themselves in subjective ways. Moreover, the same cannabis taken by the same person at different times could, as indeed has already happened, trigger different reactions. In short, it isn’t easy to give a label that is reliable enough.
It seems more correct to speak of psychotic effects rather than actual hallucinogenic effects concerning cannabis.
Although these sometimes manifest themselves in mild hallucinations, it seems more appropriate to associate them with psychosis.
Let us first clarify what is meant by psychosis. According to the Istituto Superiore della Sanità, psychosis is ‘a type of psychiatric disorder that causes alterations in the perception or interpretation of reality.
The symptoms through which it manifests itself include, among others, hallucinations and delirium.
Apparently, in light of the studies conducted so far, cannabis would only trigger these effects in individuals who are predisposed to such disorders and therefore unrelated to marijuana use.
Nevertheless, cannabis use remains strongly discouraged for individuals whose brains are still developing. To avoid the onset of specific problems, it is best to avoid consuming pot before the growth phase.
Can cannabis cause hallucinations?
In light of the above considerations, it can be concluded that there is no scientifically supported correlation between cannabis and the most common hallucinogenic substances.
The difference lies in the different ways in which these substances interact with the user’s body.
In the case of hallucinogens, we see the involvement of the serotonergic system and the 2A receptor. In the case of cannabis, the receptors involved are CB1 and CB2, part of the dopaminergic system.
Therefore, there is no scientific correlation between the effects of these two drugs under investigation.
However, what could lead to the mistaken association of cannabis and hallucinogens is the ability of cannabis to induce mild hallucinations in individuals predisposed to the development of psychosis.
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