What marijuana does to your body and brain

Marijuana, best-known for its “feel-good” effects and touted for its ability to relieve various symptoms of illness and disease, can also be damaging, especially when overused.

When weed’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hits the brain, it causes brain cells to release the feel-good chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a part of the brain’s reward system — it’s the same chemical that makes us feel good when we do enjoyable things such as eating and having sex.

Pot also contains cannabidiol (CBD), and this chemical — while not responsible for getting you high — is thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects.

Most of THC’s effects take place in the brain, where it interacts with receptors on brain cells called cannabinoid receptors. Our bodies naturally produce compounds that activate these same receptors, but THC co-opts these pathways to produce its effects. Depending on how much and how often you use, marijuana’s effects can vary widely.

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