High on Life: How Cannabis and Happiness Are Related

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High on Life: How Cannabis and Happiness Are Related

It’s no secret that having a puff makes you feel good. But now a team from Japan has found out why. It turns out, being happy and stoned are more intimately linked than you might think.

A research team from Japan took a closer look at the receptors in the brain that respond to cannabis and discovered something amazing: Individuals with one particular genetic variation experience a state of lasting happiness - similar to the effect triggered by cannabis.

Does happiness reside in a gene?

We all experience fleeting moments of happiness. But going through life in constant happiness isn’t something many can say of themselves. After all, is it not the striving for happiness that keeps humans motivated? But maybe reaching this state is not just about what we do, but also about what we bring into this life at the time of birth. Yet this somewhat disempowering perspective is what the researchers out of Japan are suggesting: The presence of a variant in a person's genetic makeup would appear to explain why some people are happier than others. But get this: the genetic variation responsible for this effect, a polymorphism of the CB1 receptor gene, is the same one that is responsible for encoding the CB1 receptor - the very same receptor the cannabinoids from cannabis are attaching to. In other words, individuals who have this particular genetic variation tend to be naturally high on life.

The researchers took a close look at the happiness levels of 200 subjects and it is important to note that the study did not involve any cannabis directly. They found that when genetic polymorphism related to the CB1 receptor occurred, it could have an enhanced effect on an individual's response to cannabinoids, the chemicals that are responsible for triggering pathways to happiness. Marijuana contains at least 85 cannabinoids, which explains why weed produces a sense of well-being and pleasure.

The body naturally produces cannabinoids itself, the so called endocannabinoids. Their role is not entirely understood, but they seem to act as mood regulators in the brain as they interact with the CB1 receptors. Those with the variation of the gene become even more responsive to the presence of endocannabinoids and will tend to be happy people.