Last updated on: 5/30/2008 | Author:

Can the “High” Associated with Marijuana Provide a Benefit to Health?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Distribution of Cannabinoid Receptors (CB1) in the Brain. The Feeling of Being High Comes from THC Activating CB1 Receptors.
Source:, July 21, 2007

Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme, a program of Health Canada, stated on a page titled “All About Marijuana” on its website (accessed Jan. 2, 2007)

“How does marijuana actually work? Why does it make you high?

This topic can be a bit complicated, with lots of detail about how the active ingredients of marijuana affect the inner-workings of the brain […] let’s just say that cannabis has what are called psychoactive chemicals, the main one being ‘tetrahydrocannabinol’ or THC for short.

When you smoke a joint, the THC goes into your lungs, then into your heart which pumps it into your bloodstream which then takes it directly to your brain. When you smoke marijuana, it only takes a few minutes for the THC to get to your brain, whereas if you eat it, it would take a little longer because it has to pass through your digestive system first.

Once it’s in your brain, the THC activates what are called ‘receptors,’ and gives you the feeling of being high. In short, marijuana changes the physical and chemical balance in your brain and this is what people refer to as a ‘high’.”

Jan. 2, 2007

Daniele Piomelli, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of California at Irvine, stated in a Mar. 16, 2000 USA Today article titled “Marijuana: The Good, the Bad, the Truth,” by A.J.S. Rayl and Stephen A. Shoop, MD:

“If the life of the person is at stake, the question of the accompanying ‘high’ becomes a moot point. It is my personal opinion that in situations like these – terminal cases – concerns about the ‘high’ should be set aside…

Anything done in excess is bad for you. If you compare different evils, marijuana is probably one of the least and probably should still be considered as such. That is not to say that marijuana is harmless. It is a drug. All drugs – legal and illegal – can be harmful.”

Mar. 16, 2000

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated in its online article “Marijuana” (accessed Dec. 29, 2006):

“The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). The membranes of certain nerve cells in the brain contain protein receptors that bind to THC. Once securely in place, THC kicks off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users experience when they smoke marijuana. …

As THC enters the brain, it causes a user to feel euphoric — or ‘high’ — by acting in the brain’s reward system, areas of the brain that respond to stimuli such as food and drink as well as most drugs of abuse. THC activates the reward system in the same way that nearly all drugs of abuse do, by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine.”

Dec. 29, 2006

The Institute of Medicine published in its Mar. 1999 report titled “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base”:

“A characteristic feature of the marijuana ‘high’ is a distortion in the sense of time associated with deficits in short-term memory and learning. A marijuana smoker typically has a sense of enhance physical and emotional sensitivity, including a feeling of greater interpersonal closeness…

Delta-9-THC and Delta-8-THC are the only compounds in the marijuana plant that produce all the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

Because Delta-9-THC is much more abundant than Delta-8-THC, the psychoactivity of marijuana has been attributed largely to the effects of Delta-9-THC.” [Editor’s Note: When marijuana is metabolized in the liver, a new compound is formed. Called Delta-11-THC, it is more psychoactive than marijuana’s other cannabinoids.] Mar. 1999 - "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base"

The Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland stated in its website article titled “Marijuana” (accessed Apr. 20, 2010; last updated May 2, 2005):

“Many users describe two phases of the marijuana high: initial stimulation (giddiness and euphoria), followed by sedation and a pleasant tranquility.

Users also report altered perceptions of distance and time along with a heightened sensitivity to sights and sounds. Effects can vary from person to person and can differ with each use. While some users may experience lowered inhibitions, drowsiness, and contentment, others may feel great anxiety and paranoia. And depending upon the user and setting, the effects and categorization of marijuana can vary from a stimulant to a depressant to a hallucinogen. Any of these effects can begin within a few minutes after inhaling, and can last 2 to 3 hours after initial intoxication.”

May 2, 2005

Oakley Ray, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, and Charles Ksir, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Wyoming, stated in their 2004 textbook Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior:

“The subjective effects of smoking marijuana — the high — are quite difficult to study…

Almost all writers emphasize that a new user has to learn how to smoke marijuana. The first step involves deeply inhaling the smoke and holding it in the lungs for twenty to forty seconds. Then the user has to learn to identify and control the effects and, finally, to label the effects as pleasant. Because of this learning process, most first-time users do not achieve the euphoric ‘stoned’ or ‘high’ condition of the repeater.”


Bill Zimmerman, PhD, et al., former President, Americans For Medical Rights (AMR), noted in his 1998 book Is Marijuana The Right Medicine For You?:

“Before we describe what you should expect the first time you use marijuana, you should know that many patients report that marijuana used for medical purposes does not make them high at all. Patients fighting nausea, for instance, often need to take only a few puffs to deal with their nausea, and a few puffs may not be enough to produce any mental effects.

The sensation of being high is quite subtle. Typically, it differs slightly from one person to the next and from one experience to the next. There is often a sense of amusement and well-being (euphoria). There is a feeling of relaxation and calm. … People who are high seem to enjoy art, as well as the simple appearance of things, more profoundly than at other times. When marijuana produces effects like these, and the user is accustomed to the effects, it can be quite pleasurable, which helps explain why millions of people use marijuana solely for recreational purposes.”


Eric Goode, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Stonybrook State University of New York, stated in his June 1970 book The Marijuana Smokers:

“A significant proportion of marijuana users did not become high the first time that they smoked the drug … In part, much of this may be attributed to improper and inefficient technique. However, even with the most careful instruction and technique, some fail to become intoxicated.”

June 1970

Terry Necco, a former freelance writer for Change the Climate, Inc., stated in his Sep. 1, 1998 Change the Climate, Inc. article “Marijuana and Sex: A Classic Combination”:

“Just as our bodies contain pleasure systems which reward us for sex; our brains contain neurocellular circuitry which can only be activated by substances with THC’s molecular structure. This makes the marijuana high a unique constellation of feelings, and there are only two sources for the substances which activate THC’s very own neuroreceptor. Our brain is one source: it generates a neurochemical very similar to THC, called anandamide. Translated, the word means bliss. The only other source for this bliss-producing substance is the cannabis plant.”

Sep. 1, 1998

PRO (yes)


The Institute of Medicine published in its Mar. 1999 report titled “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base”:

“The high associated with marijuana is not generally claimed to be integral to its therapeutic value. But mood enhancement, anxiety reduction, and mild sedation can be desirable qualities in medications — particularly for patients suffering pain and anxiety.

Thus, although the psychological effects of marijuana are merely side effects in the treatment of some symptoms, they might contribute directly to relief of other symptoms.”

Mar. 1999 - "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base"


George McMahon, an author and medical marijuana patient of the US Federal Drug Administration’s Investigational New Drug (IND) Program, and Christopher Largen, an author, stated in their 2003 book Prescription Pot:

“Occasionally, friends asked me if I ever got high from smoking black market pot. It was difficult to make them understand. First of all, I had to get them to clarify what they meant by ‘high.’ I certainly didn’t feel inebriated or dull-headed. I didn’t walk around in a stoned, lethargic stupor. I didn’t wail and guffaw at terrible jokes or philosophize about the linoleum floor in my kitchen. My response to marijuana simply did not fit the prevalent stereotype of ‘getting high.’

People who have never struggled with a life threatening or disabling illness often do not comprehend how debilitating the resulting depression can be. Long days spent struggling with sickness can wear patients down, suppress their appetites and slowly destroy their wills to live. This psychological damage can result in physiological effects that may be the difference between living and dying.

The elevated mood associated with cannabis definitely affected my health in a positive manner. I was more engaged with life. … If you feel better, you are better.”



World Science, a website, stated in its Nov. 25, 2006 article “Pot May Be Both Good and Bad, Researchers Say”:

“This effect [getting ‘high’] can be helpful because excess release of glutamate — which is also an essential chemical messenger in the brain — is implicated in various disorders, including Alzheimer’s.

This … may explain why THC-like compounds, called cannabinoids, help protect brain cells in cases such as ischemia, or blocked blood vessels; excitotoxicity, or overstimulation of nerve cells; and even physical injuries.”

Nov. 25, 2006

CON (no)


Alison Mack, a science and medical writer, and Janet Joy, PhD, Senior Program Officer at the US Institute of Medicine, wrote in their 2000 book Marijuana As Medicine?: The Science Beyond the Controversy:

“[C]annabinoid-induced euphoria or sedation may simply mask symptoms, leading some users to the false belief that marijuana improves their medical conditions. That is a problem if it causes patients to choose marijuana over more effective conventional medicines that have fewer undesirable side effects.”



The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated in its online article “Marijuana” (accessed on Dec. 29, 2006):

“As THC enters the brain, it causes a user to feel euphoric — or ‘high’ — by acting in the brain’s reward system … in the same way that nearly all drugs of abuse do, by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine. …

Marijuana’s damage to short-term memory seems to occur because THC alters the way in which information is processed by the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for memory formation.”

Dec. 29, 2006


The Eagle Forum, a conservative advocacy organization, stated in its online brochure “Facts You Need to Know About … Marijuana” (accessed Jan. 2, 2007):

“Very little of the THC absorbed into the blood of the lungs reaches the brain at the time of the ‘high.’ … When pot is smoked regularly, a large supply of THC accumulates in the fat. This produces a high steady level of THC in the blood, which causes continual sedation. The brain is numbed. The mind is in a fog. …

Their minds become so confused that many are caught in a life of drug abuse. It is difficult to escape, because regular pot smokers must quit pot for over a month before they can think clearly again.

Since THC is continually in the body, the ‘high’ from pot gradually diminishes, and so pot smokers usually take other drugs to get a kick. Nevertheless, they continue to smoke pot as they use the other drugs, because they think pot makes them ‘feel good all the time.’ Most pot smokers drink alcohol heavily, and many become so confused that they take cocaine or heroin.”

Jan. 2, 2007