What's in THC (or Cannabis) that makes me so grateful?
September 27, 2019 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Being in grad school and mostly anxious, I found that one of the best ways to unwind/de-stress was to smoke/vape/eat cannabis semi-often. I've also been reading The Red Book by Jung and keeping a journal of my dreams (and thoughts). I have started to notice this intensely real/vibrant gratitude. Details inside.

It most often strikes me in the kitchen as I am preparing a meal from fresh ingredients (I know), but this intense wave of gratefulness, and thankfulness. I am not a religious person, never was. But I would start to thank the veggies, fruits, cheese, the cow that gave the milk, and then thank the plant, and all that's had to happen for it to manifest. And it feels *genuine*. What is in cannabis that evokes this feeling in me? And why can't I get it, while not high? Is that what most people mean when they say gratitude? Not just a general feeling, but something that's actively intense?
posted by SkinsOfCoconut to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wonder if vaping full hemp flower without the THC would help? I've had some good results from hemp CBDs in terms of my own anxiety, but my gratitude has been more of the "I'm so glad I can experience life without anxiety right now. I'm so grateful the pressure has lifted because I was starting to forget what normal felt like"
posted by mecran01 at 7:35 PM on September 27, 2019

THC and CBD are among the active compounds in cannabis. It’s not what’s inside of them that counts; they are compounds and their action is not easily understood as a sum of their parts— those parts are just a bunch of hydrogen and carbon atoms arranged a certain way.

The biophysical and physical-chemical reason these compounds make us feel the way we do is because they stimulate the rich system of cannabinoid receptors found throughout our bodies. So you might want to read up on those if you’re looking for the more sciencey side of this question.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:27 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is that what most people mean when they say gratitude? Not just a general feeling, but something that's actively intense?

Yes, an intense sense of gratitude is often like that for me. A kind of heart orgasm.
posted by Thella at 8:37 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's every bit as likely, probably more likely, that your journaling is increasing your connection with your inner life and your emotions. Add that to a bit of a heightened sensory sensitivity (chopping vegetables) from the weed, and you're there.
posted by Miko at 3:40 AM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

why can't I get it, while not high?

Because if we could, being high would be indistinguishable from not being high.

Every individual dose of every psychoactive substance in every set and every setting is its own unique package deal, and lumping every drug experience under the blanket term "high" is not a super-helpful mental habit.

Components of psychoactive substances do not, in general, map cleanly and one-to-one onto components of the experiences those substances affect or promote. There isn't anything "in" THC that's responsible for your experience of intense gratitude; that experience is simply part of what your brain does when exposed to cannabis.

My best advice for dealing with any intensely pleasant drug-induced experience is to pay as much attention to it as possible while you're having it, to give you the best possible chance of recalling it in detail later even when you're not using the drug. That way, you can often sidestep the trap of thinking that the drug is in some way a necessary part of your ability to function as you'd wish to.

This is an especially important principle to keep in mind if you've fallen into the very common error of attempting to use recreational drugs as if they were a reliable treatment for chronic emotional difficulties. That's just not what recreational drugs are for, and attempting to use them as if they were is how a lot of people wind up getting burned by them.
posted by flabdablet at 7:50 AM on September 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

One helpful trick for making recall of drug-mediated peak experiences more useful is to recall the things you remember thinking while in the midst of the experience, as opposed to trying for an in-depth, in-detail recall of the experience in its totality.

The fact that the experience was drug-mediated is going to mean that what your brain does while attempting to replay a recalled experience will be even different than usual from what it did during the experience itself. Trying to re-experience the original thoughts and insights and feelings is therefore going to be even less successful than usual, and this is going to be extremely noticeable, and if you let that bother you rather than simply noting it as an effect you fully expected, then that botheration is going to taint the memory of the original peak experience as your brain packs it up again for re-shelving.

So in your particular case, cannabis use is currently bringing on intense and wide-ranging feelings of gratitude. It's not going to do that forever, so if you value experiences of that nature (and why would you not?) a helpful thing to do when you're not high is to recall some of the things you remember feeling grateful for, and rather than spend your time on wondering why you felt grateful for those things, just remind yourself that yes, those are indeed good things and that feeling genuinely and intensely grateful for them is perfectly appropriate.

Doing this might get you flashes of the intensity you remember, but that's not its main purpose. Its main purpose is to let you use whatever cannabis has to teach you. Doing this consciously will help you sidestep the very common error of blindly trusting any drug to fix your entire life for you. No drug ever made can do that, though the psychedelics (which include certain strains of cannabis to various extents) probably get closer than most if used with appropriate caution, respect and intent.

For what it's worth, I'm frequently grateful to Albert Hofmann.
posted by flabdablet at 11:57 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

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