How marijuana effects our Autonomic Nervous System

Discussion in 'Medicinal Marijuana' started by Suetaz, Aug 25, 2004.

  1. Suetaz

    Suetaz Seasoned Activist

    Back in February I submitted an article about Brian Bakri and the tv show he creates called Reeferhead TV that is aired on local PBS in Albequerque, NM. Brian PM'd me after that article posted and offered to send me a VHS tape with a couple of his shows on it. I just got the tape last week that has two episodes of his show on it and I wanted to share part of what was in the first episode because it helped me understand some things. Some of it is transcribed and some I have added from looking things up. The episode I got this from can be watched at PotTV.


    To understand how marijuana effects the body, we must first understand how the Autonomic Nervous System works. The Autonomic Nervous System is controlled by the hypothalamus, the gray matter in the floors and walls of the third ventricle of the brain, and it operates in two branches. The first of these is the sympathetic branch of the Autonomic Nervous System. Stimulants are released into our body causing our heart rate to go up, causing us to be more aware and more tense generally.

    The second branch is the Parasympathetic branch. When it is activated, it causes an opposing effect, causing depressant –like chemicals to be released in our system, slowing it down. The goal is to maintain a balance between the two branches. When we are tired and run down, there is very little sympathetic activity. When we feel safe and secure, when we are not worried or thinking too much about something and are not over exhausted then there is very little sympathetic or parasympathetic activity going on. Due to occurrences in every day life, this is usually not the case and we fluctuate back and forth between the two branches. This fluctuation is what we call stress. Any time a threat is perceived, it can be real or imagined; fear is automatically transmitted via the hypothalamus, through the Autonomic Nervous System and throughout the body.

    The sympathetic branch goes into action releasing adrenaline like chemicals into our system causing our heart rate to go up. Not only does our heart rate increase, but also the force of the heartbeat is increased dramatically as well. This causes an increase in blood pressure and our breathing becomes faster to supply more oxygen to the brain, the sensory organs, the eyes, the ears and the pupils dilate. All of this allows for quicker perceptions and decision-making processes.

    Stored sugars which we have in our liver are released into the system to provide for energy and our skeletal muscles tense up in order to produce what could be called or compared to an armor like function in order to protect our internal organs from blows with a thick padding of condensed muscle. At the same time our blood vessels constrict, especially the capillaries in our extremities and this is believed to be to prevent blood loss should we be injured. So you can see without any conscious effort on our part, instantaneously our body is now combat ready. This is called a ‘Fight or Flight’ response. Its sole purpose is to put the body on alert for physical exertion. When we open up all of these organs, we have better blood flow throughout the brain and the body. We take in the input and decide how we are going to react to the stimulus. When physical action or exertion takes place, the stimulating chemicals that were released by the sympathetic branch are used up and the body returns to balance. However, as is often the case in every day life, there is no physical exertion, or not enough in comparison to the amount of chemicals that were released by the sympathetic branch. We have a lot of stimulation, but we don’t act upon a lot of it. If this is the case and there is no physical exertion to use the chemicals up, the parasympathetic branch goes into play, releasing depressant like chemicals into the body and this slows everything down to maintain balance.

    Now when we take outside drugs into our system it throws off the balance of our Autonomic Nervous System. If we drink a lot of coffee our system is ‘jacked up’ so the parasympathetic branch goes into effect releasing depressant chemicals to counter the effects of the caffeine. If we stop taking the caffeine we still have an over abundance of these parasympathetic chemicals in our body and this is one of the factors that plays into addiction.

    Our bodies in FIGHT OR FLIGHT mode:

     Heart rate goes up
     Breathing becomes faster and deeper
     Veins are constricted
     Bronchi are dilated in order to achieve greater air flow
     Mucous membranes are dry
     Skeletal muscles tense
     Pupils dilate
     Peristalsis is inhibited

    (Peristalsis is the normal contraction and relaxation of the hollow tubes of the alimentary canal. i.e. the wave like contractions that move food through the system. This inhibition is caused by the skeletal muscles tensing up.)

    All of the Fight or Flight symptoms are caused by the chemicals the sympathetic branch releases into the system. When the parasympathetic chemicals are released into the system, the above symptoms go away and balance is achieved.

    The effect marijuana has on the Autonomic Nervous System is unlike any other known to man. Marijuana is neither a stimulant nor is it a depressant, it is actually both and stimulates both the sympathetic and parasympathetic chemicals, creating balance.


     Heart rate- goes up
     Veins -dilated
     Breathing- becomes slower and deeper
     Bronchi- dilated
     Mucous Membranes-dry
     Muscles- relaxed
     Pupils – dilated
     Peristalsis- stimulated
     Brain- quicker, faster thinking

    When the heart rate goes up, the heart is pumping harder, but the blood pressure doesn’t rise because the blood vessels dilate throughout the body. A case in point is a stoner’s red eyes. So the body is pumping blood through a relaxed system sending oxygen-enriched blood more efficiently.

    Our breathing becomes slower and deeper providing for better elimination of toxins from the lungs and for better oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange. The bronchial tubes dilating as well as the air sacs in the lungs expanding further enhance this exchange. This is why marijuana is effective medicine for bronchitis and asthma; marijuana increases the diameter of the bronchi. Better breathing is accomplished by better airflow. This is due to the sympathetic chemicals drying out the mucous membranes. (Cotton mouth)

    Restrictions to peristalsis can cause a whole host of problems. When we are stressed and our muscles are tensed, we aren’t digesting food properly and our bodies aren’t getting the energy we need. It can cause constipation, or ulcers or stomach and colon cancer.

    Another way marijuana has been used to effect peristalsis is in childbirth. The uterine contractions are another form of peristalsis. Marijuana has been used to increase the force of these contractions at the same time as relieving pain throughout the body, making birthing easier.
  2. Suetaz

    Suetaz Seasoned Activist

    I just wanted to add that if anyone gets the chance to watch Brian's show at PotTV, after the part on the Autonomic Nervous System, he goes on to talk about the two hemispheres of our brain.

    Most people have one side more dominant than the other that defines the way we think and act. He says using marijuana helps the two hemispheres work together better for a more clear thought process.
    It's a very interesting show for anyone able to watch it.
  3. Logos

    Logos CannaSacrament Minister

    This is very interesting information.

    I really wish that science were allowed to research this substance in a free environment.

    I honestly wonder what conclusions would come of it. I'd bet it's use would actually be encouraged instead of discouraged.

    I'm visualizing an egg in a frying pan, and it's making me hungry... ;)

  4. Suetaz

    Suetaz Seasoned Activist

    Ain't it though?! I think it's fascinating. And it makes sense.

    I think we should be recommending it with what we know now. I would like to know if smoking marijuana really has any effect on the lungs like some people think it does.

    It would be nice to know ALL the benefits of using marijuana so that we could get the most out of the plant. The more we learn, hopefully some day the list of ailments for medical use will grow and we'll be using for a lot more uses. Sorta like back in the old days before it was criminalized. :rolleyes:
  5. greypoe

    greypoe Sr. Member

    Im curious, Where did he get his information on the autonomic nervous system?
  6. Suetaz

    Suetaz Seasoned Activist

    Sorry greypoe, I've been busy and forgot about this. I just emailed Brian and asked him, I'll let you know what I hear back.
  7. Higher Logic

    Higher Logic Web Developar

    I agree, interesting things. Especially the part about how cannabis is a balance of depressent and stimulant.
  8. Mamabudz

    Mamabudz Guest

    Not so much a "balance of a depressant and a stimulant" but cannabis has actions on various systems of the autonomic and parasympathetic nervous systems such that it acts in a manner that is neither the actions of a Depressant nor a Stimulant.

    Whereas a Stimulant would cause a reaction of muscle contraction...marijuna causes the same muscles to relax -- specifically the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, uterine tissue in females -- etc.

    Another excellent article -- from about three weeks ago on the Front Page -- referred to the effect of the levels of naturally occurring endogenous cannabanoid substances (anadamides) in their relation to mental illness/mental health and the extremely low levels of anadamides discovered in those with treatment resistant forms of Schizophrenia.

    The more we know about Cannabis, the more we realize we have so much more to learn!

    ...have a cookie ;)


    Mama Budz
  9. Suetaz

    Suetaz Seasoned Activist

    Posted by greypoe:
    I heard back from Brian. He said he used a variety of books and websites, but dealing with the autonomic nervous system, a good portion of that came from the book:

    "The Physical Psychological Spiritual Benefits of Marijuana" by Joan M. Bello, M.S.

    He's got 29 episodes done now and last week had a show called "Potpaganda" which was all pot scare/educational films from the 1930's to the 80's. I wish I could watch all of them. :bawl:
  10. krissy

    krissy New Member

    undefinedI think this is all extremly interesting.Considering I had back surgery and I use this medicinally to kill pain. Then again, maybe for other reasons..............
  11. Mamabudz

    Mamabudz Guest

    Other reasons like:
    Keeping up your spirits while recovering from surgery?
    Keeping an appetite so you ate properly to recover from surgery?
    Enjoying time with friends who came to visit and having a few laughs -- which is the best medicine?
    As an adjunct to increase the effectiveness of more serious pain relievers based on opium or opium derivatives thereby lowering the dosage necessary and limiting dependence on addictive drugs?

    Pain relief isn't the only thing to consider in recuperation...sounds like you did good...hope you are feeling better :)

    ...have a cookie ;)


    Mama Budz
  12. Mr-Blunt

    Mr-Blunt New Member

    Thanks for the info, it's interesting how it's almost the same
  13. DeeDee

    DeeDee New Member

    Hello, my name is DeeDee and I'm new to the site. I have a question and wonder if any of you have experienced this: I was using pot butter for about a year on a daily (sometimes twice daily) basis, about 1 tsp more or less. I would sometimes use Benadryl as well to help with sleep. About a month ago, I awoke with a rapid heartbeat, lightheaded almost to the point of fainting, sweating and chills. No, it wasn't the flu. Doc did bloodwork, all okay. he says panic attack. I had these symptoms (except for the near fainting) for about a month. It has been getting better and now I've gone for 3 days with no panic/anxiety attacks. Do you think i was having a drug interaction? the symptoms were very much like a pot overdose, but I didn't do anymore pot after that first weird episode a month ago. The symptoms just seemed to stay with me even though I wasn't taking anything, except Paxil which made the symptoms worse! Do you think the butter and Benadryl weren't a good mix? I'm scared to try the butter again, even tho it helped with my fibromyalgia, which is why I started it. I never mentioned to my doc about the butter (you know why) Any help or comments appreciated, thank you.
  14. Mamabudz

    Mamabudz Guest

    Hi Dee Dee -- yes benadryl -- diphenhydramine -- can cause the effects you experienced...

    I worte you a PM on this but didn't realize you had alos asked in the forum -- For our members, could you cut and paste the answer her as well?

    I went into more depth as to why this happened with benadryl...

    Hoping you feel better now... Glad the canna-butter is helping the Fibromy.


    Mama Budz
  15. Mamabudz

    Mamabudz Guest

    Here is the rest of the message I sent to Dee-Dee about her experience:

    diphenhydramine -- can and does cause panic/anxiety and the effects can last for weeks. Actually the body will continue to have the effects of sweats/chills as it tries to release the diphenhydramine from the body, the panic attacks are a response to the fear of the impending trigger "feeling" or "emotion" that is similar to what hte diphenhydramine did, a psychosomatic response meaining Mind/Body and it takes at least a month for the body to relearn that it is again "safe" from this medication.

    Cannabis use will make you much more sensitive to other medications -- It is a little discussed side effect. It will also, it seems from folks who speak with me, make you more likely to suffer the side effects a child might get. One thing to think about then is to be careful in selecting over the counter medication: use children's medications and use children's amounts. Let your physician know you had a bad reaction to Benadryl and get that on your Medical Chart Pronto!!!

    Let your doctor know about the racing heart response -- Check out medications that do not raise heart rate -- Coricidin has a group of meds for the common cold (relief) that do not raise blood pressure.

    Other medications you will probably want to stay away from are the Opium group -- morphine and codeine and codeine types. Use caution -- you will probably need less, and you may get an anxious response (sometimes called a "feline" response since you get jumpy as a cat!) Again, let your doctor know

    As for the pot butter -- I would suggest cutting the butter with a heart healthy oil like Olive Oil and in the future, making a large batch of Canna Oliv Oil as well -- as a major unsaturated and heart healthy oil it is under used in our cooking and so highly versatile. I reccomend it.

    Be well -- and be sure you are getting some exericise -- I know even when it hurts, gotta grease that body with fluids and keep things moving. Save a sweet doggy from the Pound and he'll be your loyal walking companion for life -- for both your lives!

    Hugz and be well,

    Mama Budz
  16. High Mom

    High Mom New Member

    Sorry to dig up an old thread, but I had to back up MamaBudz 100%. (Hi MAMA, your Ringer is back!) :wave: I had back surgery in June and cannibas helped me not only reduce my dosage of post-op pain meds (opoids) but greatly reduced my anxiety and come to think of it, did help me enjoy visits and laugh without feeling stuporous from having to take such high doses of Rx meds.
  17. Mamabudz

    Mamabudz Guest


    Great to see you!

    ... have a cookie!


    Mama Budz
  18. Ken

    Ken New Member

    He says using Marijuana helps the two hemispheres work together better for a more clear thought process.
    probably such a good thought process you overthink everything and anything which i think can lead to brain stress just my opinion.
  19. Ken

    Ken New Member

    does the better thought process only occur during the high or well after its gone?
  20. Inhale420

    Inhale420 New Member

    holy crap! i don't post here much but this is the most beautiful thing i've read in a long time.

    i'm a young, late 20's male with a recent history of high blood pressure. it runs in my family. i found out about this a couple years ago during a routine checkup. my doctor recommended blood thinning drugs, which do not cure high blood pressure... you're hooked, for life. this was during a time when i quit smoking weed. (i got the runaround, but eventually failed a drug test. i decided to quit anyway.)

    during this period of sobriety, my blood pressure was as high as 164/98. i stayed away from pot to save money. after getting myself back on my feet and comfortably buying about 1/8th a week, i noticed my blood pressure slowly dropping over the months. i started smoking back in march of this year. yesterday i went to the doctor for a checkup and blood test, and my blood pressure is now 140/85. not bad at all, only marginally higher than my 135/75 target.

    i guess my point is that i can take some prescription pills to thin my blood, or dialate my vessels, by smoking some herb. i may take the pills later in life, but as long as i enjoy smoking, i'll go with the obvious choice :) oh! forgot to mention, i've reduced my caffeine intake by 80% as well. i highly believe it's these 2 factors that will keep me away from prescription pills.

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