Why Does Cannabis Make You Laugh?
Thursday March 23, 2017
W hile there are many “stoner stereotypes” that are obviously false (that stoners are lazy, for example. The cannabis industry alone has disproven that one), there are some descriptions of stoners that are absolutely true. One of which is that they love to laugh and will do so often.
But what is it about a stoned brain that makes it so easy to “have a laugh” (which is what the Beatles used to call “getting high”)? The answer could be due to a number of factors.
Cannabis Encourages a “Detached Perspective”
If you’ve ever felt like you have a little comedian in your head cracking jokes while you’re high, you’re not alone. Many of us notice a humorous twist on mundane tasks after consuming some of that “wacky tobaccy,” which can likely be linked to a phenomenon called “Detached Perspective,” or an ability to see the world from an altered perspective. This term, coined by authors Potter and Dan Joy, suggests cannabis allows us to interpret our surroundings and experiences differently than we normally would, thus encouraging us to see the world in a very Mitch Hedberg sort of way.
Another term for this phenomenon is “divergent thinking,” or the ability to make connections out of seemingly unrelated concepts.
It happens primarily in the right hemisphere of the brain (where cognitive processes like perceiving sarcasm or understanding poetry occur) which seems to get an extra helping of blood-flow during a cannabis high. This is likely one reason cannabis improves creativity for many people but may also be the cause of the sudden giggle fest you and your friends are having, too.
Cannabis Elevates Mood
Another theory that could explain why marijuana makes people laugh is the fact that cannabis improves the mood of most of its users. This euphoric effect is one of the most common reasons people choose to consume cannabis and is a natural precursor to a good time. When someone consumes a mood-elevating substance (or exercises or successfully completes a daunting task), our brains release dopamine, or the “feel good” hormone. When we feel good, laughter comes much easier. This is also why cannabis can help treat depression and reduce pain perception in many consumers.
Laughter is Infectious
Many of us know that laughter is contagious (as are yawns) but may not realize the extent to which the demeanor of other people affects us. For example, when someone around you is stressed or angry, you may develop symptoms of stress as well. Likewise, if someone near you is joyous, you may likely share in their celebration. This happens because of mirror neurons which fire in the brain when we observe – and are empathetic to – the actions and experiences of others. Researchers suggest that these mirror neurons may be biologically responsible for feelings of empathy (and perhaps even autism) and may have played a key role in the development of language, as well.
Knowing that laughter is contagious and that cannabis consumption is largely a communal activity, it makes sense that when you and your friends are getting high together, you’ll be more likely to catch the laugh bug if your friends have it, too. It’s one of those one-person-laughs-so-everyone-else-laughs sort of things.
THC Reduces Effects of Negative Stimuli
Not only does marijuana make it easier to laugh, but it may reduce our sensitivity to negativity, as well. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of European Neuropsychopharmacology, men under the influence of THC were less likely to be affected by negative images (angry faces) than they were positive ones (happy faces) compared to the control group. As stated in the report, “After THC administration, performance accuracy was decreased for stimuli with a negative but not for stimuli with a positive emotional content” suggesting that cannabis makes us more prone to positive thinking even when being ”faced” with negativity (get it??).
Cannabis and Laughter is a Powerful Combo
Cannabis’s medical potential is well-documented and has even been shown to reduce opioid dependency, which is a growing epidemic among Americans. It can also be used to increase focus, improve sleep and treat many mental illnesses, making Mary Jane an excellent thing to have in your total-health toolbox. Additionally, when we consider the fact that marijuana makes us laugh, we realize just how powerful of a combo it is. That’s because laughter itself is great for our health!
Here are just a few reasons laughter is good for you:
Reduces stress and tension
Strengthens the heart
Boosts immune system functioning
Improves personal connections
Helps you live longer
Anyone who’s ever been high or even been around someone who is high knows just how easily laughter can come to a stoned mind. And though science is vague in regards to why exactly that is, many speculate a number of factors including more abstract thinking patterns, increased dopamine production and reduced sensitivity to negative stimuli. But whatever the reason is that marijuana makes us laugh, I’d say the side-effect is well-worth having.
Do you have a funny stoner moment you’d like to share?
Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
Stoners have been known to have a case of the giggles. Find out the reasons why cannabis makes you laugh more often.
Why weed makes you laugh, according to science
I reach for cannabis mainly to soothe my anxiety, especially in these fraught times. But some of its other, non-chill effects вЂ” such as the giggles вЂ” also enhance my experience. If you consume weed, you likely know the feeling: constantly teetering on the brink of laughter, even if nothing remotely funny is happening. When I do notice something the slightest bit funny, I burst into hysterics, especially if IвЂ™m smoking with a friend. As a science-minded human who loves nerding out over cannabisвЂ™s effects on the brain, I asked experts to help me break down why weed makes you laugh.
LetвЂ™s start with what laugher truly is. вЂњLaughing is really a reflex,вЂќ like coughing or sneezing, says Timothy Fong, a professor of psychiatry who also helps oversee the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative. вЂњItвЂ™s something that can be triggered spontaneously, by things we see and feel.вЂќ
When you use cannabis, you enter an altered state in which you perceive time, color, and pretty much everything differently. вЂњThat altered state makes the reflex [to laugh] more likely to be triggered,вЂќ Fong tells me, not unlike how a cold makes your coughing reflex more sensitive. Cannabis does this partly by boosting levels of chemicals in your body that trigger your laugh reflex, especially dopamine, Fong says. As a result, вЂњthings that arenвЂ™t funny become funny.вЂќ
He notes that cannabis also lowers the inhibition of your laugh reflex вЂ” say, in situations that your sober mind would deem giggling inappropriate вЂ” by acting on the frontal lobe, responsible for inhibiting behavior. Plus, the binding of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound in weed that makes you high, to the endocannabinoid receptors located throughout your body spurs the release of dopamine and serotonin, вЂњthe happy neurotransmitters,вЂќ which can also lower impulse control, says Lewis Nelson, chair of the department of emergency medicine and chief of the division of medical toxicology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Also, laughter really is contagious, Fong says, even when youвЂ™re sober, which probably explains why the giggles tend to hit me hardest when I use cannabis with a friend. Throw a substance that messes with your laugh reflex into the mix, and вЂњeverything becomes a lot funnier.вЂќ
In general, the more potent the product вЂ” that is, the more THC it contains вЂ” the more likely itвЂ™ll cause the giggles, Fong says. More THC results in more binding to your endocannabinoid receptors, more neurochemicals being expressed, and вЂњjust more noise, like turning your stereo up louder,вЂќ he explains. вЂњYouвЂ™re going to get more intense responses.вЂќ
You mightвЂ™ve come across lists of вЂњtop giggly strains,вЂќ like Laughing Buddha or Mango Kush, on cannabis websites. But the lack of clear national regulations around strains means there isnвЂ™t a whole lot of consistency in the amount of THC, terpenes, and other compounds in plants of a given strain, Fong notes (which has raised questions about the scientific basis of strains as a means of categorizing weed, VICE reports). The levels of these compounds in Laughing Buddha bought in one state might differ from Laughing Buddha bought in another state
WhatвЂ™s more, everyone experiences cannabis differently, which can, in turn, depend on factors like how they consume it, or whether theyвЂ™re doing so on a full or empty stomach. In other words, one personвЂ™s description of a strain may not hold true for everyone, and if youвЂ™re seeking out a strain with the express purpose of getting the giggles, itвЂ™ll be somewhat of a crapshoot.
The take-home message is that cannabis makes your laugh reflex easier to trigger, and as Fong emphasizes, itвЂ™s not a sign that youвЂ™re becoming psychotic. The next time I laugh my ass off while watching a nature documentary after taking an edible, IвЂ™ll know why.
This article was originally published on July 7, 2020
I reach for cannabis mainly to soothe my anxiety, especially in these fraught times. But some of its other, non-chill effects вЂ” such as the giggles вЂ” also enhance my experience. If you consume weed, you likely know the feeling: constantly teeteringвЂ¦