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How cannabis gets you high and alters your perception

More than half a century ago, as legend has it, a group of five high school students in San Rafael, California, began meeting after class at 4.20pm to smoke cannabis. One of them later went on to work with the Grateful Dead, sharing their story and ultimately popularising the number’s association with marijuana. Now, 20 April is recognised worldwide as weed’s unofficial holiday.

Whether you plan on celebrating today or are simply curious about how cannabis affects the body and mind, here are seven highlights from our Science of cannabis series. These stories explore cannabis’s history, how it gets us high and what the science really says about its medical potential (spoiler: it doesn’t treat anxiety).

How does cannabis get us high?

W3TAKD Marijuana effects on the brain and cannabis mood altering chemicals or psychology and drugs concept in a 3D illustration style.

How we get high: Unlocking the secrets of the endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system that helps cannabis get us high is also vital to many other aspects of our health. Now we’re finally starting to understand why – and what that means for devising new treatments

Why does weed give you the ‘munchies’?

Two women choosing food in a cafe

Why does weed give you the ‘munchies’? Here's what the science says

There may be several reasons why cannabis encourages people to eat, including the fact that the psychoactive compound in the drug affects the neurons that control hunger

Is it better to vape, smoke or take edibles?

recreational marijuana with gummy bears on a pink background; Shutterstock ID 1649008399; purchase_order: -; job: -; client: -; other: -

Vaping vs edibles: How does the way we use cannabis alter its effects?

Edibles, vapes and joints all contain the same psychoactive compounds, but the effects they have on the body vary

How high is too high to drive?

Billboard advising against using cannabis before driving

Driving under the influence of cannabis: How high is too high?

Driving under the influence of cannabis increases the risk of traffic accidents, but despite plenty of research into cannabis use by drivers, there is no consensus on deciding who is too high to drive

Can cannabis help you sleep?

woman sleeping with cbd oil

Cannabis probably doesn't help you sleep better

Many people take cannabis to help them sleep, but there is little evidence that the drug makes a difference

Does cannabis make you more creative?

Users may feel cannabis boosts their creativity

People feel more creative after using cannabis – they aren't

There is no strong evidence that taking cannabis improves our ingenuity, although it does make users feel more creative

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