Published: October 10th, 2021
Categories: Cannabis Info
When we talk about recreational cannabis, we often think about two things: the munchies and laughter. The latter may come before the former, or vice versa, depending on who you ask. If you're a herb-lover yourself, you've definitely been in the midst of a cannabis-induced giggles trip. Out of nowhere, you noticed yourself and everyone around you cracking up extra hard from a comedy special you've all seen a thousand times over.
For this article, we’ll focus on why people get an amplified case of the giggles upon smoking cannabis. Is there a particular reason everything seems about a hundred times funnier once the high starts to kick in? What does science say?
We won’t go into much detail about why we laugh, but the science behind it is quite fascinating. These are bits of information you’re probably absorbing for the first time as you read this.
First, we’re 30 times more likely to laugh if we’re in a social situation. For young children ages 2.5 to 4 years old, laughter occurs eight times more if they watch cartoons with another child. That happens regardless of whether the cartoon they’re watching is funny or not. And when they say laughter is the best medicine, it’s in no way an exaggeration. The Mayo Clinic listed some of its benefits, which include relief from tension and immune system enhancement. Laughter is even known to stimulate the lungs and heart.
Alright, so we’ve briefly run through laughter’s known benefits. But how does cannabis fit into the picture?
The answer to how cannabis and the giggles go together lies in our built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS). It’s a complex system that runs throughout the entire body and is responsible for mediating many major functions. These include immune response, memory, and metabolism, just to name a few.
Once THC enters the body, it binds with and activates CB1 receptors in the ECS, catalysing a windfall of effects. A study from 2005 investigated the potential of cannabis and its cannabinoids to promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus, with the CB1 receptor of the ECS being the primary target. Given that neurogenesis is associated with mood-boosting and tension-relieving effects, it gives us some idea of how THC might put the mind in a giggly state. Then there’s a 2006 study exploring cannabis’s potential to stimulate blood flow to the left temporal and right frontal lobes. These are the brain regions linked to laughter. That added brain activity is another plausible factor behind why we cackle at every joke when stoned—regardless of whether they're funny or not.
Not exactly, and here’s why. As noted in the spring 2010 Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, laughter is mainly a social signal used to form a bond with fellow humans. Humour response comes next. And for those suffering from low mood and other mental conditions, laughter is more about communicating emotions. Cannabis does not trigger laughter by itself. But, based on its potential ability to elevate mood and enhance brain activity, it could very well be a contributing factor.
As we alluded to in an earlier section of this article, laughter is contagious. It becomes much more enjoyable among people sharing the same experience. As the aforementioned Harvard study also points out, people with mental health conditions find comfort in laughing with others because it validates their emotions. It’s also apparently why sitcoms use laugh tracks as a way to invite audience participation.
What are we getting at here? Being with a close group of friends, with the perfect music and good vibes, encourages an enjoyable experience. It puts everyone at ease. Giggles, then, are only a natural occurrence in these scenarios. There’s definitely such a thing as “catching” laughter. It only takes one person who is in a lighter, more jolly mood to begin the laughing trip. Cannabis is an added incentive that won’t only foster camaraderie, but can make for a memorable night of inside jokes that will be a topic of conversation for a while.
Short answer; it doesn’t. But, according to studies, cannabis has the potential to elevate mood and enhance specific brain regions linked to laughter. Ultimately, the best ingredient for laughter is the presence of like-minded individuals who share the same sense of humour. But go ahead and spark up a joint, and brace yourself for a hysterical night that will be one for the books.