How does cannabis work in the brain?

The brain contains substances (neurotransmitters) that play a role in the transmission of signals between brain cells (neurons). These transfer substances can bind to receptors (receivers) in the brain to transfer signals in the brain. Depending on the part of the brain where this happens, certain functions change.

One of the neurotransmitters that we find in the brain is called ‘anandamide’. This neurotransmitter ensures that the reward center in the brain can be stimulated. This makes us feel good. Anandamide can bind to many receptors in the cortex – the part of the brain thought to be involved in cognitive functions such as planning, language and concentration – and the hippocampus (very important for memory).

Cannabis appears in the brain as anandamide, as it were, and can thus bind to the same receptors, producing the same effects. After the cannabis has worn off, the normal situation in these parts of the brain reappears. So far, there is no indication that this causes damage to the brain.