Does THC Increase Dopamine Levels?

Short-term marijuana use is known to indirectly increase dopamine levels in the brain. This is because cannabinoids, such as THC, act on the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), which temporarily suppresses GABA inhibitors. GABA neurons are neurons that inhibit dopamine production; when suppressed, dopamine production increases. However, prolonged use of THC is associated with a weakening of the dopamine system.

Research has shown that exposure to cannabis is linked to hypodopaminergic anhedonia (depression), cognitive impairment, poor memory, lack of attention, impaired learning performance, reduced emotionality associated with brain response to dopamine, and increased severity of addiction in young adults. When THC binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, it can influence aspects such as mood, memory, concentration, sensitivity and perception of time. If you are a marijuana user, the plant may increase your dopamine level in the short term. However, research on cannabis for these conditions has yielded mixed results, as cannabis increases and decreases symptoms depending on how it is consumed.

Altering endocannabinoid signaling reduces drug-induced increases in dopamine release, in addition to dopamine concentrations caused by stimuli conditioned during the search for rewards. Unfortunately, researchers haven't yet found a reason why most cannabis users don't experience any symptoms of addiction despite THC causing a dopamine spike. In conclusion, while there is an interesting interaction between dopamine, THC and CBD, future research should examine the drug's long-term and developmental dopaminergic effects in order to better understand its effects on dopamine levels.

Allyson Ribb
Allyson Ribb

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