After several decades of research, scientists studying the effects of marijuana made several important discoveries. Not only did they identify the active ingredient in marijuana, they also discovered where and how it works in the brain—via a new system they called the endocannabinoid (EC) system. The EC system—named after the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa and its active ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—is a unique communications system in the brain and body that affects many important functions, including how a person feels, moves, and reacts.
The natural chemicals produced by the body that interact within the EC system are called cannabinoids, and like THC, they interact with receptors to regulate these important body functions. So what makes the EC system unique and how does THC’s impact on this system affect a person’s memory, risk for accidents, and even addiction?