A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology by researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) has found that patients who feel “high” after using cannabis often experience greater symptom relief. The study, which was conducted in collaboration with ReLeaf App, involved nearly 2,000 medical cannabis patients and over 16,000 “administration sessions” with cannabis flower. The aim of the study was to better define how feeling “high” applies to both impairment and euphoria and whether it is a limitation to cannabis’ therapeutic potential.
The researchers found that 49% of participants reported feeling high, which correlated with positive effects such as feeling “chill” or “happy,” while negative side effects included dry mouth and red eyes. Among the participants who reported feeling high, 7.7% experienced greater symptom relief and reported an increase in feelings of relaxation and peace, while 20% of participants reported negative side effects. The researchers concluded that feeling high may be a fundamental component of the effective use of cannabis as medicine, rather than a tangential, negative effect to be avoided in clinical settings.
The study also found that THC levels were strongly associated with feelings of being high when using a vaporizer compared to smoking flower. However, the feeling of being high did not strongly contribute to symptom relief for those who suffer from insomnia or for patients over 40 years old.
The lead author of the study, Sarah Stith, commented on the challenges that researchers face when examining cannabis and how it interacts with the human body. She stated that “cannabis products are extremely variable in their phytochemical composition and patients vary extensively beyond even factors included in this study, such as symptom type, gender, age, and cannabis experience… These complexities suggest that the future of cannabis-as-medicine lies in highly customized treatments rather than the conventional pharmaceutical model of standardized dosing for most patients.”
The researchers recommended that clinicians should become more familiar with the connection between feeling high and symptom relief, and that legislators should understand that even recreational cannabis use could lead to unintended health benefits. They also suggested that future researchers should consider the results of this study for further examination, particularly in measuring the mental and physical effects of consuming non-cannabinoid phytochemicals that commonly develop in the cannabis plant, such as terpenes, as well as how heat exposure and pressure affect their bioavailability and pharmacodynamics.
Overall, this study highlights the need for further research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its complex interactions with the human body. As cannabis continues to gain acceptance as a legitimate medical treatment, it is essential that healthcare professionals and policymakers are informed about its potential benefits and limitations.