Why Weed Makes You Laugh

Why Weed Makes You Laugh

Why Weed Makes You Laugh

Cannabis has some strange effects on the mind and body. 

It’s one of the few drugs that can be classified as a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen – and its laundry list of effects has even developed a lexicon of its own. From the munchies to couchlock to cottonmouth, cannabis consumption and the way it interacts with our physiology has, in ways, become a cultural phenomenon. 

Today, more than half of the U.S. population has shared in these altered experiences, and among these trip reports, one effect seems to be universal: the cannabis giggles. 

Talk to any stoner, and they’ll tell you that cannabis makes just about everything funnier. But why is it that this plant can cause us to erupt in uncontrollable laughter? To answer this question, we have to explore why we laugh in the first place: 

Why do we laugh? 

Laughing is a universal language. It’s something people across all cultures and ages can understand, even babies, who learn to laugh long before they learn to speak. But why did we develop this involuntary reflex? Evolutionary speaking, this signal of connection likely played a critical role in our survival. 

To understand why we laugh, we can look to our not-so-distant relatives, the Great Apes. For these intelligent animals, social bonds are a matter of life or death. They rely on their social groups and hierarchical societies for safety, reproductive success, and emotional well-being – much like we humans do. 

But maintaining these bonds that keep them safe and well requires connection-building actions. And over their evolutionary history, they’ve found something that not only has a hygienic benefit but also keeps their societies thriving.

Grooming is the glue that holds ape societies together. It’s an act that helps facilitate connection and reconciliation and strengthens their non-kin bonds. 

It’s likely we would have formed similar rituals had we not ditched the fur as we evolved. However, as we moved to warmer climates and started to lose the fur of our hirsute cousins, we lost that social bonding that had been so ingrained in our DNA. 

One theory that scientists have is that laughing took the place of grooming. Laughing, in many ways, provides the same social benefits as grooming. It triggers the same endorphin system that grooming does, and in doing so, boosts our sense of belonging. Scientists also believe that this change in bonding allowed us to save time and intimacy constraints, which increased our chances of survival while still providing us with the same benefits. 

Today, laughing is so intertwined with our identity that we’ve developed sonic radars that tell us much more about our relationships than meets the eye.  In fact, research shows that people can accurately determine the level of friendship shared between people using only the sound of laughter as a cue. We can also tell the difference between true and forced laughter. 

Much like the grooming rituals of the Great Apes, laughing has become a vital role in our lives. It helps establish and strengthen bonds, it tells us a lot about the bonds we have with strangers, and it even sends feel-good chemicals to the brain that destress us and make us feel a sense of belonging. 

But how does cannabis hijack this involuntary reflex we share? Why is it so hard to control laughing fits when under the influence?

Science tells us it happens for a number of reasons. 

Why Weed Makes Us Laugh

Cannabis and its effects all lead back to the endocannabinoid system. This biological network is responsible for regulating most functions in our body, one of which is our mood. When we consume cannabis, which is made up of molecules incredibly similar to the ones found naturally in our bodies, it reacts, creating the vast amount of effects we’ve come to know and love. 

In short, cannabis reacts with the biological system responsible for regulating our mood. It’s why it’s used by millions of people to treat anxiety and depression, and it’s also one of the reasons why we laugh easier when high.  

Consuming cannabis, like laughing, causes our bodies to release endorphins, which can put us in a euphoric state. Though euphoria itself isn’t the cause of laughter, it does create the perfect conditions for it. 

When we feel carefree, we are much more prone to laugh. On the flip side of this, research shows that when we feel stressed, there’s less activity in the humor center of the brain. So while more research is needed, it’s possible that smoking increases activity in these parts of the brain, causing euphoria and making us more prone to laugh. 

Another reason why weed makes us laugh is that it’s a reflex. Though we can control it at times, it’s mostly involuntary and can be triggered spontaneously. This is why we laugh even where there isn’t any obvious stimulus and why it’s considered contagious. 

When we are in altered states, such as after smoking cannabis, our threshold for what is funny is lowered, and our reflex to laugh is much more triggered. Plus, science tells us that we are 30 times more likely to laugh in groups. So, if you tend to smoke with your buddies, you’re already in prime condition to joke around. 

So, is it that cannabis makes everything funnier? Not necessarily; it’s just that your mind and body are under the perfect conditions to lower your laughing threshold, making things that aren’t normally funny – hilarious. Go ahead and laugh away, though, science tells us it’s good for us!

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