How Marijuana Affects the Five Senses
Updated: Apr 5
When you use medical marijuana, you will notice that your perception of the world and how you relate to it can change. Not only will your cognition and mood shift, but your five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—are also impacted.
These physiological changes are due to how cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has receptors throughout the entire body, including in places like the skin, mouth, and nose. Because cannabinoids influence the ECS, they can impact far-reaching parts of our body and how we experience the world around us.
This begs the question, what can you expect when you use medical marijuana?
Marijuana and Taste
Of the five senses, marijuana’s effect on taste is probably the most well-known. Not only does cannabis consumption make you hungrier, but it can also make food taste better.
Tamas Horvath, a neurobiologist at Yale University School of Medicine, conducted studies examining the effect of cannabis on taste. In these studies, it was found that cannabis can make food taste more intense.
It is thanks to these two effects that marijuana is well-known for causing “the munchies.” Resisting food is much harder to do when you’re extra hungry and when your favorite foods taste even better than they normally would.
Marijuana and Sight
Marijuana’s effects on sight are much more subtle and less scientifically understood than those on taste. While most people will not report a noticeable change in vision, others will.
In the short term, there is limited evidence to suggest that cannabis may heighten night vision. Not only have there been reports of fishermen experiencing improved night vision following cannabis consumption, but a study that measured night vision confirmed these effects. Both cannabis and THC-only therapy were found to enhance night vision through the interaction of cannabinoids with the retina.
However, not all studies have found positive effects of cannabis on vision. In a study of 52 participants, 28 who were regular cannabis users and 24 who did not use cannabis, researchers found that cannabis use was associated with a delay in retinal information processing. Some experts are critical of the study’s findings due to study limitations and call for more research to determine if this association is caused by cannabis use or something else.
Marijuana and Smell
Studies have found conflicting results when it comes to the effects of marijuana on smell. Animal studies have found that THC can induce enhanced odor detection and make food smell more intense. However, in a study of 15 healthy human volunteers, 20 mg of oral THC was found to inhibit the participant’s ability to discriminate between odors.
More research is needed before we can know for sure how marijuana impacts our sense of smell. It may be that certain compounds found within marijuana enhance our sense of smell and others inhibit it.
Marijuana and Touch
Our skin contains ECS receptors, and as cannabinoids in marijuana interact with these receptors, it may not come as a surprise that marijuana can impact your sense of touch. When you use marijuana, you may experience an increased sensitivity to touch.
For those who use cannabis for pain relief, this increased sense of touch may be unexpected. How can cannabis help with pain while increasing your sensitivity to touch? For example, if you have a burn on your skin and you have used medical marijuana, you are less likely to be troubled by your recent burn. The answer is that cannabis changes your relationship to the pain, rather than decreasing your ability to feel it. In essence, it makes pain more bearable.
Marijuana and Hearing
Just as with our other senses, cannabis use may influence our short-term hearing thanks to cannabinoid receptors found within the ear. You will often hear people report that they are more sensitive to sound when they smoke marijuana, however, the limited research conducted thus far does not support this finding.
In a study conducted in 1976, smoking marijuana was not found to impact auditory function. However, this study was testing to see if cannabis would worsen hearing in those with normal hearing. It is possible that it could still enhance hearing because the study was not designed to detect this. More studies are needed before we can fully understand how cannabis influences our sense of sound.
When you use medical marijuana, you are likely to notice changes in your five senses. The exact influence between cannabis and your senses is not fully understood, but heightened responses to sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight have been reported and may occur for you. Each person responds differently to marijuana, so do not be surprised if your experience is different than those of your family or friends who also use medical cannabis.
If you are an Arkansan suffering from one of these 18 medical conditions you may be eligible to treat your ailment with medical marijuana, which includes both THC and CBD products.
Click here to learn more about what Arkansas Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at (844-249-8714) and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.