If you have ever felt lonely, then you probably have some idea of how dangerous that feeling can be. Crawling slowly down your spine it quickly sets in somewhere around the chest, leaving you paralyzed even though you crave for company – somehow you are unable to move your body to go out and socialize. And slowly but surely you put yourself on the road to depression. But that is still not the end of the list of the hidden dangers of loneliness. The feeling also suppresses immune system functioning and puts your body at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease – generally; it increases our chances of an early death.
Loneliness is a trap
At this moment, scientists and psychologists around the globe are researching the variety of approaches to reduce the effects of chronic loneliness. However, it is very complicated to treat loneliness – the emotional pain that people experience often causes various avoidance behaviors that help to maintain their isolation. On the other hand, there are people who don’t behave in certain way with a goal to avoid people – they are lonely because of their life circumstances, such as being disabled and having limited mobility. However, the emotional pain they experience as a consequence of their forced isolation is just as hard to deal with.
What happens in our brains when we are lonely
Some recent studies have revealed what happens in our brains when we feel excluded or rejected. The scientists now know that the mechanisms in our brain that respond to rejection and social exclusion are linked to the mechanisms that respond to physical pain – and this is the reason why rejection and thus loneliness hurt so much. This is also the reason why Tylenol (Acetaminophen) can reduce the emotional pain elicited by rejection.
How can marijuana help?
You probably didn’t know this, but Acetaminophen, the pain-reliever, is a cannabinoid. It binds to a receptor in a brain called cannabinoid 1. Name sounds familiar? Of course it does. THC, the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is also known as cannabis – and is also a cannabinoid. This is when things become interesting because THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) binds itself to the very same cannabinoid receptor as Acetaminophen does. You have probably heard many times that marijuana is prescribed as a pain relieving drug, and naturally, all this does not surprise you. The researchers who discovered this were also not surprised – that is how the exploration of the effects of marijuana on the social pain caused by loneliness has begun. Among most important findings were the one that showed how lonely people who consumed marijuana had higher feeling of self-worth. Also, they were less likely to suffer from depression than lonely folks who didn’t consume marijuana.
These are very interesting findings, however, it is important to emphasize that when you’re using marijuana to help you with feelings of loneliness, you are treating symptoms, not the cause of the problem. In other words, you are not fixing the problem. If you are chronically lonely and it’s causing you various problems, you have to create new social connections and develop deep emotional bonds with people in your life. This study is here to show that marijuana can be your ally on that (sometimes) difficult task.