Can Exercise Get You More Than Just ”Runner’s High”?

More than once I have had friends explain, even boast, to me that they get high after working out because they burned fat containing stored THC from previous cannabis exposure. They’ve said how great it is that they lose weight and get high from it and how cool it is that they “have pot just chillin in [their] body waiting to make [them] happy”. While I knew that THC could be stored in fatty tissue, I was skeptical as to weather it was really being released and giving the experience of being high. As we learned in class, while powerful anecdotes are not proof or cause for belief and so I decided to investigate. 

In 2009 The British Journal of Pharmacology published a Study where they observed the levels of THC in the blood stream of rats after fat burning. First they injected the rats with THC for ten days. Then after either a two or seven day waiting period they injected the rat with ACTH or subjected them to food deprivation, triggering rapid weight loss (fat burning). After this, when they tested the levels of THC in the blood of the rats it was once again elevated, even though the THC injections had been over with for multiple days.  While this proved that fat burning could release stored THC into the bloodstream of rats, it did not answer the question of how and or if this process works in humans.

This led to a second Study, this time using humans who used pot regularly. Fourteen participants made it into the study where they were asked not to use cannabis the night before they were brought in and given an exercise regimen. Half of the fourteen were told to fast, skipping breakfast, and the other were told to go ahead and eat. While fasting and not fasting varied some blood sugar related results, they did not significantly make a difference in  how much more THC was seen in the blood after exercise. After exercising and blood tests, THC levels were shown to be raised in the participants, enough to make researcher think it may affect the effectiveness of some blood testing for legal reasons. The evidence also suggests that those with a higher BMI, therefore those with more stored fat, had somewhat more THC released in their systems and so may be subject more to “reintoxication”.

While this evidence supports the idea that THC formerly stored in fat can be released into the bloodstream, it does not tell us whether or not this would give one the experience of being high that THC regularly produces. I think the next step is to use more subjects and longer, more intense workouts, to test the evidence, as it was a rather small and short experiment, and also test the brain to see if the same areas usually stimulated by cannabis are stimulated during the post workout THC release.


1 thought on “Can Exercise Get You More Than Just ”Runner’s High”?

  1. Rachel Waite

    I have been a competitive cheerleader for 10 years and every time after practice I would experience this huge increase in energy almost like an adrenaline rush. My dad had always referred to it as an after-workout high, but I never truly understood the reasoning behind it. According to Web MD when you exercise endorphins are released. That is a chemical in which reduces ones perception of pain, and therefore results in a euphoric “high” feeling. Now I understand the science behind it. I am curious as to the possible medical applications of the reduction of pain perception caused by this post-workout feeling. Maybe if a procedure required the patient to be conscious, but provided some discomfort, maybe some light exercise before hand could reduce that.

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