As tech billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk prepares to send humanity to Mars, the idea of mankind living on other planets has quickly turned from a dream into a dawning reality. With cannabis legalization also on the rise, some have started to wonder whether astronauts will ever use the plant.
While it might seem like cannabis would be a good tool to calm your pre-space flight butterflies, a recent study on the neurophysiology of space travel hints that cannabis may not be very effective once we’re off of planet Earth. The scientific research takes an in-depth look at what effects space-level irradiation would have on neurotransmission. The results hint that these high-energy protons can alter the signaling to your brain, specifically when it comes to our endocannabinoid receptors.
The study, published in the academic journal Brain Structure & Function, centers around the effects that low-dose proton irradiation has on mice. The researchers looked at the hippocampus of mice to investigate the two cell types that provide “perisomatic inhibitory control of pyramidal cells”, one of which is the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1).
Months after the mice were exposed to the low-dose irradiation, the scientists found that the behavior of their hippocampi had been altered, impacting the activity associated with the CB1. This means that using marijuana in space might not produce the desired effects that are associated with its use on Earth. While it’s unknown exactly what kind of high you would end up with (if any), this study could be the starting point for conversation about cannabis use on long-term space missions.
Stanford neuroscientist Ivan Soltesz, one of the authors on the study, told Science Blog:
“You laugh now, but on a long trip to Mars, recreation and medical marijuana use will likely become a highly controversial issue, so I stand by the utmost importance of the study,”
It’s also important to note that deep space travel is already known to provide a great deal of challenges for human beings. This includes the unavoidable exposure to unique radiation fields, which present a wide range of potential health risks. Still, this study proves that space travel may also have an impact on neurotransmission, something that has been pondered since the dawn of space exploration.
While the faltering state of our planet and mankind may have you itching to leave the planet, this research shows that you might have to leave your stash behind.