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Runners Weigh In On Exercise Versus Marijuana

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Jacqui Kaufman has never touched drugs, but she has an addiction.

Even after her 50th birthday, she gravitates toward it, traveling as far as
Alaska to get it.

"Running is very addictive," she said. "I run for the high, for the feeling
of satisfaction or the wonderful feeling I get." Kaufman said the energy
and euphoria of a good workout have always been enough for her, and she has
never been able to comprehend why people would choose drugs instead of

But according to a recent study by the Georgia Institute of Technology and
the University of California, Irvine, she may have more in common with
marijuana smokers than she thought.

The study found that young men who run or cycle for more than 45 minutes
release a high amount of anandamide, a naturally occurring chemical in the
body that produces similar effects to that of THC, the psychoactive
component of marijuana. Anandamide and THC - tetrahydrocannabinol - bind to
the same receptors in the body and may cause similar effects, offering a
new biological explanation for the feelings of sedation and exhilaration
associated with the "runner's high," the study said.

A news release from the Georgia Institute of Technology quoted Arne
Dietrich, the study's principal investigator and a former visiting
professor at Georgia Tech, as saying, "No other study has ever considered
this possibility, and that's why the results are so significant."

Researchers previously thought runner's high was the result of a boost in
the level of endorphins in the body.

Dietrich said the study's results suggest that exercise may be helpful in
treating chronic pain and glaucoma - ailments sometimes treated by the THC
in marijuana.

"I wouldn't be surprised to hear they've found that running stimulates some
powerful system in the body that alleviates pain and stimulates euphoria,"
said Dagny Barrios, a former competitive runner who now researches running
and science. "When you're on a good run, you're not getting pain signals
that you normally would."

But Barrios, who still runs 40 miles a week, said she is not convinced of
the connection between the effects of running and marijuana.

"I've heard a lot of people say that pot makes you feel kind of dumb, but
when you run everything becomes clear," she said.

Buzz Burrell, an ultra runner who until recently held the record for
running the entire 468-mile Colorado Trail, said a marijuana buzz can't
compete with a runner's high.

"The feeling of a marijuana high would be a fairly small experience
compared with ... the experience of running," he said.

Burrell said a runner's high is much broader and more complex than what a
marijuana smoker feels. Runner's high encompasses achieving goals, the joy
of watching the sunrise and the serenity that follows a run, he said.

Runners must persevere through an initial six-week curve to reap their full
benefit, he said. "Pot, give it six minutes."

Burrell said he thinks studies like the recent one are important because
they articulate the positive reinforcement that runners experience.

"Nonrunners find these studies interesting," he said. "Runners don't care.
We're running it, we're experiencing it and we're having a good time."

Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jan 2004
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Camera.
Contact: openforum@dailycamera.com
Website: Boulder DailyCamera.com Colorado, News, Business, Sports, Homes, Jobs, Cars and Information - Boulder Daily Camera