Do you remember the first time you ever got high on cannabis?
Notice I didn’t ask if you remember the first time you consumed cannabis — because a significant percentage of people report that the first few times they tried weed, they didn’t feel any effects whatsoever.
The first two times I inhaled cannabis, I coughed, got a headache, felt dizzy and tired — but not high. The people sharing their weed with me laughed at me, saying “You’re high, you just don’t know it.”
I couldn’t figure out why they were laughing, or how I could be high and not have known it. The first time I drank enough alcohol to get drunk, there was no question in my mind that I was sloshed.
It was on my third experiment with cannabis that I finally felt what it’s like to be high. It hit like a freight train and was almost frightening. My heart raced. I heard voices echo. I started laughing uncontrollably. I couldn’t feel my body. My vision and hearing seemed to have become supernaturally enhanced. I suddenly and viscerally understood the terms “stoned, blasted, baked, wasted.”
With more people trying cannabis for the first time, and with more strains and types of concentrates than ever before, here are some top tips to give to beginner cannabis consumers who wish to cruise the cannabis pathways in the sky — and not come crashing back down to earth.
Don’t Combust Your Weed — Vaporize It
For sure you can get high inhaling combusted cannabis. But the high you feel may include effects that come from inhaling toxic combustion byproducts.
What you think is the cannabis high could be a combination of subjective effects that come from combusted, decarboxylated cannabinoids and terpenoids, combustion byproducts (similar to byproducts produced by combusting a cigarette), as well as butane from your lighter, or sulfur and wood smoke from matches.
Combustion byproducts, butane and non-cannabis compounds are bad for your respiratory system, while the subjective effects of combustion byproducts sully your high. Instead of feeling what only cannabinoids and terpenoids do for you, you’ll also likely feel the effects of carbon monoxide and other smoke compounds, which can translate into headaches, dizziness, lethargy and respiratory problems.
Yes, it’s a little different to use a vaporizer than to roll a traditional fatty or smoke a bowl, but your high will be better, and your lungs and throat will thank you for avoiding combustion.
Monitoring Your Bodily & Cerebral Response To Cannabis
Thanks to technology, phone apps now allow you to simply monitor and track your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and even respiratory rate. These key physiological markers can be affected by cannabis.
Some monitoring devices allow you to store data so you can see graphic representations of heart rate and blood pressure, starting with your normal bodily rates and continuing after you consume cannabis. This data will help you to understand what’s going on within your body because of cannabinoids and terpenoids.
I recall sampling the likes of OG Kush and AK-47 — strains known for quick onset and mind-numbing potency. When I got up from my chair after imbibing, I experienced a bizarre head and body rush and felt like I’d faint. In one instance, I did faint.
This is known as orthostatic hypotension, or low blood pressure when standing, and is caused by the effects of cannabis on heart rate, vascular flow and blood pressure.
I’ve long studied the effects of cannabis on myself and on friends, and I’ve come to the realization that when you take in cannabinoids, you’re flooding the endocannabinoid system of your brain areas and gut with more cannabinoids than nature intended it to handle, and that flood comes suddenly. This isn’t how your body naturally distributes or processes neurotransmitters, and the sudden intake of cannabinoids disrupts body and brain equilibrium, producing the effects people experience as being high.
In my quest to ensure my cannabis consumption fits with a healthy, productive and happy lifestyle, my self-monitoring now includes evaluation of the effects of getting high on:
- Muscle tone
- Muscle strength
- Energy levels, stamina and endurance
- Visual acuity
- Hormonal systems, especially reproductive hormones
- Memory (especially short-term)
- Driving ability
- Ability to fall and stay asleep
- Caloric intake, weight gain or weight loss, and craving for sweets
- Concentration and ability to complete tasks
- Work output
If you’re into a measurable activity like weight training, it’s easy to see how cannabis affects you. I first established my baseline of weights and reps when I wasn’t stoned. Then I got stoned and did the same workout.
I realized that I shouldn’t get stoned before I lift weights.
You owe it to yourself to be a self-aware beginner cannabis consumer. By paying close attention to how cannabis affects your mind and body, you’re able to better understand how much and how often you should use marijuana.
Recording How It Feels To Be High
When I tried to write down what I was feeling when I got high, one thing I wrote was: “I can’t write well.” Whenever I get high, my handwriting is almost totally illegible.
Use your phone or a video camera to document how cannabis affects you, especially in the first half hour after you indulge.
Describe body, mind, sensory and emotional effects. Try to assess the before and after — how you felt prior to consuming, and how you felt immediately after the cannabis high hit you.
Here’s an edited transcription of something I recorded after taking a hit of Golden Goat marijuana:
My mouth is super dry right now. I hear a ringing in my ears. My body feels warm and relaxed, which isn’t how it was before, I felt cold and tense. I’m smiling for no reason. Music that was in the background when I started getting high is now very noticeable and sounds richer and deeper, but the lyrics are annoying. I feel like doing yoga. I’m hungry all of a sudden. I was supposed to call somebody, but I can’t remember who.
You’re not just trying to keep a “high diary,” but to objectively assess whether getting high is compatible with your lifestyle, comfort level and goals.
Understanding Cannabis Strains
Thirty years ago, cannabis strains were a lot simpler genetically, and thus easier to classify than they are now. Indica and Kush strains produced heavy stones that relaxed you and locked you to your couch. Sativa strains produced psychedelic highs that could stimulate you and make you more creative.
Nowadays, hybridized cannabis contains interbred characteristics of many major cannabis landraces. It’s common to find strains whose origins include Thai Sativa, Colombian Gold, Afghani Indica or Kush — all mixed together in an unnatural mishmash of genetics that produce many layers of psychoactive and body effects.
The multilevel effects tend to be more interesting than old-school cannabis effects, but can also be more confusing. If you want to relax, and you don’t have a 100-percent pure indica strain, you might get high and find your body sedated, but your mind just as frantic as before.
If you want sativa stimulation but the strain has had a lot of indica or Kush inserted into it during breeding, you might get more sedated than stimulated.
If you can, I recommend visiting a legalized recreational cannabis state such as Colorado or California, talking to dispensary staff, and keeping careful notes while you sample small amounts of strains that are purportedly from across the cannabis spectrum.
I say “purportedly,” because strain names aren’t always reliable. The Silver Haze you buy at one dispensary might not have the same cannabinoid and terpenoid profile as the Silver Haze at a different dispensary.
Over time, as you sample different strains and take notes on their effects, you’ll find what works best for you.
Take It Easy & Take Tolerance Breaks
When you first start getting high, place a quarter to half a gram of cannabis into a quality vaporizer. Inhale one or two hits of vapor. Then, wait at least 15 minutes to an hour, carefully monitoring yourself and documenting how you feel.
After you’ve inhaled enough to feel the effects, wait at least three days before you again consume cannabis.
During the days after you got high, especially that first day, pay attention to and document how you feel to determine the aftereffects.
Some people experience a marijuana hangover that could consist of dry mouth and dehydration, headache, brain fog and fatigue. Of course, none of this is pleasant. What I notice the day after I get high is that there’s a residual high that carries over. I eat more than I normally would. I’m in a better mood. Body pain is reduced. Music and movies are more interesting.
But within two or three days, the high has pretty much worn off.
Should New Cannabis Consumers Try Edibles And Dabs?
Edibles and dabs have much different and more pervasive effects than vaporized whole-flower cannabis. Edibles transfer cannabinoids into the bloodstream via the digestive system, which creates metabolic and chemical shifts that differentiate the high from the one you get when cannabis is taken in via your lungs.
Cannabis concentrates administered in the form of dabbing are combusted or vaporized, but contain much higher percentages of cannabinoids and/or terpenoids than any whole-flower cannabis ever could.
A dab that weighs a fraction of a gram can deliver 10 times more potency than an entire gram of bud.
Not only that, dabs often consist of fractionated, distilled extracts of a limited number of cannabinoids or terpenoids, rather than the full complement of cannabinoids and terpenoids present in buds.
Some dabs consist of concentrated terp sauce that contains high levels of terpenoids, while other dabs contain only THC. The effects of an extremely potent concentrate containing only a small selection of the natural compounds present in bud can be too much for novices — and even some chronic stoners have been known to get into trouble with dabs.
I suggest beginner cannabis consumers take several months getting used to buds before trying edibles or cannabis concentrates, and this includes bubble hash, dry sift, cannabis tinctures and oils.
If and when you do try dabs, edibles or cannabis concentrates, be extremely cautious. Far better to consume too little and have to try more, than to consume too much and wonder how many days it’ll take you to feel normal again.
Novice Consumers, CBD & Medical Marijuana
Some people start using cannabis because they think it’ll be fun, because their peer group is doing it, or they’re just plain curious about the buzz.
But increasing numbers of consumers are turning to cannabis solely for medical reasons. Their primary goal isn’t to get high, but to experience pain relief and targeted medical benefits. These people would presumably rather not feel stoned.
In most cases, people who want only medical benefits from cannabis have turned to whole cannabis and cannabis extracts that are high in cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD-dominant cannabis strains produce effects that are less recreational and mind-altering than high-THC strains, but because they contain THC, an array of cannabinoids and terpenoids, these CBD strains do make the consumer feel some sort of high.
New medical marijuana patients can experiment with CBD-dominant strains to determine what, if any, benefits such varieties provide. And novices starting with CBD-dominant strains may find an easier transition into cannabis use than those starting with high-potency THC varieties.
In some situations, a medical marijuana patient has no choice but to continue using cannabis, even if it has negative side effects. This is the same as with any medication. If the cure isn’t worse than the disease, you keep on taking the cure. Medical consumers are advised to monitor their body and mind as they use cannabis, consult with their health care professionals, and weigh the benefits of cannabis versus any detriments.
From Beginner Cannabis Consumer To Chronic Toker?
Many people have tried weed several times and found it didn’t agree with them or wasn’t fun enough to make it an enjoyable habit.
Perhaps the biggest reason why people stop using cannabis is that it made them feel paranoid. People also complain that cannabis makes them tired, lazy or sloppy. Others loved how cannabis made them feel, but were worried that they had addictive personalities and were becoming dependent after only consuming it a handful of times.
I’ve known people who enjoyed cannabis, but due to workplace or athletic drug testing, having children, or the objections of loved ones, they discontinued use or only do it on rare occasions.
Contrarily, many novice consumers become lifetime cannabis advocates. It’s all about what works for you.
The main thing to remember is that, as with learning to do anything important, it’s best to be mindful to the process and to the results. If after careful reflection, you find cannabis helps you live a healthier, more productive, happier life, by all means continue using it — that is, for as long as it continues to help you.