Here are Some Mistakes People Make With Cannabis So You Don't Have to Learn the Hard Way

Have you ever underestimated the potency of your weed and gotten way too freaking high? It’s a common experience that may be on the rise for a couple of reasons. As more and more states legalize adult-use cannabis, the ranks of the canna-curious are growing. And while many newbies are educating themselves — using the internet, budtenders and seasoned consumers as resources — others don’t have enough information before jumping in.

Another reason that people may be overdoing it a little more frequently these days is the high potency of many commercial strains of THC flower, as well as the increasing availability of concentrates like resin, shatter, and wax. It’s also pretty easy to eat more than one or two, or five, infused gummies or chocolates if they’re tasty and you’re just “not feeling it yet" from the first dose.

With edibles, for instance, 10 milligrams of THC is considered a single serving size in California, but many budtenders will recommend starting with 5 milligrams when trying a new-to-you product, even if you’re an experienced user. This is partly because different infusion methods will produce varying effects in the body. Each person also has a uniquely tuned endocannabinoid system, and the dosage that’s good for you may be way too much for me, or vice versa.

At Civilized, we’re absolutely in favor of safe, legal access to medical and adult use cannabis. But it’s still possible to get too much of a good thing.

Why you should probably avoid getting way too high

While cannabis is not fatal even at extremely high doses, overuse can result in a horribly unpleasant experience. Reactions range from bone-crushing fatigue on one hand, to ramped up anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks on the other. Some people experience symptoms like rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting. Confusion and even hallucinations are not unheard of. Though hard data is still hard to obtain, some medical professionals are reporting an uptick in cannabis-related ER visits from people who are disoriented, uncomfortable, or freaked out after consuming too much THC.

If you need any more reason to determine, and respect, your own limits, consider the fact that prohibitionists seize upon any negative news about cannabis to boost their agenda. Even in 2019, Reefer Madness-type fear-mongering is still a thing.

New to the legal scene

A woman who wants to be identified as “Ella,” told Civilized that, perhaps because she lives in an illegal state, she went overboard on a recent trip to California. “I was like a kid in a candy store,” she said of her experience at the dispensary. There, she bought an edible that looked like one serving and turned out to be four. “I didn’t read the label first,” she admitted.

Ella left her hotel feeling fine, eager to explore a new city.  A couple of miles into her walk, everything suddenly hit. She became disoriented and paranoid. “I knew I was in too deep,” she said. Fortunately, Ella found her way back to the hotel safely by way of an outdoor concert, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, and Uber, but she has regrets about the experience. “Thinking back,” she told Civilized, “a woman who’s clearly not from the area, stoned out of her mind, feels like a walking target.”

A more experienced user

Danielle Halle, a photographer and journalist, had plenty of experience with cannabis before undergoing knee replacement surgery. Because she was worried about using opioids for too long post-op, she made herself a couple batches of DIY pain relief and took them to the hospital. Some were high-dose capsules with a 1:1 THC to CBD ratio, and others contained only THC. Halle credits her homemade remedies for helping her discontinue prescribed opioids after a short time, and she was able to tolerate up to 100 milligrams of THC in one dose to relieve pain.

Six to eight months later, Halle had discontinued the high doses of THC because she was no longer in pain, but decided one evening to take a leftover THC-only capsule to help get a good night’s sleep. After about 45 minutes, as she was lying in bed, things started to get weird. “My chest got heavy and I was like, 'Am I gonna die in my sleep?’ I knew that it’s not possible to die from cannabis, but this paranoia was taking over,” she said.

Halle considered going to the ER, but finally decided to try alleviating her symptoms with CBD, which can moderate the intensity of a high and curb THC-induced anxiety. She rubbed CBD topicals on her pulse points and drank a lot of water, finally calming down to sleep for ten to twelve hours. “I learned that when I’m in excruciating pain, I need that type of medicine," said Halle. "But if I’m just trying to go to sleep, it’s not helpful. Ten to 30 milligrams is the sweet spot I’ll aim for in the future.”

Educate yourself, learn from your mistakes, and hang out with good people

In licensed dispensaries, THC content is clearly marked on all products. It’s important to take the time to learn about dosages, and to start low and go slow, even as an experienced user. Terry Binion, a cannabis concierge at March and Ash, a licensed dispensary in San Diego, reminds customers that they can easily add more THC, but subtracting is tricky.

Also, like Halle, you can use CBD to bring your high down to a more manageable level. Some people inhale the scent of black peppercorns, or nibble on them, because the terpene known as beta-caryophyllene in pepper is known to counteract paranoia.  

And if you’re ever experimenting with a new product or a more potent one, make sure you’re with people you trust. Binion recommends hanging out with “someone you enjoy being around any day of the week, not just when you’re getting high.”

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