How Marijuana Can Alter Your Mental State
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Many people who are curious about smoking pot, or who have family members or friends who use the drug, wonder, “What does it feel like to be high?” Although the experience is different for everyone (the marijuana high is one of the most unpredictable of all drug intoxication effects), there are certain effects that most users of marijuana feel when they smoke or eat pot.
When people are stoned on marijuana, the experience is strongly affected by factors that have little to do with the drug, and more to do with the sensitivity of the person taking the drug to their surroundings and their feelings about the people they are with. The frame of mind of the person using marijuana and the environment where they use marijuana that influences the effects are known as set and setting.
Altered Sensory Perceptions
Most people experience changes in their sensory perceptions when they are stoned. While marijuana does not typically produce real hallucinations the way that hallucinogenic drugs like LSD do, people do tend to see the world in a different way when they are high on cannabis than they do normally.
Familiar faces and objects can seem unfamiliar or strange, often in a way that is amusing; colors can appear brighter; aesthetic appreciation can be enhanced: and the mood of the individual can be projected onto everything around them. When surroundings are perceived in a positive way, this can be enjoyable. But it can also happen in a negative way, causing the world to seem grim and harsh.
The sensory perceptions of hearing and taste are often most strongly affected by marijuana. People who have used marijuana will often report a greater appreciation of music and may spend the entire experience listening to music.
Enhancement of the sense of taste can result in a specific type of binge eating called “the munchies,” in which larger amounts of food may be consumed than normal. People who are stoned may also eat foods in odd combinations, such as chocolate with pickles.
Changes in Mood and Mental State
The effects of marijuana on mood vary greatly from one person to another, but generally, emotions are exaggerated in a similar way to the intoxication effects of alcohol. Situations that normally seem emotionally neutral may appear amusing or ridiculous, or conversely, intimidating and upsetting.
Marijuana users will typically attempt to control the emotional stimulation they are exposed to while stoned, but this is not always possible. Situations involving real or imagined confrontation can be particularly upsetting and can result in intense paranoia in someone under the influence of marijuana.
The effects of marijuana on the ability to relax are rather contradictory. While many who become dependent on marijuana do so for the drug’s initial relaxation effects, the rebound effect typically results in a higher level of anxiety in marijuana users. Some develop long-term anxiety disorders, which they attempt to self-medicate with marijuana, causing a vicious cycle.
People often feel confused or slowed down when they are high on marijuana, although this is often not upsetting and can even seem amusing to the person affected. Rarely does marijuana improve mental functioning.
Effects on Creativity
While some people claim that marijuana improves creativity, and there is some evidence that marijuana use is associated with the production of a greater number of novel ideas, it is unclear whether people who have novel ideas seek out marijuana, or whether the drug increases the novel ideas.
Also, some research has shown that higher doses result in less creativity than lower doses. One study did not find significant differences in the creativity of individuals using low dose THC and those not under the effects of marijuana at all.
Typically, people under the influence of marijuana express ideas that may seem bizarre, muddled, unfeasible, or incomprehensible to others. Some would-be artists use marijuana in the hope of a shortcut to artistic success—however, marijuana may make it more difficult to use creative thoughts productively.
The marijuana high can be unpredictable. Although there are effects that users describe that are common to the experience, it's different for all.
Bad Cannabis Trip: What It Is And How To Prevent It
Although this might be a very common occurrence, there is not a lot of information out there to help stoners deal with a bad trip. Here is our guide to making sure you get through one as easily as possible.
WHAT IS A BAD CANNABIS TRIP?
Having a bad cannabis “trip” is completely normal, and there are numerous reasons as to why it could happen. With the individuality of both consumers and products, it can be hard to pin down specific causal factors. What we can tell you is that everything from the music you’re listening to, to the company you keep can trigger this event. Not to mention the specific strains and products you use, as well as how many tokes, dabs, or bites you’ve taken. However, it won’t necessarily matter how high your tolerance is.
What you experience after consuming cannabis will vary from person to person. Also, different forms of cannabis can produce unique effects.
For instance, edibles are known for taking longer to kick-in, yet the high is often more intense and longer-lasting. It is always important to go slow when trying a new form of cannabis.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF A BAD TRIP
Symptoms of a bad trip will vary, but there are some commonly reported instances. One possible symptom will be a numb feeling on your face. This may be paired with sweating, shortness of breath, and a pale look. If you don’t know what is going on, it is normal to feel scared. This fear may be followed by some stomach discomfort, which might lead you to vomit. However, it will depend on your specific conditions. Being unsettled by this discomfort is what usually leads people to throw up. Our stomachs are very deeply connected to our nervous systems, and these psychological feelings will morph into physical ones if you keep thinking about them.
It can indeed be a very unsettling sensation when you don’t know what is going on. Being “too high” is never a good thing. You can always wait it out while focussing on the thought that you won’t be the first ever person to die from a marijuana overdose. But in case this event occurs more often than you’d like, we’re here to teach you how to prevent bad trips from happening.
HOW TO PREVENT A BAD CANNABIS TRIP
With such a wide range of causes for this discomforting situation, it’s very hard to say with confidence which preventative methods will be 100% effective. What we can do is give you a few tips that are known to help or at least provide peace of mind (which is extremely important during a bad trip).
Be sure you’re in a comfortable setting. Being too high at a family dinner is the perfect recipe for a crazy trip. The same will happen if you’re in the streets, paranoid that the cops might show up. Just be honest with yourself and you’ll already minimise the chances of having a bad trip. Surround yourself with people you enjoy being around and who won’t judge you. Having uncomfortable strangers in the group will not help you relax if the weed comes on strong.
It will also be ideal to dedicate a safe place where you can relax by yourself if need be. Making sure you have a quiet room in the house or a car near your sesh spot will surely help reduce your anxiety. And finally, make sure you eat well and hydrate yourself throughout the sesh. This will keep your body under less stress, and may very well minimise the effects of the high to begin with.
HOW TO STOP A BAD TRIP IN ITS TRACKS
Like we said, a bad trip might be very hard to predict and consequently, to prevent. It may come at a time when you take all the precautions in the world and still find yourself feeling uncomfortably high. Let’s explore what to do in such a scenario.
When you feel it coming, excuse yourself from where you are and grab a seat. Find somewhere peaceful where you can be alone. Ask your friends for soda or a sugary drink. This will boost blood sugar levels. If the trip continues for a longer period of time, have something sweet to eat. A dry piece of cake or some cookies will be very helpful. If you’re a coffee drinker, it might also wake you up to have a cup. But if you’re not an experienced caffeine drinker, stay away from it as it may spike your anxiety. With the physical aspects taken care of, try to relax. Focus on the fact that this is all just temporary and the worst case scenario is throwing up. There will be no permanent effects.
Don’t watch TV or listen to music. This may only stress your eyes and head. Close your eyes if you don’t feel it increases the dizziness and nausea. When you feel capable and slightly back in control, talk to a friend. Go outside for a bit and try to distract yourself. Next thing you know, you’ll be taking a few tokes in the squad’s next rotation.
HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR FRIENDS
Now that you know how to take care of yourself during a bad trip, it’s always useful to know how to help your friends. This will ensure you and your mates have the most enjoyable experience possible.
First of all, be present, but not obsessive. The last thing your buddy needs is someone telling him/her to breathe every five seconds. Make sure you ask the obvious questions once, and that’s it. Ask if they need anything to drink/eat, or if they need help going somewhere else. Be sure your friend actually wants you there. Don’t take it personally if they want to be left alone; it is perfectly normal.
A bad trip will never be the end of the world, but it can certainly feel like it when the time comes! All you’ll need to think about or help your friend realise is that the situation is a very common occurrence. It happens to every toker at some point. Smoke responsibly and you’ll have everything under control. Just remember to have fun and support each other!
Almost every stoner has experienced a bad weed