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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.

15 Reasons Why Smoking Weed Is Actually Really F*cking Good For You

As more statesВ join the movement to legalizeВ marijuana, smoking weed is becoming more mainstream than ever.

Unfortunately, marijuana still tends toВ get a pretty bad rap.

But if you ask me, there are all sorts of reasons why smoking weed is actually really good for you.

And I’m not just talking about weed’s ability to make you feel more creative or the fact that it helps you chill out, either.

Apparently,В getting high can also have a myriad ofВ health benefits.

That’s right. Sparking up can improve your health in all sorts of unexpected ways, and research showsВ that marijuana can improve your mood,В boost your energy, help you lose weight and even prevent certain diseases.

If you’re looking for yet another reason to justify your weed-smoking sessions, here are 15В advantages to getting lit AF on the reg:

1. Cannabis unlocks your creative potential.

A study found that cannabis causes psychotomimetic symptoms, which could lead users to make connections between ideas that aren’t exactly related.

This type of thinking is often crucial to creativity, so grab some ganja, and get those creative juices flowing.

2. Trees can be used to treat depression.

A study conducted by Rudolf Magnus Institute of NeuroscienceВ found that THC “reduces the negative bias in emotional processing,” which means weed could be used to help people cope with depression and other psychiatric disorders.

Plus, a study published by USC and SUNY Albany found that “those who consume marijuana occasionally or even daily have lower levels of depressive symptoms than those who have never tried marijuana.”

So if you’re feeling blue, brighten up your day by packing a bowl.

3. Weed can help you lose weight.

Although marijuana is notorious for giving you a mean case of the munchies, aВ study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that pot smokers are less prone to obesity.

Another study in the American Journal of Medicine revealed similar results, finding those who light up on the reg are actually a bit skinnier than those who don’t smoke marijuana.

In addition to giving you a smaller waistline, researchers also discovered that marijuana may boost your metabolism, increase fat loss and lower cholesterol. So next time you’re tipping the scale, try swapping out your salads for a different type of green.

4. Lighting up can lower your risk of diabetes.

A study published in The American Journal of MedicineВ found that people who smoke marijuana had lower insulin levels and insulin resistance levels by 16 and 17 percent, respectively.

This suggests that cannabis may play a role in regulating blood sugar, which can decrease your risk of developing diabetes.

5. Cannabis keeps you calm, cool and collected.

Researchers interviewed Swiss inmates who regularly smoked marijuana in prison and found that marijuana made the inmatesВ calmer and less stressed. Plus, marijuana use among prisoners also prevented violence and acted as a “social pacifier.”

I guess they don’t call it a “peace pipe” for nothing.

6. Sparking up is a great social activity.

Weed serves as a great icebreaker since it reduces social anxiety, encourages you to open up and makes you more accepting of others.

Plus, let’s be real: There’s no better way to spend a night in with your friends than hotboxing your basement, ordering pizza and watching all of your favorite TV shows.

7. Pot can make your periods suck less.

When it comes to managing premenstrual symptoms, marijuana could be a natural alternative to Midol.

StudiesВ have found that THC is an analgesic and antinociceptive agent that can alleviate the pain of those killer cramps and pounding headache.

Plus, marijuana has also been found to have anti-inflammatory propertiesВ that can help with the bloating that occurs around that time of the month.

8. Getting high doesn’t give you a hangover.

A night of drinking beers with your BFFs will leave you feeling pretty shitty the next morning. However, unlike drinking, smoking weed doesn’t result in a deathly hangover.

So you can get lit with your squad and still feel pretty amazing the next day.

9. Marijuana makes food taste a million times better.

There’s nothing better than getting stoned and stuffing your face with an endless array of snacks. But have you ever wondered why marijuana makes food taste soВ magical?

A study published in Nature NeuroscienceВ found that, thanks to THC’s effect on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors,В food appears more appetizing as a result of a heightened sense of smell.

Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to stock up on bagel bites and Dino nuggets before you spark up.

10. Smoking a bowl can boost your energy.

There’s a stigma surroundingВ marijuana use that it makes you lazy. However, not all strains of cannabis turn you into a complete couch potato.

Research has supported a link between the brain’s CB-1 and CB-2 cannabinoid receptors and dopamine. Essentially, small doses of marijuana won’t hurt your efficiency level, and an increase in dopamine levels gives you the focus you need to get your shit done.

If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, swap out your coffee and smoke a Sativa-dominant strain like Sour Diesel or Jack Herer, instead.

11. Smoking weed can help you fall asleep.

Everyone knows weed helps you unwind.

While there is considerable debate over the long-term effect marijuana has on sleep cycles, someВ feel that smoking a bowl before bedtime actsВ as aВ better sleep aid than other substances, like alcohol and certain sleeping-inducing medications.

(Unfortunately, though, it’s said that marijuana’sВ effectiveness as a sleep aid decreases with increased usage.)

12. Marijuana can also eliminate nightmares.

Marijuana is also known to disturb the sleep cycle and suppress REM sleep.

Since dreams occurring during this type of sleep, marijuana can be used to interrupt this REM sleep and eliminate your full capacity to dream, thus eliminating your nightmares.

13. Everyone respects someone who can roll a blunt that’s lit AF.

Every pothead knows rolling the perfect joint or blunt is basically a form of art.

Learning how to roll an impressiveВ blunt takes a lot of time and practice to master, so people will always respect a stoner who has decent rolling skills.

14. Smoking weed makes you worry less.

An article published in a 2010 Harvard Mental Health Letter also suggestedВ marijuana alleviated symptoms of anxiety when administered in small doses.

The article also mentionedВ that small doses of THC act as a sedative, decreasing symptoms of anxiety. So the next time you can’t stop worrying about something, break out the weed.

15. Ripping the bong can actually be good for your lungs.

A study published in theВ Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that marijuana smoke is not detrimental to your lungs.

In fact, past studiesВ found lighting up can briefly increaseВ your lung capacity in the short term. you know, from all that inhaling you’re doing.

As more states join the movement to legalize marijuana, smoking weed is becoming more mainstream than ever. Unfortunately, marijuana still tends to get a pretty bad rap. But if you ask me, there are all sorts of reasons why smoking weed is actually… ]]>