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things to know before smoking weed

Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up

If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.

There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.

The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.

Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.

Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.

Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.

Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.

Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.

Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.

Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.

Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.

Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.

There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.

Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.

Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.

The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.

Here are your main options:

  • Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
  • Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
  • Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
  • Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
  • Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.

If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:

  • Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
  • Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
  • Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
  • Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
  • Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.

No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.

That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.

You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?

Getting High for the First Time: 13 Things You Should Know

Are you considering using medicinal cannabis and you’re not sure of the best conditions under which to self-medicate? Are you just curious and want to find out for yourself what effects cannabis may have on you? Did you already try it and you’re wondering what happened? We’re here for you!

Are you thinking of ‘getting high’ or ‘getting stoned’ for the first time, in order to experience the altered state of perception this brings? Are you suffering from a condition or ailment that has been shown to be possibly alleviated or helped by using medicinal cannabis, but you have never used it before and you’re not sure of the best conditions under which to self-medicate for the first time?

Recreational use of cannabis is just as important to properly prepare yourself for. Are you curious as to what all the fuss is about? Do you want to find out for yourself what effects cannabis will have on you? Equip yourself properly for trying cannabis for the first time with our top thirteen things you should know before your first cannabis experience!

1. Is this a good time for your first cannabis experience?

Are you feeling generally positive about yourself? Are you rested, fed, and in pleasant and trusted company? Do you have some good quality cannabis that you’re confident is a strain you want to try? Then yes, this is probably a good time.

Do you have something to do later? Are you feeling stressed, sad or anxious? Are you drunk, or otherwise intoxicated? Are the people around you argumentative or unpleasant? Is a relative due to phone you? Then no, you should probably reschedule.

2. Is this a good place to try cannabis for the first time?

Set and setting are vitally important. Are you at home, or somewhere else that feels secure and comfortable? Is there somewhere you can lie down for a bit if you feel like it? Is there something to eat and drink? Can you choose the music and the lighting? Are you with people you trust? If the answer to all these questions is “Yes!”, this sounds like a great place to try cannabis for the first time.

Are you in a strange place with people you don’t know? Do you have to maintain the impression that you are not in an altered state for any reason? Is there a good chance that you will have to leave before you’re ready to? Are you going to have to negotiate unfamiliar stairs? Is there a lack of fruit or other snacks? If the answer to these questions is “Yes,”, you should probably rethink your plans.

3. You might not feel anything

Unlike many other drugs, which make their effects felt quite drastically, cannabis can creep up on you gently. The effects of small doses can be subtle. If you’re being smart and taking it easy for your first time trying cannabis, you might not notice anything!

Renowned cannabis expert Lester Grinspoon wrote his ground-breaking book “Marijuana Reconsidered” before ever trying cannabis himself. The first time he did, he didn’t really notice any effects. However, he continued trying. At the point when he was standing in a friend’s kitchen, talking, laughing and devouring a pizza which was better than any pizza he’d ever eaten, he suddenly realized he was high for the first time. So, if you want to ‘do cannabis like an expert’, be prepared to be like Dr Grinspoon and invest time in several attempts to enjoy all that the plant has to offer.

4. Don’t mix your drugs

Although cannabis is safer than almost every other recreational drug, deciding to try it for the first time when you’re already in an altered state is a bad idea. Alcohol is the most common and possibly worst culprit. If you’re not used to the effects of cannabis, the effects of alcohol will blur your perception of how it is affecting you. You are more likely to become disoriented and throw up than to enjoy a new and pleasant experience. Prescribed drugs can also interact with cannabis (see point 10).

5. Your perception may alter in ways you are not expecting

Our perceptions of time, colour, sound, taste, pattern recognition and spatial awareness are all altered by cannabis. Depending on the strength and amount of cannabis you consume, you may experience this to a greater or lesser extent. You may also notice these effects more distinctly depending on what you’re doing. If you’re not sure whether you’re feeling anything, try listening to a favourite piece of music, looking at art, playing a game, having a snack, or even just putting a cover on a double duvet.

You may also experience the oft-mocked short-term memory loss that THC can cause, although this is really just the same as walking from one room to another and then wondering what you went in there for, or losing your train of thought because something distracts you.

6. Your perception may not alter in ways you are expecting

Thanks to almost a century of misinformation about cannabis, you might be expecting far more pronounced alterations of your consciousness than can be achieved with cannabis alone. The effects of cannabis are portrayed to be as dramatic as those of LSD, especially by the media. But this isn’t true.

On an appropriate dose of cannabis alone, you will not believe that you can fly. You will not experience vivid hallucinations of things that are not there. You will not be seized with a sudden desire to run naked down the street. Equally, you will not fail to see things that are there, such as your friends and surroundings. In fact, you may find you notice things about them that you’ve never consciously seen before.

7. How do I know when I’ve had too much cannabis?

For your preliminary experiments with cannabis, the best advice is: as soon as you suspect you are experiencing the effects of cannabis for the first time, stop consuming straight away! Wait for 15 to 20 minutes to see how the feelings develop, and if you like what you are experiencing. Wait until the feelings start to recede before consuming more cannabis.

If you are enjoying yourself and assume that immediately consuming more will equal more enjoyment, you can easily make yourself ill – just as with consuming alcohol.

Unfortunately, you can go from really enjoying your cannabis experience to really not having a good time very quickly. This is why we recommend gradually increasing your dose to begin with. Start slowly. You can always get higher. Getting less high is trickier.

What does a cannabis overdose feel like?

You may start to feel dizzy and nauseous, and experience a vertigo-like sensation. Feeling cold, sweating, and shaking are common. Blood drains from the face, leaving you extremely pale. This is why the unpleasant effects of too much cannabis are known as ‘having a whitey’ or ‘whiting out’.

Sometimes, a form of tunnel vision, or sound seeming to distort into white noise, or both, can occur. If this happens then vomiting is usually the next step. Don’t panic. Although it is possible to overdose on cannabis, it is impossible to die from a cannabis overdose.

8. Never try cannabis on an empty stomach: cannabis, hypoglycemia and orthostatic hypotension

Many inexperienced cannabis users undergo a sudden and disabling drop in blood pressure that may lead lightheadedness, to physical collapse and unconsciousness (orthostatic or postural hypotension) if not immediately addressed. For this reason, it is important to never consume cannabis on an empty stomach or when not properly hydrated. If you haven’t drank much water prior to using cannabis, the effect of a drop in blood pressure can be more severe. If you haven’t eaten, low blood sugar can also compound the effect of low blood pressure.

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If you think you need some sugar fast, you can use the 15:15 rule, which holds that 15 grams of sugar followed by a wait of 15 minutes will return low blood sugar to normal levels.

If you experience lightheadedness, nausea, sweating, or fatigue soon after consuming cannabis, do not panic. You may have low blood sugar. Sitting in a comfortable position while sipping sugar water will usually return blood sugar to normal levels within a short time. The 15:15 rule holds that consuming 15 grams of sugar and waiting for 15minutes effectively returns the blood glucose to normal levels.

Individuals that continue to use cannabis usually find that as dose tolerance increases with time, frequency and intensity of such events decreases rapidly. However, if symptoms persist, medical attention may be advisable as recurrence may point to an underlying condition.

9. Nobody is talking about you and you’re not going to die, you just need to eat a banana

The two side effects of cannabis that are probably best known and most feared are paranoia and ‘having a whitey’ (see above). Paranoia can stem from the heightened perception of your surroundings and the people around you. This is especially applicable if you’re in a place where cannabis is illegal and being in an altered state is not usually acceptable (unless it’s caused by alcohol). These factors alone can be enough to cause feelings of discomfort and the impression that everyone is looking at you or talking about you.

If you’ve picked a good setting for your experience (see “2. Is this a good place to try cannabis for the first time?” above) then things which may cause paranoia or distress should be minimized. Firmly telling yourself “Everybody is far too busy wondering what everyone else is thinking about them to think about me” can be surprisingly effective.

Feelings of paranoia often indicate the onset of a whitey. When the effects of cannabis are unfamiliar, they can easily lead to anxiety. A high degree of anxiety can exacerbate paranoia and lead to a whitey. The best way to deal with this is to have some sugar and carbohydrates. The humble banana is ideal for sorting you out if you start to feel wobbly. Lying down and staying warm is also very helpful.

Many seasoned cannabis consumers (this writer included) will still occasionally misjudge dosage, setting, or blood sugar levels, and experience the same sensations of nausea, faintness and tunnel vision as a novice. The major difference is that the novice may panic and wonder where it will end, whereas the expert will lie down and ask for a snack.

10. Consider any medical or psychological conditions that you have

Are you diabetic? Is there a history of mental illness in your family? Are you suffering from depression? Are you already on any medication? Do you have any problems with your lungs? Since cannabis is a legitimate medicine as well as a recreational substance, its interaction with other medications and conditions should not be underestimated. Consult your physician if you know or suspect that there is any factor that could preclude your safe and healthy use of cannabis.

Certain pre-existing health conditions are known to be affected by cannabis in various ways. These include epilepsy, hypertension, migraine, schizophrenia, and many more. The medical community is rapidly acquiring new information about how these effects occur. However, consensus has still not been reached in many cases.

For example, it has been suggested that THC in low doses is a highly effective treatment for depression, whereas in high doses the benefit can be negated and depression can in fact be exacerbated. A dose-dependent effect has been proposed for various other illnesses including schizophrenia, and arthritis (and other inflammatory diseases)—not just in response to THC but also to cannabidiol (CBD), another cannabinoid of huge medical significance.

There is much evidence to suggest that dosage and cannabinoid ratio are of the utmost importance when it comes to medical cannabis use, and that the chosen method of consumption may also make a difference to benefits. This is another reason to seek professional medical advice whenever necessary.

Cannabis and mental health

The underlying cause of most mental illnesses has not been established beyond doubt. Nevertheless, in 2001, the World Health Organization estimated that up to 25% of people experience some form of mental illness within their lifetime.

The link between substance dependence and many of these often very serious conditions has been noted on various occasions. There is very little evidence to suggest that use of cannabis itself is a cause of mental illness, but the extremely high incidence of heavy cannabis use among mentally ill people requires careful analysis.

While several studies have concluded that sufferers of mental illness are not self-medicating by using cannabis, many report some subjective relief from symptoms through their cannabis use. This includes people suffering from schizophrenia, from anxiety, and from bipolar disorder. The implication—persistent in much of the literature—that such individuals are merely seeking to “get high” is insulting and untrue.

Even if smoked cannabis is not the ideal medication for the particular symptoms, it may lead to greater subjective improvement than many currently-available medications.

However, if suffering from a chronic psychiatric condition (such as schizophrenia, clinical depression or bipolar disorder), it is highly advisable to moderate your intake of cannabis to low doses, and to inform your physician of your cannabis use.

11. Research and decide upon the best method for you to use cannabis for the first time

Smoking cannabis, although still the most common way of consuming it, is actually one of the least healthy methods. Its advantage for first time cannabis users is that the dose is easy to control, and can be increased in increments until the desired effect is reached.

Controversy remains over the inherent harm of smoking cannabis. Several studies have concluded that smoking cannabis may be a risk factor for lung cancer, just like tobacco is. However, many of these studies have investigated individuals who smoke both cannabis and tobacco, and have failed to adequately control for the effects of tobacco.

Other studies have indicated that smoking high-quality cannabis carries no added risk of cancer or lung disease, and that smoking may in fact be a highly effective method for certain conditions due to its immediate effects.

Asthma may be one such condition. However, to minimise any possible risk of causing lung irritation by combustion of tars and other compounds that may be present in plant matter, using a vaporizer is a safer and effective alternative. Other than vaporising, those seeking alternative methods of consumption can opt for sublingual application (usually in the form of a tincture), “medibles” for oral consumption, and even pharmaceutically isolated cannabinoids such as Marinol.

Eating it obviously won’t irritate your lungs, but judging the dose is far harder, the effects take longer to manifest and also longer to wear off. A common error with edibles is eating too much because you think it’s not working, and then two hours later it all kicks in at once. Vaporizers offer the best way for many people, and are easier to obtain than ever before.

Cannabis contaminated with ground glass

12. Consider the source of the cannabis you are planning to try

For those of you not fortunate to have safe access to cannabis (who are also unable to grow their own), it is of the utmost importance to secure a supply which is reliable and of reasonable quality. The potential harm of contaminants and low-quality cannabis has not been definitively assessed, but numerous potentially harmful ingredients, such as ground glass and building grit, may be added to increase weight. This can cause severe respiratory consequences if used.

Even if black-market cannabis is free from weight-increasing additives, the levels of pesticide and fertilizer used in cultivation may be dangerously high. For these reasons, it is always preferable to grow one’s own cannabis, in order to ensure that chemicals are kept to a minimum. Failing that, establishing a trusted source as close as possible to the origin of production is a close second. Keeping one’s sources to a minimum ensures consistency of quality and minimises legal risk.

13. Provide entertainment for your altered state self

Games, big coffee table books with beautiful photographs, a selection of music, snacks that require assembly (try making your own pizza! Just be careful around the oven), making a collage – all of these things take on a new dimension when you’re high. When you try cannabis for the first time, you may feel like sitting in quiet introspection, in which case you’ll just need a cushion. However, if cannabis takes you in a creative direction, you will appreciate having some activities to hand.

We hope you find these tips useful. Please share your own with us in the comments, and tell us if there is anything you wish you had known before trying cannabis for the first time! And if you’re already an experienced cannabis user and you have friends who are thinking of experimenting with cannabis for the first time, be sure to share this post with them; it could save them (and you) from having to deal with a whitey!

Whether you are a new medicinal patient or a novice psychonaut, here are 13 things you should consider before trying cannabis for the first time.