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How to Smoke Weed: A Beginner’s Guide

It’s never too late to learn the basics.

The decidedly uphill battle to legalize marijuana, medical or otherwise, is likely to be with us for decades to come. Legislating morality in our country has always been fraught. As we have seen, even if marijuana is legal in some states, that doesn’t mean the federal government won’t get involved, as I discovered woefully a few years back when the owners of my own dear collective in Malibu, California, were forced to pack up and flee after receiving a threatening letter from Obama’s U.S. Attorney General’s office. And under Trump and Jeff Sessions, the feds are no friend of the pro-pot crowd.

Meanwhile, glassy eyes around the nation are turned toward the nine states (plus D.C.) where pot is now legal for a sign as to where this is all going.

Given the choice between a drunk (and impaired) asshole and a pleasant stoner. Well, put it this way: If my college-bound kid was to ask my advice on the subject, I’d tell him I prefer he smoked weed in lieu of drinking. Watch one episode of Real World. That’s what our kids are emulating, people. (Of course, I’d also tell him to watch his butt—people still get busted for simple marijuana possession every day in America.)

There’s not a lot to know to get you started, and I am not here advocating the use of illegal substances. But if you happen to be interested, here’s what to know about marijuana.

1. Indica vs. Sativa

Learn the difference. Indica makes you sleepy; it’s more of a body high, good for pain, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping—you’ll likely nod out a couple hours after smoking. Sativa is a more upbeat, artistic, and cerebral high. It sparks the imagination and energizes you directly after smoking, and will keep you awake if you smoke too close to bedtime. Most stoners remember the difference in a somewhat anti-intuitive way. Sativa starts with an S = NOT sleepy.

2. Just Say No to Blunts

The hip-hop generation has popularized the use of tobacco leaf rolling papers or hollowed-out/re-rolled Swisher Sweets as the delivery device of choice for weed. Not only can this lead to an addiction to nicotine, it also kills the taste of the myriad delicious strains now on the market. Nobody would ever mix a shot of red wine in a glass with ice and Coke, would they?

3. Know Your Equipment

Some people swear by vaporizers, which eliminate the intense skunky smell (good for dorm rooms and public spots) and the inhalation of smoke (possibly but not medically proven to adversely affect the lungs). However, the vape high is considerably less intense and shorter lasting. While a bong can be unruly and downright disgusting, a small water pipe can fulfill the same purpose, filtering the more noxious elements of combustion. For cleaning, isopropyl alcohol cuts resin nicely. Remember the container full of combs soaking in blue liquid on the barber’s counter? I do the same with my glass pipes.

4. Giggling Gets Old

The first time you smoke, feel free to giggle your ass off, munch down on Double Stuf Oreos and barbecue potato chips, and marvel at the newfound intensity of movies, music, sex, et al. The primary effect of weed is to enhance the sensory enjoyment of everything around you. But please, if you continue to smoke, learn some dignity. Conquer the munchies and the giggles. Concentrate instead on these newly opened doors of perception.

5. Expectations

If pot makes you feel paranoid, it’s because it affords the user a slightly different view of him or herself. When you’re high, your words echo discreetly in your own coconut, and your point of view is slightly off center from normal, affording you a kind of fleeting glimpse of yourself and your actions that you might not ordinarily have. Weed invites self-observation, which is not for everyone. Even though it should be.

There's not a lot to know to get you started, and I am not here advocating the use of illegal substances. But if you happen to be interested, here's everything you need to know about smoking marijuana.

Trying to Give up Smoking Weed? Start Here

Many assume cannabis is pretty much harmless. Maybe you occasionally get some weird side effects, like paranoia or cotton mouth, but for the most part it calms you down and improves your mood.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

While past research does suggest that cannabis may be both less addictive and less harmful than other substances, addiction and dependency can still happen.

Some people also experience unwanted effects, from physical symptoms to hallucinations to strained relationships.

If you’re looking to cut out cannabis — for whatever reason — we’ve got you covered.

Deciding you want to change your patterns of cannabis use is a good first step. Increasing self-awareness around the reasons why you want to stop smoking can help increase your chances of success.

“Our ‘why’ is an important piece because it provides information that anchors us,” says Kim Egel, a therapist in Cardiff, California. “Clarity on why we want to change can validate our decision to break habits and motivate us to seek out new coping methods.”

In short, your reasons for quitting can help strengthen your resolve to stop smoking and outline goals for success.

Maybe you started using it to relax or manage anxiety. Perhaps it helps you deal with chronic pain or sleeplessness. But over time, the downsides may have started to outnumber the benefits.

People often consider cutting back when they notice cannabis affects their quality of life, often by:

  • becoming a go-to method for managing emotional distress
  • causing relationship problems
  • affecting mood, memory, or concentration
  • reducing interest in hobbies
  • becoming something to do instead of a solution to a specific symptom
  • decreasing energy for self-care

There’s no perfect way to quit smoking cannabis. What works for someone else may not help you much, so it’s often necessary to go through some trial and error before you land on the best approach.

Considering pros and cons of different methods can help.

Maybe you want to do it quick, like ripping off a bandage. In that case, you might decide to try packing up your cannabis and going “cold turkey.”

If you’re concerned about withdrawal symptoms or think you’ll need some support to quit, you might decide to talk to a substance use counselor or call an addiction helpline for a few pointers.

If cannabis helps you manage physical or mental health symptoms, you’ll want to try smoking less without quitting entirely or cut back gradually. Professional support can help here, too.

Feel like you’re ready to stop using cannabis immediately? Here are some general steps to consider:

Get rid of your gear

Holding onto a stash of weed and smoking paraphernalia can make it tougher to succeed with quitting. By throwing it out or passing it on, you prevent ready access, which can help you avoid slip ups during the withdrawal period.

Make a plan to deal with triggers

Triggers can have a powerful impact. Even after you decide to stop smoking, specific cues you associate with using it may lead to cravings.

These triggers could include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • work stress
  • seeing friends you used to smoke with
  • watching the TV shows you used to watch while high

Try coming up with a list of go-to activities you can turn to when these triggers come up, such as:

  • taking melatonin or a warm bath to help you sleep
  • restarting your favorite comedy TV series to decrease stress
  • calling a trusted friend who supports your decision

Vary your routine

If your cannabis use often happened at routine times, changing your behaviors slightly can help you avoid using it.

If you have a habit of smoking first thing in the morning, try:

If you tend to smoke before bed, try:

  • reading
  • journaling
  • enjoying a relaxing beverage, like tea or hot chocolate

Keep in mind that changing up routines can be hard, and it usually doesn’t happen over night.

Try experimenting with a few options, and don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble sticking to your new routine right away.

Pick up a new hobby

If smoking is something you tend to do when you’re bored, some new hobbies may help.

Consider revisiting old favorites, like building models or crafting. If old hobbies don’t interest you any longer, try something new, like rock climbing, paddleboarding, or learning a new language.

What matters most is finding something you truly enjoy, since that makes it more likely you’ll want to keep doing it.

Enlist support from loved ones

Friends and family who know you don’t want to keep smoking can offer support by:

  • helping you think of hobbies and distractions
  • practicing coping methods, like physical activity or meditation, with you
  • encouraging you when withdrawals and cravings get tough

Even knowing that other people support your decision can help you feel more motivated and capable of success.

Get help for withdrawal symptoms if needed

Not everyone experiences cannabis withdrawal symptoms, but for those who do, they can be pretty uncomfortable.

Common symptoms include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • anxiety
  • irritability and other mood changes
  • headaches
  • fever, chills, and sweats
  • low appetite

Withdrawal symptoms generally begin a day or so after you quit and clear up within about 2 weeks.

A healthcare provider can help you manage severe symptoms, but most people can handle symptoms on their own by:

  • drinking less caffeine to improve sleep
  • using deep breathing and other relaxation methods to address anxiety
  • drinking plenty of water

If you use a lot of cannabis and smoke regularly, quitting abruptly might be difficult. Slowly reducing use over time may help you have more success and can also help decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Here are some pointers to get you started:

Choose a quit date

Giving yourself a deadline of a few weeks or a month can help you design a realistic plan for quitting.

Just keep in mind that picking a date too far in the future can make it seem far enough away that you lose motivation early on.

Plan how you’ll taper off

Do you want to decrease weed use by a specific amount each week? Use less each day? Use as little as possible until you go through your current supply?

Some dispensaries now offer lower-potency strains or products that contain lower THC content. Switching to a weaker product that produces fewer psychoactive effects may also be helpful to cutting back.

Keep yourself busy

By getting involved with new activities as you cut back, you’ll have an easier time continuing with these established patterns once you’re no longer using cannabis at all.

Staying busy can also help distract you from withdrawal symptoms.

“Therapy can be a great option when you want to develop new habits and ways of coping,” Egel says.

She explains it’s common to turn to substance use to cope with or avoid difficult feelings.

A therapist can help you explore any underlying issues contributing to your cannabis use and offer support as you take the first steps toward confronting dark emotions. They can also help you address any issues in your life or relationships that might be a result of your cannabis use.

Any kind of therapy can have benefit, but the following three approaches might be particularly helpful.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Most therapists have training in CBT. This treatment approach helps you learn to identify unwanted or distressing thoughts and emotions and develop productive skills to address and manage them.

For example, if you use cannabis when stressed, you’ve probably learned (both consciously and subconsciously) that it helps reduce stress and calm you down.

CBT can teach you to recognize signs of stress, challenge your desire to smoke cannabis, and replace the habit with a more helpful one — like seeking support from a friend or working through the problem that’s upsetting you.

Contingency management

This approach reinforces quitting behaviors. In other words, it rewards you for not smoking.

Someone participating in a contingency management treatment plan might, for example, receive vouchers for restaurant gift cards, movie tickets, or an entry for a prize drawing with each negative test result.

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)

MET involves examining your reasons for giving up cannabis. Instead of trying to address any underlying issues that factor into your use of weed, your therapist will help you explore and prioritize goals associated with your use, usually by asking open-ended questions.

This treatment can serve as a first step to any therapy approach for substance use. It can be especially helpful if you know you want to quit smoking but aren’t quite sure why.

If you're ready to stop smoking weed, we've got tips and tricks to help you navigate the process, regardless of your reasons.