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Sensation of a Marijuana High: Smoking, Edibles, and Vaping

Smoking, ingesting, or vaping marijuana can make you high or “stoned.” If you’ve never tried marijuana, you might wonder what it feels like.

Marijuana can have drastically different effects from one person to the next. Some people report feeling happy or relaxed. Others report laughter, altered time and sensory perception, and increased appetite. But marijuana can also cause less-desirable effects.

Keep in mind that marijuana is still illegal in most states. In others, it’s only legal with a prescription. You should only use marijuana when it’s legal.

Marijuana affects each person differently. Some people are very sensitive to marijuana’s effects, while others might not notice them as much.

How you react to marijuana depends on a number of factors, including:

  • the dose, strain, and potency
  • whether you smoke, vape, or ingest it
  • how often you use marijuana
  • your age, gender, and physiology
  • whether you drink alcohol or take other drugs at the same time

While high on marijuana, you might feel:

  • euphoric
  • relaxed
  • amused
  • giggly
  • creative
  • hungry
  • more sensitive to light, color, sound, touch, taste, and smell

However, marijuana use can also lead to unpleasant feelings or experiences. These include:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • delusions and hallucinations
  • high blood pressure
  • nausea and vomiting
  • panic
  • paranoia
  • psychosis
  • racing heartbeat

Negative reactions are more likely when you’re inexperienced or take too much. Strong cannabis can trigger a stronger reaction.

Stages of being high

The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). When you smoke or vape marijuana, THC enters your bloodstream via your lungs. Its concentration in the blood peaks within minutes. Eventually, THC is broken down and excreted in urine and stool.

Since your blood concentration of THC changes over time, it’s possible to experience different stages of being high. For example, feelings of euphoria tend to peak sometime after blood concentration of THC has peaked.

More research needs to be done to understand whether the effects of marijuana change over time.

Do different strains cause different highs?

Strains are different breeds of the cannabis plant. There are three main strains of marijuana: indica, sativa, and hybrids.

Users associate indica strains with relaxation, while sativa strains are believed to produce a more active, physical high. Hybrid strains are thought to combine the effects of both indica and sativa strains.

However, these differences in high are not scientifically proven. In addition, some researchers believe they’re unfounded.

According to a 2016 interview with Dr. Ethan Russo, an expert on the human endocannabinoid system, “One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology.”

He also stated that: “The differences in observed effects of cannabis are then due to their terpenoid content.” Terpenoids are a substantial group of organic compounds found in plants. They can have a wide variety of effects in humans.

Are the munchies real?

The “munchies” are a scientifically supported effect of marijuana. There’s likely more than one mechanism behind them.

THC affects brain areas that control appetite. It may also increase ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger. Finally, THC enhances smell and taste, which can cause you to start or continue eating.

Vaping marijuana is different from smoking marijuana. When you vape, you are inhaling vapor instead of smoke.

Vaping releases higher concentrations of marijuana’s active ingredients than other methods. As a result, vaping can produce a stronger high.

As with smoking, you should feel the effects of vaping right away. These effects can last up to four hours .

Results from a 2018 study indicated that vaporizing cannabis produced higher blood THC concentrations and stronger effects than smoking the same amount.

Ingesting marijuana, whether in tinctures, sprays, or food and drink, leads to a different high than smoking. Theoretically, the effects are less intense, as THC is released into the bloodstream over a longer period of time.

For example, in a 2017 study that compared the effects of smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting cannabis, users reported weaker drug effects when cannabis was ingested.

However, there are anecdotal reports of edibles producing a strong and sometimes debilitating high. This might be due to the dose.

Other sources suggest that when ingested, THC reaches the liver faster, where it’s broken down into another psychoactive compound. The high might change depending on the concentration and ratios of THC and its metabolites in the bloodstream. More research needs to be done to understand these differences.

It can take between 30 and 90 minutes before you start to feel the effects of marijuana edibles. Edible highs tend to last longer than a smoking or vaping high. The effects are typically gone within 24 hours .

The duration of a marijuana high depends on a variety of different factors, including the dose and potency. In addition, how you consume marijuana can drastically affect how long you feel high.

A 2017 review identified the following times for the onset, peak, and total duration of a marijuana high.

Method Onset Peak Total duration
Smoking and vaping Within minutes 20 to 30 minutes 2 to 3 hours
Edibles 30 to 90 minutes 3 hours Within 24 hours

Keep in mind that other differences, such as whether you smoke marijuana using a bong or a joint, can also affect how long the high lasts.

A marijuana high is associated with feelings of relaxation and contentment, though negative reactions are also possible. Learn about what the sensations feel like.

Researchers Think They Know Why Weed Makes Some People Happy And Others Paranoid

With marijuana now medically legal in 33 states and recreationally legal in 11 states (plus D.C.), the concept of smoking, vaping, or eating it is fair game in the mainstream. But with lingering restrictions on testing it due to the Drug Enforcement Administration, how it affects the brain remains murky territory.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent — at least in the recreational realm — than an enduring, unanswered question: Why does marijuana cause one person to experience a pleasurable high, and another to experience paralyzing paranoia?

Thanks to a July 5 study out of Western University in Ontario, Canada, we may be one step closer to an answer. Published in Scientific Reports, the study is one of the few to explore what it deems the “divergent psychological effects” that marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), produces — and to offer explanations for why this happens.

Using rats, the study found evidence that psychological reactions to weed depend on which part of an individual’s brain is most sensitive to THC. If it’s the anterior (front) part of the brain, consuming marijuana will produce rewarding effects (i.e. feelings of ease, reduced anxiety, and joy). If it’s the posterior (back) region that’s most sensitive to THC, it will produce negative reactions (i.e. paranoia and fear).

Steven R. Laviolette, PhD, one of the study’s researchers, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the study embarked on new territory. “There is not too much known about why there is such differences in response to THC,” Laviolette says. “We know a lot about the longterm and short-term effects. But there is very little known about the specific areas in the brain that are responsible for independently controlling those effects.”

This study, then, is a breakthrough. “It’s a very new finding,” Laviolette tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The multi-year project, led by Christopher Norris, PhD, validates many who have reported experiencing highly negative effects from marijuana. Beyond just negative feelings, the authors found that in severe cases, individuals may experience “schizophrenia-like” symptoms.

The work is a departure from earlier attempts to explain the different psychological reactions, including a 2014 study from Oxford, which suggests that traits such as low self-esteem play a role. Norris and Laviolette’s study suggests instead that the reaction is beyond an individual’s control — and could be based more on genetics. For those who experience a bad reaction, this may be good news.

“Once we figure out what molecular pathways are causing those effects in different areas, then in the longterm we can work on modulating THC formulations so they don’t activate those specific pathways,” Laviolette tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “That’s the really longterm goal of what we’re trying to do here.”

The next step for Laviolette and his colleagues is to attempt to replicate the results in the human brain, which will be no easy task. But for now, he hopes the new research will educate users and help them make informed decisions. “Be aware that we’re starting to unravel some of the more intricate details of how cannabis is affecting the brain,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Monitor your use and if you’re experiencing negative side effects, talk to your physician.”

More from Yahoo Lifestyle:

A new study on rats could help explain why marijuana has different effects on people.