Any stoner will tell you that each high is different. But if you are new to cannabis, or if you haven’t used the drug recreationally, this is something you’d find rather difficult to understand. You might ask: What else is there to a high? How can a high person even recognize the difference?
Well, we hate to break it to you, but highs vary. It can be a mellow kind of high, it can be buzzy, or it can be the crazy jump-on-your-couch kind. It can be the kind of high you’d love, or it can be the kind you’d never want to feel ever again.
You just have to know before you get started on weed that every smoking session and every strain of pot you consume will give you a different experience. So it is safe to say that if you hated your first experience smoking a joint, don’t give up just yet. Give weed a second chance using a different product. Your second experience might change your mind.
So, what makes each high different anyway?
The science of high
First things first: let’s talk about what causes a high in the first place.
Cannabis contains different kinds of active compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. For cannabinoids alone, there more than a hundred different types found in cannabis. One of these cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is the main psychoactive chemical ingredient in weed. This is the substance that creates a high and has a mind-altering effect.
THC is mainly found in the resin that is secreted by the glands of a marijuana plant. These glands are found in abundance around the plant’s reproductive organs or in the buds.
Now, our body can make cannabinoid chemicals naturally and we have our own biological endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for maintaining balance and regulating certain physiological and cognitive processes like pain perception, appetite, fertility, mood, memory, immuno-responses, and metabolism. The ECS is made up of neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, which are abundant in certain areas of our brain and other parts of the central nervous system, as well as in peripheral organs and tissues.
Now, THC acts just like our natural cannabinoid chemicals, and when we consume it, it attaches to our body’s cannabinoid receptors, including those that are associated with pleasure, memory, thinking, time perception, and coordination. THC then activates these receptors and therefore affect our sensory perception, our coordination, our memory, our thoughts, and our movements.
More specifically, THC stimulates the cells in our brain to release dopamine, thus creating euphoria. It also interferes with the way our hippocampus processes information. Hippocampus is the part of our brain that is in charge of forming new memories. THC also induces hallucinations and can cause delusions. In some cases, THC can also cause anxiety, paranoia, sedation, relaxation, pain relief, and short-term memory recall issues.
These effects basically constitute the “high” that a person experiences after consuming cannabis with potent THC content.
Moreover, it is these mind-altering effects and ability to create a high that makes THC a prohibited substance in most countries around the world and in most states in the U.S.
Factors that affect high
Now that we have established how THC creates a high, it is important to know why different people experience different effects. Because it is not like there are different types of THC, right?
Here are the things that make each high different from the others.
Marijuana plants come in different strains and varieties. While it is true that there are only three main species that encompass cannabis plants — Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, and Cannabis ruderalis — growers around the world have come up with different hybrid varieties. Generally, cannabis growers only use indicas, sativas, or a hybrid of both, for either medicinal or recreational purposes.
Growers cultivate different varieties to intensify specific plant characteristics in order to come up with a more effective drug or for the purposes of marketing. These varieties are developed to contain a high percentage of cannabinoids.
Indica is known for its sedative effects while sativa is known for its cerebral high. Strains that are pre-dominantly sativa are invigorating and energizing and can help reduce stress and anxiety, while also increasing focus and creativity. Indicas are more associated with full body effects and can promote deep relaxation and can reduce insomnia.
But the truth is, it’s not always as simple as merely categorizing pot as either an indica or sativa. Different varieties of marijuana plants reflect different cannabinoid and terpene profiles and different chemical compositions, depending on their breed and the growing technique used.
The unique chemical composition for every strain has a lot to do with its unique effects and unique kind of high.
A high from cannabis is something that goes on inside your body. However, your environment or setting can also play an important role in your experience. Like, what day is it? What’s your mood? Is it too hot? Are you comfortable? Are you uneasy? Are you happy? Are you relaxed? Are you stressed? Are you hungry? Are you with your friends? Are you smoking with friends or with a new crowd?
In other words, different scenarios can affect your high. You should consider your state of mind and your level of comfort before you indulge in marijuana. You can smoke the same strain of cannabis in two different places on two different days, and it’s possible to have very different experiences. For example, it is possible that taking a puff of a particular strain in a hot and stuffy room on a Monday while you are too stressed from work can make you feel anxious, and that smoking the same exact strain on another day, say the weekend, while you are in the comforts of your apartment and while you are happy and comfortable can make you feel relaxed.
So, yes, you can expect a positive or a negative kind of high by simply being aware of your surroundings and knowing what kind of settings would work best for you when you partake in pot.
The kind of cannabis product, the variety of pot, and the amount you consume of the product can greatly affect the high you feel. This is because different products and different amounts of pot contain different doses or concentrations of THC.
The problem is that dosing can be rather tricky. There might be lots of times when you smoke, vape, or eat cannabis without knowing the dose. If that’s the case, the basic rule applies: too little THC might make you feel like you should not have bothered partaking at all, while too much might make you feel so horrible that you couldn’t wait for the high to wear off.
So the secret to enjoying cannabis is always to start low and go slow. See how little doses affect you and then you can gradually increase the dose as you go along. Up the dose until you hit your sweet spot, so to speak.
Every delivery method has its own variables. For instance, smoking pot can affect you differently from eating a marijuana-laced brownie, or from vaping. This is because your body processes marijuana from each delivery method differently.
Moreover, the amount of THC and cannabinoids that get into your system — as well as how long you have to wait until the effects start setting in — also differs between methods. Take for example cannabis edibles, which gives you a longer lasting and a stronger high than other consumption methods. Some methods also offer a more potent hit than others.
Additionally, there are delivery methods where it is easier to control the dose. For instance, vaping allows you to control your dose better than eating an edible.
Age, surprisingly, can affect how you enjoy a high from weed. It is the reason why some elderly people would say they enjoyed smoking pot when they were young but not so much anymore.
In fact, a 2007 study conducted on rats found a connection between age and the effects of the drug. The researchers found that adolescent rats were able to tolerate the effects of cannabis much better than the adult rats, who showed more signs of anxiety, stress, and suppressed movement.
Different people have different tolerance levels when it comes to the potent effects of cannabis. Of course, age also has something to do with a person’s tolerance, just as the frequency of consumption, the length of cannabis use, and the body chemistry do, too.
So, it is imperative that you know your tolerance to weed, and you will know this as you go along. Once you are aware of this, you will know how little or how much you should consume in order to experience the kind of high that you desire.