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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.

How to Tell If Your Teen Is Smoking Pot

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and a highly sought-after speaker.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drug among teenagers.   Yet, many teens don’t even consider it to be a drug. Changes in laws regarding medicinal marijuana and recreational use causes many teens to doubt the dangers of marijuana use.

A 2018 survey of 12th-grade students found that just over 22% of teens said they had smoked marijuana within the past month.   Teens continue to report that marijuana is easily accessible and very affordable.

Make sure you know the warning signs that could indicate your teen is using marijuana.

What Marijuana Looks Like

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Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Getty Images

Marijuana resembles tobacco but can take on several forms. It can be green and brown or grayish in color. It includes the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the cannabis plant.  

It may be shredded or crumbled, which is how it looks when it is smoked.

Sometimes teens will create a blunt out of a hollowed-out cigar filled with marijuana.

Teens crumble marijuana and roll it into a cigarette or use a pipe or bong to smoke. Sometimes teens place marijuana in food, like brownies, or make it into a tea.

Signs Your Teen Is High

Being high on marijuana is unique to the individual, but there are some signs you may notice if your teen has recently smoked pot:  

  • Your teen may have red, bloodshot eyes.
  • Your teen could be very giddy or very tired, depending on when they got high.
  • Your teen may be paranoid or anxious.
  • They may get the “munchies” and be hungry for anything they can get their hands on.

Mood or Behavior Changes

A change in behavior is one of the biggest telltale signs your teen may be using drugs.

Regular marijuana use might lead to varying behavior at school, work, changes in attendance in school, or mood swings. Your teen’s appearance may change, too.

Additionally, it could be that your teen demonstrates a more laid-back or “lazy” demeanor. It’s possible they may neglect chores or other activities. However, it’s important to remember that the effects of marijuana on an individual vary. It’s best not to make the assumption your teen is on drugs until you have further evidence or you are able to have an honest discussion with them about it.  

Signs of Drug Paraphernalia

While it’s good practice to give your teen privacy, it’s important to remember what your teen is doing is your business. So if you have a reason to suspect your teen is using drugs, it’s worth investigating.

Be on the lookout for pipes, rolling papers, and baggies with marijuana residue. These items may be hidden in canisters, books, or bottles in your teen’s room.  

Your Teen’s Friends

Sometimes, parents find out about their teen’s marijuana use through their teen’s friends. A parent might confide in you that your child’s friend was caught smoking marijuana or using drugs.

Spending time with friends who use drugs may indicate that your teen could be using drugs as well. It’s important to know who is influencing your teen.   If you know your teen’s friends are smoking, you can use this fact to open up a conversation about what it means to your teen that his/her friends are smoking, which may lead you to discover if your teen is participating as well.

Hiding the Evidence

Teens who use marijuana, especially around the home, have to be resourceful to mask the smell and hide the evidence.

Marijuana has a distinct order and if you have ever smelled it, you’ll recognize it again. If you have not, call your local community center or police department and sign up for a D.A.R.E. or parenting class on teen drug use.

You may find your teen has taken an interest in incense or air fresheners. Or, they may start using eye drops to mask the redness in their eyes.  

Drug Tests

If you’re suspicious your teen may be using marijuana, a home drug testing kit can give you an answer. Available at pharmacies and online drug stores, most kits will test for a variety of drugs, including marijuana.

And while positive test results could be a first step in getting your teen help, drug testing your child definitely has some serious risks. It could greatly impair your relationship with your teen. And that could be quite harmful in the long-term.

Additionally, at-home drug tests don’t detect all drugs. Synthetic drugs, for example, might not show up on a screening even though they can be just as dangerous as other drugs.

So think twice about drug testing your teen. Instead, put your energy into creating a healthy relationship that encourages your teen to be honest with you.

Again, marijuana use varies per the individual. Behavior changes may come in many different forms, so it is best not to jump to conclusions that your teen is on drugs and to try to communicate with them openly and honestly.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

If you suspect your teen may be using marijuana, you should be on the lookout for these warning signs that may indicate drug use.