What Does It Feel Like to Be High?

Do you want to know what it feels like to be high on cannabis? Tommy Chong once said, “If more people were stoned, there would be less violence in the world.” We would have to agree. But millions of adults still haven’t experienced what it feels like to be high. As more states lift their marijuana prohibitions, more people are making the effort to satisfy their curiosity. But if you’ve never experienced a marijuana haze, it does help to have some understanding of what to expect.

Why Getting High Feels Different for Everybody

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to the question “What does it feel like to be high?” It feels different for everybody. It depends on:

  • The strain you’re using (we’ll get into indicas vs. sativas later)
  • The delivery system (smoking vs. vaping vs. eating, etc…)
  • Your tolerance and general body chemistry
  • The dosage you’re taking
  • Your gender
  • Your age
  • Whether you’ve eaten recently
  • Whether you’re using any pharmaceuticals or other drugs

The main reason why it feels different for every person is that everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different. Endocannabinoids are natural molecules in the body that behave much like cannabinoids, the compounds in marijuana.

When you smoke a joint, the THC is absorbed into your body where it binds to cannabinoid receptors and assists in various functions like pain management, liver function, and mood regulation. “Getting high” is a byproduct of THC binding to cannabinoid receptors and flooding your brain’s reward system. But this sensation can vary depending on the amount of endocannabinoids you produce naturally. It’s a concept scientists are still just beginning to understand.

But it’s not just your physiology. Even your own expectations can play a major role in how you feel when under the influence. If you go into it with an open mind, you might be pleasantly surprised by the experience. However, if you’re expecting to take two hits and fly to the moon on a rainbow unicorn, you’ll be bitterly disappointed.

General Sensations of Being High on Weed

Yes, everyone’s experience is different, but there are several commonalities worth mentioning.

In general, getting high alters your sensory perceptions. Colors may look different, often brighter. Faces and objects may seem familiar yet obscured. Mundane scenery may appear more vibrant, more detailed, and more multi-dimensional.

This shouldn’t be confused with a psychedelic or hallucinogenic experience. Hallucinations are rare as long as you stick with a recommended dosage. Marijuana simply alters your perception of the objects in front of you; it doesn’t typically cause you to see objects that aren’t there, nor does it significantly obscure your sense of reality.

Being high can also influence your senses of hearing, taste, and touch. It can make music come alive in new ways; it can make your taste buds more sensitive to the nuances of every ingredient. At higher doses, your sense of touch may be numbed to some degree. If you’re walking across the floor but can’t feel your feet, you should probably cut back on the edibles just a bit.

And then there are the effects on mood. Much like alcohol, cannabis can exaggerate any emotions you’re predisposed to or currently feeling. If you’re happy, weed can make you ecstatic. If you’re watching a sad movie, you may find yourself weeping like a baby. Marijuana may make you feel silly, creative, determined, lazy, agitated, or indifferent. It depends on how you’re already feeling, and it depends on the type of strain you’re using.

Indica High vs Sativa High

Cannabis indica and cannabis sativa are two subspecies of marijuana, and each type of plant has different effects on the body.* One gets you high, the other gets you stoned.

Sativa = head high (a sativa will get you HIGH: elated, energized, productive)

indica = body high (an indica will get you STONED: relaxed, numb, catatonic)

And then there are hybrid strains, crossbred subspecies that have both indica and sativa qualities. A hybrid may be 50/50 sativa-indica, or it may be sativa- or indica-dominant.

Sativa (for daytime use)  Indica (for nighttime use)
Energy Relaxation
Alertness Pain Relief
Euphoria Stress Relief
Productivity Appetite
Creativity Sleep

A good indica is very relaxing, but it can numb your entire body. That’s why it’s best reserved exclusively for nighttime use.

Sativas tend to make the mind race. While this can contribute to excitement and euphoria in some users, it can lead to paranoia and anxiety in others. If sativas give you a bad trip but you want to experience the positive effects, you might benefit more from a sativa-dominant hybrid strain. The indica properties will counterbalance the sativa, potentially leaving you with an experience that’s less intense and more pleasurable.

*These basic generalizations about indicas and sativas hold true more often than not, but it’s important to note that each subspecies, each cultivar, and each batch has its own unique biochemistry and can vary from the stereotypes. 

What It Feels Like to Get High on Edibles

Some first-time users are turned off by the thought of smoking. They turn to brownies and cookies thinking that they’ve found an easier, safer delivery system. Ironically, edibles are far more potent than your average joint.

Edibles come on slowly and hit you like a freight train because they’re metabolized differently than smoked marijuana. After you consume an edible, you partially digest it. The THC is metabolized by the liver and broken down into metabolites that are then released into the bloodstream. One of those metabolites is 11-OH-THC, which is far more potent than THC because it crosses the blood-brain barrier much more quickly.

So an edible may take up to an hour to work, but once it takes hold, the effects are stronger and also longer-lasting. The effects of edibles may last from 7 to 12 hours. Most bad trips from marijuana are the result of taking edibles. At high doses, hallucinations and panic attacks may occur. Thankfully, this pitfall is entirely avoidable. The trick is to start small. You don’t need to eat the entire brownie. Start with a small serving, even a single bite. Then wait an hour and see how it affects you.

Do You Get the Munchies When You’re High?

Yes, studies show that “the munchies” are, in fact, real. When consumed, cannabinoids like THC trigger the hypothalamus or nucleus accumbens, two areas of the brain associated with food intake. Indicas especially are associated with increased hunger, in part because of the couchlock effect that these strains encourage.

So if you’re planning to light up, just know that you may get hungry. It never hurts to keep a few snacks on hand.

Being High vs Being Drunk

Being drunk and being high are very different sensations. Drunkenness is associated with a numbing of the senses while marijuana intoxication is associated with heightened senses.

When you get drunk, you usually know what to expect. Your inhibitions are down, and your confidence is up. The logical voice in your brain is muted, and you’re ready to paint the town red.

But when you’re high, every experience is different. You may become more focused, more introspective. You’re still in the driver’s seat, but your perception is altered. As long as you manage your dosage and avoid bad trips, you can remain mostly in control of your faculties.

How to Avoid a Bad High

When you start to lose control, there’s a good chance you’ve overdone it. That’s okay. Thankfully, a fatal overdose of marijuana is almost impossible. But too much THC can turn a positive experience into something terrifying. The following are some of the signs that you may have overindulged:

  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Blood pressure spikes
  • Confusion and disorientation

If you experience these sensations, scale back the dosage.

A lot of cannabis beginners start with 10 to 15 mg, but even this can be too much. If you’re a newbie and you don’t know your tolerance, start with a microdose, just 2 to 3 mg. Then wait an hour and see how you feel. Gradually increase your dosage from there.

The best way to monitor your dosage as a beginner is to use a product that has already been precisely dosed for you. Pre-rolls are excellent, as you know exactly what you’re getting before you even light up. Tinctures (drops taken beneath the tongue) are also precisely dosed, as are capsules and disposable vape tanks.

How Long Does a Cannabis High Last?

The duration will depend largely on the delivery system.

  • Smoking/Vaping: You can expect to feel the effects in just 2 to 10 minutes. The average high lasts about 1 to 3 hours.
  • Edibles: The effects usually kick in within 30 to 60 minutes, though it can take longer in some cases. The effects can last from 7 to 12 hours, though some effects may linger for a full 24 hours.

Other delivery systems have their own onset and duration times. For example, if you’re dabbing wax, shatter, or hash oil (not recommended for beginners), the effects hit you almost instantly and can last for up to 24 hours if you’re using a very high THC concentration. Tinctures taken beneath the tongue can take effect within 20 minutes and usually last 1 to 3 hours.

What Happens When You Come Down From a High?

It’s one thing to know how it feels to be high. But what happens on the other end?

With normal use, you should come down easily and gradually with few to no side effects or withdrawals. However, if you went a bit overboard with the dosage, you may experience some mild to moderate side effects:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Poor coordination
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Mild psychosis

If you’re struggling to come down, take some CBD oil. Cannabidiol (CBD) is known to offset the psychoactive effects of THC, so now’s a good time to cash in your CBD coupons just in case. You can also try drinking water, taking ibuprofen, and sleeping it off.

The good news is that negative experiences are rare, especially if you’re mindful of your dosage and you have healthy expectations. So if you’re still wondering what it feels like to be high, the best thing you can do is invite a couple of friends over, light up a joint, and let the THC take care of the rest.

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