For those who imbibe in the use of cannabis, there’s a lot of positive that can be said about the world’s oldest cultivated crop. Smoking is, in many ways, the “traditional” or “classic” method of ingestion, and it is still how most people consume weed today. Applying fire to the plant matter in your pipe, joint, blunt or bong creates smoke, which is then inhaled to produce the delightful effects that we know as the “high.”
Aside from feeling the euphoric effects of ingested cannabis, there are a few other things that you can expect-especially if you have never smoked before, or don’t smoke often.
1). The Munchies
This is probably the most well-known side effect of getting stoned: getting hungry. And not just a bit hungry, either. We’re talking “empty out the fridge” kind of hungry, that you probably wouldn’t ever feel under other circumstances. It is no secret that weed hugely stimulates many users’ appetites, and has been the subject of jokes in popular cannabis culture movies like Pineapple Express and Half Baked. But why does this happen? Why would a little bit of smoke make you want to raid your fridge like it owes you money?
While scientists are not yet one hundred percent certain as to why this happens, they’re starting to get a pretty good idea. Particularly, they have found that the psychoactive component of weed, known as THC, is the culprit behind this. One study conducted in mice found that the presence of THC in the animals’ systems caused a heightened ability to smell food, which caused them to eat more of it. To sum it up quickly: these researchers discovered that THC engages with the brain’s olfactory bulb, causing the animal to both taste and smell food more acutely.
While some people might see this as a downside, it is one of the things that has chemotherapy patients and other nausea sufferers turning to cannabis. THC is incredibly effective at stimulating the appetite, including in those who might struggle to eat due to medical conditions or certain treatments that induce nausea and/or vomiting.
Many smokers will tell you that it’s not at all uncommon to have a dry mouth as a result of smoking weed. Also known as “cottonmouth,” this occurs because of a lack in saliva production. While it is not at all dangerous, cottonmouth can certainly be uncomfortable. Fortunately it can easily be alleviated by chewing on gum or food to stimulate your salivary glands into action.
People used to think that this was simply the result of hot smoke going into your mouth; makes sense, right? But it has been reported by many who use edibles, tinctures and other non-smoking cannabis users as well, which means that there is something else going on. What’s really happening is that the cannabis is actually interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in our salivary glands. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether you eat it or smoke it; chances are you’ll experience dry-mouth, at least a handful of times.
3). Memory Impairment
Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you were there? Or looked for your phone while it was right in your hand? This kind of short-term memory malfunction is incredibly common in people who smoke weed, and is usually no cause for concern.
However, this impairment is also the main reason why so many argue against its use by teenagers, whose minds are still in the throes of critical development. This 2011 study suggests that short-term memory impairment is more severe in adolescent weed smokers, and even goes as far as to suggest that this could be long-lasting if cannabis is used when one is a teenager.
For adult users who consume cannabis regularly, they might find that they have developed a bit of a tolerance to this effect.
Many new smokers will feel a bit disoriented if they stand up too fast after lighting up, and there’s a reason for that. One study conducted in 1992 reported 60% of pot-smoking participants experiencing dizziness after smoking. This sixty percent also experienced a decrease in blood pressure, which could very well be the culprit behind this unpleasant feeling.
More seasoned smokers might notice that they don’t feel this way often, or at all. That is because a tolerance to these effects can be built up over time.
5). Respiratory Problems
When you take a good rip off the bong, it’s almost expected that you will cough, and probably a lot. But is it normal to feel like you’re actually going to cough up a lung?
No matter what, inhaling any kind of smoke isn’t the best thing for your body. Smoke is hot and carries with it irritants that can make their way into your throat and your lungs, which can impede healthy breathing. These effects are nowhere near as dire as the risks posed to your respiratory system caused by cigarette smoking, but can be incredibly inconvenient and even painful for sufferers of conditions like asthma, which already makes breathing well to be a task.
Because of the irritants introduced to your body by setting plant matter on fire and inhaling the smoke, many people are recommending that weed enthusiasts stop smoking entirely. No, not give up weed entirely-just stop smoking it. Edibles, oils and vaporizers are becoming increasingly popular and accessible as more parts of the world embrace a 420-friendly future, and they take out that discomfort that can really harsh your high.
6). Red Eyes
If you’re trying to keep your smoking incognito, you’ve probably worried about the telltale sign of either allergies or smoking weed: red-ringed eyes. If you have caught a look at yourself in the mirror and immediately reached for the Clear Eyes, don’t stress-you’re not alone. This is an incredibly common reaction, though some people might not experience it at all. As it goes with everything else in life, one’s experiences will differ greatly from another’s.
But why does this happen? Well, there are a few reasons.
- THC lowers blood pressure, which causes the capillaries and blood vessels in your eyes to dilate. When this dilation occurs, more blood gets rushed to the eyes and reduced intraocular pressure. It is the increased bloodflow that causes this redness. It is also for this reason that even ingesting infused edibles can cause red eyes. The reduction of intraocular pressure is actually what makes cannabis such an effective treatment for glaucoma patients.
- Allergies and irritation caused by the smoke are two other culprits behind this annoyance. If your eyes are similarly affected by any smoke, you will likely find that they will be turned red and bloodshot by weed smoke as well.
Generally speaking, those who smoke strains with a lower percentage of THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, tend to experience this less than those who smoke weed of greater potency.
6). A Distinct Aroma
The scent of burning weed is hard to mistake: that skunky, earthy aroma that can persist in your hair, clothing and even in the air for quite some time even after the blunt’s been extinguished. If you’re smoking anywhere that isn’t a wide, outdoor space, then you might find yourself dousing your clothes in Febreze before walking into your mom’s house after a smoke session. The less ventilated the area, the longer this smell will persist, same as any other type of smoke.
While it might smell great, this is a big “YES, I SMOKE WEED” sign to anybody in your vicinity if you aren’t careful. In some circles this isn’t a bad thing at all, but it might not be ideal for sitting down with the family at the dinner table-especially if you’re not forward about your cannabis use.
One surefire way to avoid the smell entirely is to ingest cannabis through another, non-smoking means. Tinctures and edibles are entirely aroma-free, so that you can still get the benefits and experience of the plant’s compounds without telling everyone in the room what you have been up to.
The information above is certainly no one-size-fits-all guide about what smoking weed will be like for you. The way your body metabolizes cannabis, your chosen method of ingestion, potency of the strain, and the strain itself are all considerable factors when it comes to how your smoking experiences play out. But if, during your adventures, you encounter these things you should know that they are normal and common parts of many smokers’ lives.
If smoking really isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to get a high these days. Do you have any tips to share with fellow smokers to help reduce some of these side effects? Post them in the comments section below!
All pictures sourced from pixabay.com.