Have you ever heard someone explain the feeling of getting high? For some, it’s happiness, peace, calm, relaxed, euphoric. While others may also feel confusion, panic, anxiety, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting. Things to keep in mind about cannabis is that everyone reacts differently. Not everyone will have the same high, and you may not get the desired result you had in mind. Always start slow and go low. Your mindset plays a big role in the result of your desired high whether it’s for healing purposes or recreational. In Cannabis Basics: The Low-Down on the High Life, we talked about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and discussed a little bit about how it works. Let’s dive a bit deeper, and see what is safe for us as an adult, and why it is not safe for children.
Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. Endocannabinoids are only produced when the body needs them, on-demand and locally. So if it’s just getting high or to medicate for pain management or health purposes they react instantly and simultaneously to create a reaction in that area, or possibly your whole body. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the upkeep of a stable internal environment despite variations in our external environment. Endocannabinoids break down very fast into proteins that produce a variety of responses on their own, resulting in homeostasis. During brain development, up to age 25, ECS is more sensitive to THC interruptions, which may help to explain higher risks for negative outcomes in youth who use cannabis early and frequently. The brain is still developing and needs to be kept clean of any substance really.
Most commonly known are Cannabinoids that react with our ECS: THC, CBD, CBN and their responsive receptors. THC creates an intoxicating effect, but CBD does not. The third lesser-known natural chemical with little to no psychoactivity but has sedative characteristics is cannabinol (CBN).
Cannabinoid receptors exist throughout the body, contained by cell membranes, and are believed to be more diverse than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of bodily processes take place. Researchers have found two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, mainly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs; and CB2, commonly found in the immune system and its linked structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each connected to a different action. Researchers speculate there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting for discovery.
The main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It binds to your own endocannabinoid receptors (specifically CB1 responds), which is otherwise asleep because of the fact that your body has no need to produce its own endocannabinoids, and this disrupts the function of the ECS. It creates a euphoria/high.
CBD does not get you high but is psychoactive because it acts in the brain. Studied for its effect in regulating schizophrenia, anxiety, pain and inflammation, seizures, and more. You can now purchase in various forms: gels, oils, capsules, and extracts to name a few. It hinders THC’s binding and weakens psychoactive effects or high. May help the body create more of its own endocannabinoids. Binds both responding to CB1 and CB2.
CBM is a by-product of THC that is produced when heated or exposed to oxygen. Think of CBN as an aged fine wine. A reserve on the top shelf. Most often found in aged cannabis products. Not psychoactive like THC, but elevates the effects of THC (CB2 responds). Shares characteristics of CBD such as anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory properties.
Are there potential risks when consuming cannabis? Are there ways to reduce these potential harms?
The only way to be 100% safe is to refrain. If you choose to use cannabis, these tips may help reduce risks and avoid negative consequences like “greening out” (over-consumption). To be on the safe side, for certain people, cannabis should be avoided.
Who Should Avoid Cannabis?
It’s best to avoid cannabis if: You have a history, or a family history of substance abuse or mental illness, especially schizophrenia or psychosis. You are pregnant: Studies show an association between smoking cannabis and low birth weight, but the evidence is currently limited or insufficient. Better research is needed, but it’s always recommended that women do not use cannabis while pregnant.
Harm Reduction Game Plan
If you do choose to consume cannabis, use it safely to reduce the likelihood of harm. Know when it should be avoided to complete certain tasks properly and safely. Here are some important harm reduction strategies:
- Start Low and Go Slow! Everyone is different and may react differently to cannabis. If you go hard off the jump, there may be a higher risk for greening out. No pun intended. Using cannabis and getting sick like alcohol is not fun.
- New to cannabis? Only take 1-2 puffs/inhalations to see how you react and wait for the effects before you take another hit. (at least 30 minutes)
- Do you like edible cannabis? Eat a small amount of the cannabis edible (2-5 mg dose) and wait at least two hours before eating more to ensure you don’t consume too much and end up becoming the couch!
- Choose products with high CBD and low THC (less than 5% THC) or similar ratios of 5-15% CBD and THC. This way you will never get sick and can have greater control over your usage.
- Choose safer methods of consumption. Vaporizing is safer than smoking in terms of inhaling harsh chemicals and carcinogens found in combusted plant matter. If using a bong, joint, or pipe be mindful to avoid spreading germs. If ingesting, don’t over-do it! Remember to start low and go slow, the effects are delayed, more intense and last longer.
Things are changing, mainly because of the high demand. People want safe, natural and inexpensive treatments that stimulate our bodies’ ability to self-heal and help our population improve their quality of life. Medical cannabis is one method of solution. This summary can be a tool for spreading knowledge and helping to educate the public and healthcare providers on the scientific evidence found behind the use of cannabis and cannabinoids.
As always Smoke responsibly and smoke in moderation!