Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, pot) is a drug derived from the female hemp plant. The resin of the plant contains psychoactive substances (cannabinoids) that make you feel high or stoned. The most common ones are cannabinol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The low doses cannabis is a downer. In high doses cannabis is a psychedelic.
The effect a substance will have depends on the characteristics of the substance, but also on the set and setting of the user. Here we describe the effect of cannabis in general.
Cannabis is mostly a consciousness changing substance (psychedelic). It will alter your mood and perception. The most important substance in cannabis is THC. THC causes the actual effect that we call stoned or high. Until recently we thought that CBD in hasj or weed changed the effect of THC. But this appears not to be the case. The amount of CBD in cannabis is too low to really have an effect.
You can gain different insights into yourself or your environment when using cannabis. Physical effects include a slightly faster heart rate and an increase in appetite. See the table below for a complete overview of possible effects.
|(negative) Side effects
Altered sensory perception
How you perceive your environment changes, this can affect all of your senses. Sometimes, this could make it seem as if your surroundings differ from reality. More information about tripping and hallucinations can be found here.
Some drugs make you sluggish.
Reduction of stress, uneasiness, sadness, panic, and feelings of depression.
Forgetfulness. Short term, failure to remember events shortly after ingestion.
Altered thought pattern
Thoughts are described as more creative and daydreaming may take place. You are able to make connections in your head that you otherwise wouldn’t. This can be very interesting, but also a bit scary. The world can then seem to be a little less logical. This can work both positively and negatively for you.
Dilation of the blood vessels in the eyes causes red eyes.
Spontaneous and uncontrollable laughter, sometimes without anything humorous happening.
Stimulation of sympathetic pathways decrease saliva production, this causes the mouth to feel dry.
Increased appetite, and possible weight gain. Sometimes called “munchies”.
Paranoia and delusions
Anxiety, paranoia and delusions (e.g. the idea that people are talking about you).
Confusion and restlessness
Confusion and restlessness
An uneasy and tense feeling in the abdomen, which may cause discomfort. Nausea often precedes vomiting.
Irritation of the airways
Smoking can cause coughing or a burning or tickling sensation in the throat.
Increased heart rate
This drug can increase the rate at which your heart beats.
Lowered blood pressure
Some drugs can lower the blood pressure in your body.
Decreased muscle tension
Decreased general tone (= relaxation) of muscles.
Marijuana and hash can be smoked, vaporised, or swallowed in solid or liquid form.
In the Netherlands, cannabis is usually rolled with tobacco into a joint and smoked. After inhaling the smoke, the active ingredients reach the brain quickly via the lungs. In the brain the active substances will sort out their effects. Users indicate that they can sense when they have had enough while smoking cannabis; with strong weed, this can be after just one or two hits, while with lighter weed, half or a whole joint is sometimes smoked. Inexperienced users quickly take too much and become sick or nauseous. So when smoking weed, wait for the effect before taking more. This will prevent you from getting ill or having a bad trip.
As with cigarettes, smoking cannabis does carry risks; smoking is harmful to the lungs and carries a risk of addiction. Cannabis is usually smoked in the form of a joint or stickie: a cigarette containing some crumbled weed or hash, sometimes supplemented with tobacco. When rolling a joint a ‘tip’ (a kind of filter, for example from a rolled up piece of sturdy paper) is often used in order to be able to smoke the entire joint without getting tobacco or weed in your mouth. You can also make a joint by brushing hash oil over the paper and then smoking it with regular tobacco.
An alternative way to smoke weed or hash is through a water pipe (also known as a bong). Such a bong works like a cooling system: the weed is burned, after which the smoke ends up in the water. The water cools the smoke, so you inhale the smoke less hot than with a joint or hash pipe. However, the water has no filtering effect; all harmful substances remain in the smoke.
A less harmful alternative is vaping or ‘vaping’ weed or hash. In a vaporizer, the hash or weed is not burned, but heated. At a temperature between 180 and 200°C, a gas is released that contains only the active substances and is also free of tar and carbon monoxide.
If you prefer not to smoke, you can also choose to process your hash or weed in food. Examples are hash bonbons or a space cake; a cake containing hash or weed. Foods with weed or hash in them are also called edibles. Usually during the preparation a little hash or weed is melted and dissolved in the butter. This distributes the cannabis evenly over the cake. The effect of eating is generally a lot more intense, but also less predictable than the effect of smoking. It takes at least three quarters of an hour to an hour and a half before it starts to work. Inexperienced users may be tempted to eat an extra piece. So it can quickly happen that you eat too much and get higher or stoner than you intended. So wait at least two hours after eating to see what effect it has before you consider taking more.
Probably not the first idea that came to mind, but it is possible: drinking hash or weed, for example as tea. You can steep some crumbled weed in a tea infuser, but a better option is to dissolve it in milk; THC dissolves better in fat than in water. Just like with food, it takes 45 minutes to an hour and a half after drinking weed or hash for the effects to take effect. In addition, it is even more difficult to estimate how much hash or weed is too much. This also increases the chance of things going wrong.
The dosage has a lot of influence on your experience while using cannabis. Cannabis contains a lot of psychoactive substances. The amounts of these substances and the proportions between them can vary considerably per plant. If there is a lot of THC in it and little CBD, you are more likely to experience anxious and restless feelings. A lot of CBD actually leads to a ‘stoned’ feeling. It is not possible to see exactly what is in the weed or hash. We do know that the concentration and ratio of THC and CBD can differ quite a bit and that the THC values in Dutch hash and weed are often much higher than those in foreign hash and weed. Due to the varying proportions, it is very difficult to indicate a good dosage. The way of intake also has a lot of influence on how strong the effect is.
We have already mentioned that it is difficult to dose cannabis. This also makes it difficult to estimate the duration of effect of cannabis. This depends, among other things, on how much you use and how you use it. After smoking one joint, it takes about 2 to 3 hours for the effects to fade. When you eat hash or weed, it can take an average of 4 to 6 hours before you start to feel normal again, but sometimes longer; after-effects can last up to 12 hours. In either case, whether you smoke or eat cannabis, the more you take, the longer you feel the effects. You also increase the risks!
Cannabis is mainly mentally addictive. Long-term users who stop may experience withdrawal symptoms: you feel irritable and restless and have trouble sleeping. You may also suffer from sweating, shaking, cold and headaches. However, the symptoms are very mild compared to those of heroin or alcohol.
With heavy users you sometimes also see some tolerance development; they need more to feel the effects. For example, tolerance occurs for the acceleration of the heart rate – novice users sometimes suffer from this, but experienced users much less.
Short term risks
(Nederlands) Triggeren (drugs-) psychose
It can happen that you become overwhelmed by the intensity of the experience. Such an experience can be frightening, especially for inexperienced users, and is called a ‘bad trip’. A bad trip can manifest, for example, in confusion due to a too high dosage, but can also occur because someone loses control of their thoughts.
In these situaions, it’s important to reassure the person and make them feel at ease. Make it clear that the situation they find themselves in is a result of the drug’s effects and that it will get better shortly.
Give the person as much rest as possible, preferably in a familiar environment. Accepting the situation is often the first step someone needs to take to ride out the trip in calmer waters. Using psychedelics when you’re not feeling entirely well or when you’re in an unfamiliar or busy environment increases the chance of unpleasant experiences during the trip and is therefore not recommended.
Intense feelings of fear.
(Nederlands) Flauw vallen
Long term risks
Psychological addiction means that you feel like you can’t live without a substance.
You can however stop taking this drug, without your body experiencing any issues.
Increased risk of pneumonia or smoker’s cough (only with smoking)
Smoking this drug increases the risk of pneumonia (bronchitis) and a smoker’s cough.
Increased risk of mouth, throat, esophagus or lung cancer (only with smoking)
Smoking this drug increases the risk of developing mouth, throat, esophagus or lung cancer.
Damage to vocal chords (only with smoking)
Smoking this drug can damage the vocal cords.
Combining different types of drugs can be risky and unpredictable. When you combine drugs you can have a higher risk of health problems. In the following paragraphs you can read about the effects and the risks of a number of combinations that occur frequently and also a about few that are extra hazardous. Also check our theme combining drugs.
Alcohol and cannabis
How you will feel depends on, among other things, the order and the amounts you take. And whether you smoke and/or drink more often.
If you drink first and then smoke weed, there is a good chance that you will feel quite nauseous. You may have to throw up. The more you drink, the more likely it is.
Smoking weed first and then drink? Then the amount of alcohol someone drinks is often much smaller than the other way around. You can then easier feel what is still pleasant. And it’s easier to stop drinking if you notice that you’re feeling a bit nauseous.
The combination of smoking and drinking therefore increases the risk of nausea and vomiting. You can then feel really bad. So before you take the ‘second’ drug, think about whether it will make you feel better. If in doubt, stick to one of them.
Cannabis and psychedelics
If you smoke weed during a trip, it can make for a more intense trip. Keep that in mind. There are users who have later experienced that they relived certain trip effects while smoking weed, as a kind of vivid memory of a previous experience. This can be very scary and confusing. If you experience this, we advise you to stop smoking weed.
It can also suddenly change the direction or vibe of a trip. This new direction isn’t always positive. So before you smoke weed, think about whether it will improve the experience.
Cannabis and stimulants like speed, 4-FA, ecstasy, MDMA
Some users find it a pleasant combination. Cannabis can soften the ecstasy rush, especially at the end of the experience. However, it can also make the experience a bit more vague, which is not always positive.
Sometimes people use cannabis after or while using speed to calm down or fall asleep more easily. Cannabis can soften the amphetamine effects, especially at the end of the amphetamine rush. However, this is not recommended for everyone, some people may feel anxious or restless. If you suffer from insomnia after using speed, it is advisable to time your use better. Keep in mind what time you want to go to sleep and do not take any more about 12 hours before you want to go to sleep.
Cannabis and tobacco
In the Netherlands it is customary to roll joints with tobacco. This is actually an weird habit. It is easy, but it also increases the risks.
The experiences of people who combine cannabis and tobacco as opposed to pure use vary. Some combiners experience a stronger high, while others indicate that the high is less. Pure smoking would make you energetic and active. Although of course it also depends on the type of cannabis you have.
Smoking for tobacco or cannabis?
If you fancy a joint, do you fancy the tobacco or the cannabis? Your body quickly gets used to tobacco and because tobacco is very addictive, it may well be that your body is actually subconsciously asking for tobacco. You then think you feel like using cannabis, but maybe your body just asks for tobacco. People who switch to vaping or pure cannabis regularly report that they are using less often.
Cannabis users often inhale joints of tobacco deeper and longer. This causes more damage to the lungs. The use of tobacco increases the risk of various types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, pneumonia and reduced functioning of the immune system of the lungs.
Combined use of cannabis and tobacco increases the rewarding effects in the brain. The use of tobacco in a joint therefore promotes an addiction. Cannabis is mainly mentally addictive. The tobacco ensures that a joint also has a physically addictive effect. Smoking a joint with tobacco also increases the chance of relapse if you want to stop using cannabis.
Cannabis and sex
Cannabis can get you into a mellow mood. You may feel less inhibited and your body may be more sensitive to contact with other people. But heavy cannabis use over the longer term can dampen your sexual desires. The effects of cannabis vary per individual person, and they also depend strongly on atmosphere and surroundings.
There is no 100% safe use of cannabis, but you can limit the risks. For this we at Unity have the following tips for you:
- Do not buy cannabis on the street, but at a trusted address or in a good coffee shop
- Do not use daily, but on special occasions or on weekends. This makes sure smoking cannabis does not become a habit unnoticed
- Use only if you feel good physically and mentally
- Use for your pleasure and not to suppress problems or feelings
- Do not use if you have to participate in traffic
- Do not use before or during school, study or work
- Do not use if you take medication or suffer from depression, anxiety attacks or psychosis
- Do not use if you are pregnant
- Hash and weed are risky, among other things, because of the chance of aggravating psychological problems. Especially people with a predisposition to develop psychosis or other psychological complaints are strongly discouraged from using cannabis
Unity tips when smoking cannabis
The main risk you have when smoking weed is that the smoke can damage your mouth, throat and airways. Not every way of smoking weed or hash is equally suitable. We have ranked the different ways to smoke cannabis for you from least to most harmful:
- Using a vaporizer is the best option. When used correctly, very little or no harmful combustion products (such as carbon monoxide and tar) are released. You can read more about this method of use on the Vaporizer Info website.
- Use a pipe and make sure that it consists of glass or stainless steel. Chemical substances can be released when a pipe made of wood or plastic is heated.
- The unfiltered, pure joint. Do not use tobacco and use paper that is as thin as possible. Use unprinted paper to roll the roach. When you use printed paper, the ink particles can be released and end up in your lungs.
- Next up is the water pipe and the filtered pure joint. These filter out relatively much THC compared to tar.
- Joints with tobacco are at the bottom. You can reduce the risks to your lungs by smoking cannabis in the above ways without tobacco. Tobacco also works against cannabis: so you need a bit more weed/hash to have the same effect. In addition, nicotine is highly addictive. So you may end up smoking more, because your body is actually craving for the nicotine, not the cannabis.
It makes no sense to keep the smoke in your lungs longer than a few seconds! Nearly all THC is absorbed into your blood by your lungs within those seconds. So you don’t get extra high if you keep the smoke in for longer period of time, it only increases the exposure of your lungs to harmful substances.
To prevent damage to the respiratory tract, you can also take cannabis orally.
Unity tips when eating cannabis
Oral administration is a good alternative to smoking, but it also has a disadvantage: it is more difficult to dose (see: Dosage of cannabis). You can really trip from space cake! We recommend waiting two hours after taking it to make sure you start to feel anything before considering taking more.
If you made the edibles yourself, keep track of which and how much weed you used. If the space cake is too strong or not strong enough, you have a reference for a possible next time.