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smoke up all my weed

2020 made me too paranoid for THC. Here’s what I’m smoking instead.

I love THC, but THC doesn’t seem to love me back these days. Maybe other low-dose cannabis connoisseurs can relate. My stress has been at an all-time high, but my go-to combos for mellowing out have been backfiring spectacularly.

While teetering on the edge of a cable-news-induced spiral a few months ago, I reached for my trusty old stress remedy — a 1:1, THC:CBD gummy and some mindless TV — only to rocket right off the edge and into paranoid oblivion. Negative thoughts multiplied faster than I could dissolve them, turning my night of rest and relaxation into a game of emotional whack-a-mole.

Humanity may be polarizing itself to the brink of extinction (kidding, kind of) but at least there’s one thing we can all agree on: 2020 has been a crap year.

And in the same way crappiness is the great unifier of 2020, I’d argue that THC brings the ever-evolving weed world together — albeit more positively. We can passionately debate indicas versus sativas versus rejecting labels altogether, but at the end of the day, stoners of all stripes can rally around THC.

That’s because THC is the “it” cannabinoid. It’s the reason most of us fell in love with weed in the first place. Even for me, a low-dose lifestyler who’s maintained a 5 milligram gummy tolerance for more than a decade, THC has been indispensable in my pursuit of the perfect high. It’s responsible for countless nature doc binges, insane nacho creations, and the note in my phone reminding me “poems are just shrimps.”

But thanks to 2020, I’ve had to scale my THC intake way back. My tolerance has sunken so low that the slightest whisper of THC can sometimes send my mind careening into dark places. As a result, I have fully committed to the non-alcoholic beer of weed, otherwise known as hemp-derived CBD.

Hemp, really?

I used to turn my nose up at hemp-derived drinks and THC-free joints like a high school senior dissing uninitiated freshmen — mostly because federal law mandates that hemp products contain no more than 0.3% THC. Without a significant pinch of THC and the entourage effect that comes with it, I could not understand how these strictly CBD products were supposed to make me feel anything other than sober.

But when anxiety strikes, that’s kind of the point. Everyone responds to stress differently, but for me, the last thing I want to do when my mind is already swirling is adding THC-fueled distraction that can quickly turn into confusion and a sense of helplessness. All I want is a sense of clear, calm groundedness. When dosed appropriately, high-quality hemp flower can help bring me back to earth and prevent an anxious episode from spinning out of control. There’s plenty of research to suggest I’m not the only one who’s experienced hemp’s calming effects.

Brb, currently putting on hemp lip balm to see if it calms me down. pic.twitter.com/6FCO4RUdaD

That said, not all hemp products are alike and not all consumption methods are perfect for every issue. For muscle aches and minor pains, I reach for weedy topicals; for bouts of anxiety, I like to smoke high-quality hemp flower.

I smoke out my anxiety for a few reasons:

  • The range of terpenes and minor cannabinoids in the flower makes for a more effective experience (aka the entourage effect I mentioned above).
  • Smoking allows me to feel the calming effects more quickly than I would with an edible.
  • Smoking also bypasses my digestive system and increases bioavailability, otherwise known as the amount of CBD my body is able to absorb.

When shopping for hemp flower, the first thing you’ll want to do is look for independent lab test results. This is the first indication that you’ve found high-quality flower, whether it’s hemp or otherwise. The second thing you’ll want to do is actually read those results. What’s the percentage of total cannabinoids? Any notable terpenes? Everyone experiences cannabis differently, but knowing these percentages and how your body responds to them can help you predict how each new batch of flower might make you feel.

The hemp flower getting me through 2020

When I claimed back in April that CBD pre-rolls were the future, I had no idea how true my own prediction would be. Five months ago (1,000 years in corona time), I argued CBD pre-rolls were worth considering and sharing with lightweight or weed-cautious friends. Now that my stress is manifesting into migraines, stomach pains, dizziness, and nausea, CBD pre-rolls are essential.

Lately, I’ve been relying heavily on Friend Leaf, an organic hemp flower and pre-roll brand. This brand goes above and beyond when it comes to lab testing by showcasing results on their website and via scannable QR codes right on the packaging. I was in terpene-nerd heaven looking up the stats on the joints I’d chosen — a three-pack of the cheekily named Trophy Wife strain — and finding high levels of myrcene. Myrcene is known for having sedative qualities and anecdotal evidence suggests high-myrcene strains are more likely to be relaxing. No wonder a few puffs helped me narrowly avoid a full-blown panic attack.

I love the reusable glass packaging they use for their pre-rolls and flower. Just be sure to store Friend Leaf products in a cool, dark place to prevent sunlight from penetrating the clear glass and degrading the flower inside. Because these are hemp products, you can shop all of their products online and have them shipped nationwide. Buy a pack of three pre-rolls for $26 or an eighth for $36.

When I’m feeling calm enough to handle a touch of THC, Alive and Kicking is still my go-to brand. Their high-CBD, cigarette-like joints are so small it’s nearly impossible to overdo it. Even if you do manage to overdo it, the barely-there “high” fades quickly and leaves a shimmery aura of calm in its wake. These are currently only available in California, but they also have hemp pre-rolls you can buy online for $29 a pack.

Keep in mind there will never be a one-size-fits-all cannabis product, and even when you find a product that works for you, there’s no guarantee it’ll work forever. A year ago, I relied on edibles and nature documentaries to relax. This year, I’m all about hemp pre-rolls and text-banking for my favorite local candidates.

As the king of stoner wisdom, Heraclitus liked to say, “The only constant is change.” That’s certainly true of my relationship with cannabis.

Featured graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps

We can all agree: 2020 has been a crap year. As a result, I have fully committed to smoking hemp-derived CBD. So I'm saying goodbye to THC (for now).

Cannabis: the facts – Healthy body

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Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:

  • you may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
  • some people get the giggles or become more talkative
  • hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common
  • colours may look more intense and music may sound better
  • time may feel like it’s slowing down

Cannabis can have other effects too:

  • if you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick
  • it can make you sleepy and lethargic
  • it can affect your memory
  • it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
  • it interferes with your ability to drive safely

If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.

Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.

Can you get addicted to cannabis?

Research shows that 10% of regular cannabis users become dependent on it. Your risk of getting addicted is higher if you start using it in your teens or use it every day.

As with other addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means you need more to get the same effect.

If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.

If you smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and risk getting tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.

Cannabis and mental health

Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).

Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:

  • you start using cannabis at a young age
  • you smoke stronger types, such as skunk
  • you smoke it regularly
  • you use it for a long time
  • you smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness

Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.

Other risks of cannabis

Cannabis can be harmful to your lungs

People who smoke cannabis regularly are more likely to have bronchitis (where the lining of your lungs gets irritated and inflamed).

Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s not clear whether this raises your risk of cancer.

If you mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it, you risk getting tobacco-related lung diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

You’re more likely to be injured in a road traffic accident

If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.

Cannabis may affect your fertility

Research in animals suggests that cannabis can interfere with sperm production in males and ovulation in females.

If you’re pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby

Research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect your baby’s brain development.

Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of your baby being born small or premature.

Cannabis increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke

If you smoke it regularly for a long time, cannabis raises your chances of developing these conditions.

Research suggests it’s the cannabis smoke that increases the risk, not the active ingredients in the plant itself.

Does my age affect my risks?

Your risk of harm from cannabis, including the risk of schizophrenia, is higher if you start using it regularly in your teens.

One reason for this is that, during the teenage years, your brain is still growing and forming its connections, and cannabis interferes with this process.

Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.

Trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.

We will not know whether these treatments are effective until the trials have finished.

Trying to give up?

If you need support with giving up cannabis:

  • see your GP
  • visit Frank’s Find support page
  • call Frank’s free drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600
  • see Drugs: where to get help

You’ll find more information about cannabis on the Frank website.

Page last reviewed: 31 October 2017
Next review due: 31 October 2020

How cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, pot) affects you, the risks and where to find help if you're trying to quit.