So You Want to Start Smoking Weed
Kids, put this down. Your brains don't finish developing until you're 24, and while statistically you're probably going to start getting high long before then, science suggests you're way better off not doing so. If you learn to handle negative emotions and stress without getting high, drunk or eating sheetcake, you'll have a running start at a fantastic life.
This column is for an entirely different generation: Folks who haven't smoked weed since it was still called a doobie, or have been practicing an abundance of caution as they waited for it to finally, finally become legal to use recreationally. (Heads up to civil service employees and others, if your job requires a drug test, it probably doesn't matter whether the herb is legal or not. Sorry.)
First, the good news. If you're concerned for the sanctity of your lungs, there are lots of ways to get high today that don't require you to inhale a big whiff of burning flowers. There are vaporizers, which heat and vaporize cannabis without burning it, various forms of hash oil that can be inhaled using discreet "dab pens," and a sophisticated array of edibles. Study up on the difference between cannabinols and tetrahydrocannabinols. Many products contain medicinal CBD, but they're not meant to get you high.
Now, the bad news (depending on how you look at it). A 2015 study out of Colorado indicates that modern cannabis has anywhere from twice to three times the amount of THC than the dope you smoked in high school. Edibles are much more rigorously labeled than they used to be, so read dosage instructions carefully. Give it time: Edibles take much longer to reach your nervous system than smoking. If you do choose to inhale, pick a safe environment and pace yourself. Due to the super stony nature of modern pot and modern methods, a little dab will do ya.
So You Want to Stop Smoking Weed
Let's get this out of the way: It's not unusual to be addicted to marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates around 30 percent of habitual users will form some sort of dependency disorder. We can quibble about NIDA's research, the difference between habituation, dependency, addiction, psychological and physical addiction in a later column. For now — whether you think you have a problem with the stuff or you just need to kick it before your next job interview — let's get down to brass tacks.
If you're a heavy smoker, aka every day, there's a good chance you're going to be grumpy as hell for a few days when you quit. Your daily rituals are going to feel a little off and if you've been using it to address stress or other emotional issues (see previous intro) expect all of those emotions to come rolling in full force. Joy! Get some allies together before you quit, people who will support healthy decisions, keep you fed and put up with your grumpy ass. Lots of easy hikes and other mindless, undemanding physical activity are recommended, as is lots of sleep.
The rule of thumb for quitting any psychoactive substance is that whatever that substance did to or for your body will happen in reverse. This is why folks kicking heroin have runny noses, caffeine addicts can get killer migraines, and meth abusers will sleep for days on end. Some of the weirder side effects when you stop smoking weed include loss of appetite, nonstop salivation, sleep disturbances and the return of dreams. Early on, those dreams might be lucid and crazy. Hang in there. Complete withdrawal can take up to three months, although you should start feeling better long before then. Enjoy your improved attention span, healthier lungs and diminished appreciation of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.