It’s strange, really, when you start to think about it: why aren’t all of our highs equally high? Or, to be more precise, how come it feels different each time we smoke a joint, eat a spacetry (space cake), or vape away?
As it turns out, there are many variables that determine your high. They can be divided along a simple line: there’s factors in the outside world, and there’s factors affecting your experience, i.e., working inside your head. Taken together, these external and internal factors are like boxes you can tick on a checklist describing your current high. Let’s take a short tour of some of the main forces at play here, because there are probably other aspects that we don’t know about (yet). We’ll start out with the external influences and work our way to the internal, psychological ones.
Now, this one may seem a bit obvious, but dosing is a big influence on your high nonetheless – if it’s not the most important one in the first place. Dosing is crucial in the effect of your high: take too much, and you may find yourself hovering over a toilet, sweating like a dog. Take too little, and you could regret spending all evening waiting for any sort of buzz to kick in at all. Try to establish your own preferred dosage, and then stick to that. Dosing is hardest when it comes to edibles, because you usually can’t control the amount of cannabis used to produce them. It also takes longer for the active ingredients to enter your bloodstream, possibly tempting you to take another slice or bite before the actual dosing starts to work. That brings us to the next important external factor: the method of delivery.
The way you use your cannabis can affect your high in several ways, even if you don’t consider dosing. A joint will hit you with its effect sooner than a weed brownie does, for instance. Also, dabbing with hefty cannabis oil can get you stoned in a single hit, while it could take you much longer to reach the same effect smoking mild joints. Also, the effect of cannabis in edibles will last a lot longer than any smoking high, because your stomach deals with THC differently than your lungs do. Ever looked at that vape and wondered how long you’ve been toking on it? We know we have… It’s easier to assess how much you’ve taken in when you have a joint that’s half finished and then gone out. As you can see, the method of delivering cannabis to your bloodstream can make a real difference in how high you get, too.
On a biochemical level, the content of your chosen cannabis strain will make a huge difference to your smoking or vaping or munching experience. The jury is still out on the verdict, because research into terpenes is still in its infancy, but there are promising clues that suggest terpenes may have effects on the quality of your high. Terpenes are thought to have many subtle effects on mood and body physiology, and they’re all over any cannabis strain you use. Terpene profiles vary greatly, because there are over 150 different terpenes that can be found in any cannabis strain. Some may enhance your concentration, others may suppress pain or anxiety, and others can enhance the intensity of your smoking experience, so researchers suspect. Tracking terpene profiles of your favourite strains and checking for the desired effect could be a good way of regulating your perfect high, it seems.
The last of the external factors we’ll discuss here is cannabinoids. These are the openly active compounds found in cannabis, including THC, CBD, and CBDa, for instance. These natural substances are found in varying concentrations in each individual strain, and in individual batches too. Is your weed fresh from the plant, or has it dried out completely? Was the packaging airtight, or was it just lying around? These are all factors that affect how high you get on a given quantity of cannabis, and they all add up with the ones mentioned above. Some cannabinoid profiles result in a heavy body buzz high, while others are more head-oriented; some will improve your mental focus, while others leave you staring blankly at wallpaper for hours. Cannabinoids are also thought to interact with the terpenes mentioned in the previous section, further complicating the quest for the perfect high. Even so, much of the effect may have nothing to do with the strains you prefer: a lot of the experience is coloured by what goes on inside your head, as we will see below.
The environment in which you use cannabis makes a big difference. Now, you could point out that the environment is not exactly inside your head, and you’d be right, or half right, at least. As any philosophy freshman will tell you, the way you interpret the world around you makes all the difference in your personal experience of it. This is even more true when you’re high, because cannabis changes certain aspects of your perception, making them more intense or dampening them instead. If you’re in a quiet, comfortable place, weed will make you feel different than the same cannabis will in a crowded club, for instance. Lighting conditions also matter, as do ambient factors such as music, loud noises, crowd atmosphere, and the smells in the room – which are largely caused by terpenes, incidentally. It also matters whether you’re alone or surrounded by people. Moreover, you’ll feel different when you’re with friends that you trust, or strangers that may spark your subconscious anxieties and paranoid suspicions. Watching a hilarious stoner movie will give you a high that’s different from the one you get listening to classical music with your eyes closed. If you give yourself a minute, you can probably imagine dozens of these environmental factors that positively or negatively influence your own preferred highs.
There’s a whole range of personal factors, both mental and physical, that can affect the way you experience your high. Smoking a fat joint on an empty stomach will probably get you more stoned than waiting until after you’ve had a decent meal to eat. When you’re tired, or under the weather for instance, your cannabis experience will change too. If you’re an experienced smoker, you’ll be more relaxed than someone trying cannabis for the first time, which will add to the anxiety and thrill of the high you go through. Having a predisposition for psychosis or being clinically depressed will also affect the way your high feels. Stressed out because of those upcoming exams? You can bet that will determine how you experience your next smoke. The list goes on, and everyone has their own personal factors to add to the mix, but it’s definitely worthwhile to reflect on the effects of your own moods, thoughts, and physiological states on your cannabis experience.
Finally, your personal level of tolerance to THC and other active cannabis components matters a great deal. Some people can smoke all they like without ever taking too much, while others tend to pass out after taking two tiny puffs. All of the above factors weigh in on these personal differences, but tolerance or susceptibility to weed just differs from one person to the next. In addition, your own tolerance will grow if you smoke more often, so regular stoners will tend to be more tolerant than occasional users. That is why some people go on ‘tolerance breaks’: not using cannabis for a while will cause your tolerance to drop, making that first joint after your break much more intense than the last one before it. As discussed in a previous article, some people are even allergic to weed, so their tolerance could be said to amount to zero.
So there you have it. There’s a whole range of factors at play that affect how your next high will turn out. As we’ve seen, there are internal and external factors: some are within your power to control, while others are not. Whether within your personal sphere of influence or not, though, knowing about the factors that influence your cannabis experiences gives you the power to control them whenever possible. Try to keep track of specific factors that improve your highs, as well as remembering what spoils the experience for you. We know: it’s tricky remembering that stuff once you’re sober again, so maybe you should take a little notebook with you to write down the pros and cons. It’s definitely worth giving a try, though, because getting high in your own preferred manner is a very rewarding experience, and there’s always room for improvement left… Happy smoking, vaping, dabbing, or munching all!