You’ve just brought home doctor-prescribed cannabis. You have no prior experience with cannabis, and you probably have a lot of questions which you’ve forgotten to ask your doctor. And you also have some qualms which are connected to certain deep-rooted biases about the herb and its effects.
There are a number of prejudices which surround cannabis – nevertheless, compared to alcohol and many drugs, cannabis is generally well tolerated, and even when taking extremely large amounts, there has never been a single known fatal case.
A higher amount of CBD balances and decreases the effects of THC.
And as opposed to the majority of medications, it does not harm the liver, kidneys nor digestive system, even after long-term use.
Directions for first use
Together with the dried flower buds, you have received an information sheet from your doctor containing information on possible side effects and directions on how to take cannabis. Most such information, however, is written somewhat drily and sometimes even too scientifically. So let’s go through what you need to know, step by step.
When you decide to take your herbal medicine for the first time, make sure you give yourself enough time and privacy. Don’t plan any other activities for the period when the cannabis will have its effects (it might take six or more hours depending on the amount and method of intake).
It doesn’t matter whether you decide to take it at night or during the day. Most patients however take cannabis a little while before getting ready for bed, for it usually induces and supports a good night’s sleep.
In conjunction with your personality or level of apprehension, choose whether you would like to be at home or if you’d like to first experience cannabis while out for a walk. If you have an introverted nature and being alone for you is akin to a safety net, then take measures to ensure that nobody will surprise or interrupt you when taking it. (You might want to set your telephone to “silent”.)
Have a good meal before use, and if you are planning to relax, don’t drink so much that you’ll have to keep running to the toilet. And never mix cannabis with alcohol!
Contraindications with other medicines you might be taking are quite individual – depending not only on the kind of medicine and its effects, but also on the ability of your body to process all the effects simultaneously. If at all possible, do not take cannabis at the same time as other medicines, or at least not during first use.
The effects could mutually influence each other and/or could be distorted. If for example you would like to use cannabis to reduce pain, try not to take other medicines you may be using for that in order to test the analgesic effect of cannabis itself.
Cannabis can also increase the effects of other medicines by its influence. This is especially true of sedatives, antidepressants and the analgesics mentioned above. From research and patient testimonies, cannabis can also have an effect on reducing blood pressure and blood sugar levels. If you are taking any medicines for these, or if you know that you have a tendency to feel faint when your blood pressure goes down, it is necessary to take that fact into consideration. Your doctor should ideally be informed of all the meds you are using or planning to use when you have decided to try cannabis.
The best way to control the onset of effects from your cannabis is via inhalation. The ideal, safest way would be to use a vaporizer rather than smoking a joint or using a pipe.
However if you haven’t decided to purchase a vaporizer (their price can go to hundreds of euros/dollars) until you are sure you would be using one regularly, there’s nothing left to do but inhale it by smoking – but in a way which allows you to do it slowly, and controlling the dosage. Be aware that the fumes created by smoking are not healthy for the body, so this method is only suitable when kept to a minimum.
The psychoactive components of cannabis change our way of thinking about ourselves and the world around us.
Whether you choose smoking or vaporizing, during first use it is best to inhale only once or twice while holding the vapor or smoke in your lungs for a short time before exhaling. The effects will come within just a few seconds or minutes, with the height of the effect after about 15 minutes. In case the effect is not enough, you can inhale once or twice again, and wait another 15 to 20 minutes. This kind of gradual dosage of cannabis is the safest. Use this method for the first few days you are taking cannabis.
The effects may differ in conjunction with one’s metabolism and many other factors. Caution and prudence are the ticket – learn how to control the dosage so that the induced state is maximally comfortable while at the same time helping you with your health problems.
What can I or should I expect?
After use, move to a place which you have chosen and prepared in advance. Relax, breathe calmly, and if it suits you, listen to your favorite music and rest. Feel the effects cannabis is generating in your body. Enjoy the pleasant feeling of release. You can support the therapeutic effect on problematic places in your body mentally, trying to relax them consciously.
The physical aspect is above all muscle relaxation, during which tension is released, causing pain to subside. Cannabis provides fast relief for trembling and cramps brought on by certain medical conditions. It also provides quick relief from nausea and other digestive problems.
Among the first feelings you can expect are a sense of release, a pleasant feeling of drowsiness and a lightness in the body. This state is quite agreeable and relaxing. In case you need to move from place to place in your home, be aware that you may experience some instability when walking, your relaxed muscles may give way to staggering, and you might even have trouble navigating through a place you know well.
So move slowly and carefully, light your path, do not hurry. Until you get used to movement under the influence, which can be unusual especially for patients suffering from stiffness and pain of the motor system, there is a higher risk of falling down.
Dry mouth and the munchies
A very common side effect of consuming cannabis, especially when inhaling, is dry mouth. Therefore, you should always have a non-alcoholic drink of your choice close at hand. Another common side effect is the appetite which comes on during or at the end of using the substances in cannabis.
If you don’t want to stuff yourself to the bursting point when you get what people call “the munchies”, then prepare some food beforehand, obviously in small portions and greater variety. One’s taste buds become very receptive when using cannabis.
Many patients who suffer from loss of appetite or nausea due to their health problems or the side effects of conventional treatments will find they are able to get rid of their digestive problems thanks to this herb and regain their former appetite.
Cannabis is usually extremely well tolerated when following these rules and recommendations, and the appearance of side effects which are perceived as unpleasant are not common when used long-term. If, however, you are just starting your cannabis therapy and you begin to have unpleasant feelings or physical or mental states, don’t panic.
The safest way to take cannabis is in gradual dosages.
The change in consciousness brought on by the psychoactive cannabinoid THC can take on a number of forms and various phases, usually only lasting a few minutes, even though it might seem like all eternity. To relieve such feelings, it helps to open one’s eyes and concentrate on exterior objects, such as listening to relaxing music, or having something sweet to eat. If you feel uncomfortable, change your position and go for a walk.
A change of position or activity shifts your attention elsewhere and the uncomfortable feelings will not be so intense or will even disappear as fast they occurred. In time, you will find your own method which will help you at those times when you begin to feel uncomfortable. To repeat, don’t panic.
I think, therefore I am
Patients who want to try cannabis for the first time mostly fear changes in their mental state. Among the pleasant psychoactive effects are a good mood, fits of laughter, a feeling of release sometimes to the point of euphoria, and an increased sharpness of all the senses. All experiences are more intense.
The psychoactive components of cannabis, primarily the above-mentioned THC, have the effect that they change our way of thinking about ourselves and the world around us. The mind can start firing on all cylinders to such an extent that your head will be filled with hundreds of ideas and thoughts which are new, wonderful and transformational.
And some of them really might be so –increased creativity has been confirmed by a number of world-famous artists and scientists. These pleasing states can also be used in therapy. You might try art therapy, music therapy, various meditation techniques (breathing exercises, yoga) or ordinary muscle exercises.
After the relief which cannabis brings, and with the increased sensitivity of the body, experiences from physical activities and creative work are more intense. In time, you will learn what will be pleasing for you and also what will help you in terms of therapy.
When talking about the fear of uncomfortable psychoactive effects, it is important that everyone who is considering cannabis therapy responsibly consider whether he/she is ready for it psychologically and whether he/she does not have a tendency toward depression or suffer from any psychological disorders. In such cases, starting with cannabis is definitely not recommended, unless your doctor approves.
If you are aware that mental states caused by commonly used medicines or drugs are not good for you psychologically, before using cannabis you ought to assess your previous experiences with altered states of consciousness. People who react negatively to changes in perception and distortion of known reality and have panic reactions should think twice about cannabis therapy, and as regards first use, they should prepare themselves well and begin with what are called microdoses.
The way out
Among the most common negative psychologic effects of using cannabis are feelings of anxiety and panic; paranoid scenes may unfold in one’s mind, evoking a feeling of being trapped or threatened. “Why is everybody staring at me? They can tell that I am under the influence! Are they going to call the police and put me in jail? Are they talking about me, about doing something to me?”
If you find yourself sucked into the maelstrom of similar questions, don’t panic. Try to gradually focus your attention elsewhere – go for a nice walk, take a shower, eat, drink. Switch the television news off and go for Tibetan meditation music or turn everything off and try to take in the calming silence.
Just a one small change can free your mind from unpleasant thoughts and feelings. The altered state usually lasts from minutes to hours, depending on how quickly your body processes and breaks down the compounds contained in cannabis.
Negative effects are a sign and result of having taken a dosage with too much THC. A better option for patients are CBD-rich strains which in recent years are as readily available as the classic THC-rich strains. When using CBD strains, thanks to the ratio of the main active substances, the changes in consciousness are not so marked. A higher amount of cannabidiol (CBD) balances and decreases the effects of THC. At the same time, strains with a higher CBD content tend not to have such a high concentration of THC as the “classic” varieties which one finds on the black market.
Hallucinations and delusions
Perhaps your qualms about the influence of cannabis on one’s state of mind come from the oft-quoted study in which it was stated that cannabis can induce several serious psychological disorders – including schizophrenia. Since that study, however, it has been proven that such disturbances occur only in individuals who are genetically predisposed to such disorders.
Enjoy the pleasant feeling of release.
If on the other hand you know stories of people who have experienced panic attacks, hallucinations and delusions after using cannabis, it’s very likely that it was because they used cannabis with a very high concentration of psychoactive THC, which can be disturbing psychologically for novices.
When following basic advice and principles – and ideally, after consulting your doctor – there is no reason to fear such overreactions, especially if you stick to the rule of using small doses. If, however, you do experience significant changes in your mental state which remain after the effects of cannabis wear off, then inform your doctor as soon as possible.
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