Why Do We Get High When We Consume Cannabis?

Sep 10, 2020

Why Do We Get High When We Consume Cannabis?

Anyone familiar with cannabis’s effects knows that it produces a calming “high” achieved through recreational smoking, vaping, or eating cannabis edibles. But why does this happen? 

In this article, we cover everything there is to know about getting high from cannabis including what causes it, how it feels, the common factors that can influence your cannabis experience, and what to do when you feel too intoxicated. 

Let's get started!

Understanding THC & Terpenes 

Different strains of cannabis plants produce about 113 unique, active chemical compounds, more commonly known as cannabinoids. The most popular ones are the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

According to Thorsten Rudroff, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Iowa who has studied cannabis for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, THC is a psychoactive compound responsible for getting you high. The more THC content in a CBD strain, the more “high” you get.

On the other hand, recent studies suggest that terpenes have a synergistic relationship with THC, influencing its effects and its benefits in managing pain, anxiety, and appetite disorders. Terpenes are the organic, aromatic compounds present in cannabis plants that give off its signature odour. However, more in-depth research is needed to further look into their definitive properties.

How Your Body Is Affected by Consuming Cannabis 

Generally, ingesting cannabis, whether in sprays, cannabutter, lozenges, capsules, or cannabis oils, leads to a different kind of high than smoking. This is because the THC entering your system is processed in the digestive tract before being released into the bloodstream, therefore the effects are delayed and become less intense than smoking cannabis. 

When it comes to smoking, the cannabinoids you’re consuming goes into your lungs and immediately enters your system. 

Other crucial factors that can affect how your body reacts and responds to cannabis include:

  • The dose, strain, and potency of the cannabis flower
  • Your preferred method of cannabis consumption (smoking, vaping, or eating)
  • Your tolerance and sensitivity to cannabis (i.e. how often you use marijuana)
  • Bodyweight and metabolism
  • Whether you drink alcohol or take other drugs at the same time
  • If you've eaten before ingesting (an empty stomach can let the THC kick in faster)

 Edible cannabis cookies

How Long Does It take to Get High from Cannabis? 

How long it takes to get high and how long it lasts depends on how fast THC enters your system, which is based on your chosen method of cannabis consumption, among other factors. On average, it can be broken down as follows:

  • Smoking: Smoking dried cannabis flowers using a hand pipe, water pipes, or rolling paper. You can get high within seconds of inhalation of the smoke, with the effects peaking within 30 minutes and lasting between one to three hours. 
  • Vaping: Vaping is a smoke-free method where you inhale vapours from heated cannabis oil. Onset is within seconds, peaks after 30 minutes, and diminishes after a couple of hours.
  • Edibles: Eating cannabis-infused recipes, cookies, candies, and drinks can get you high in 30 to 90 minutes, with results lasting anywhere from four to 24 hours if THC doses are significantly high.

Tinctures: The full effects of cannabis tinctures become evident anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes. Since they are ingested sublingually and go straight into the bloodstream, the onset is faster than edibles.

How Does It Feel to Get High From Cannabis? 

Everyone's cannabis experience is different. What might be a pleasurable, mellow buzz for one person may be an overdrive of anxiety to another. In most cases, people using cannabis recreationally are after the "ideal high," which produces a wide array of sensations and emotions, such as:

  • Relaxation
  • Happiness and laughter
  • Increased hunger
  • Creativeness 
  • Amusement 
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Lack of sense of time
  • Heightened senses or increased sensitivity to light, colour, touch, taste, and smell
  • Optic or tactile illusions

Can Different Cannabis Strains Cause Different Highs?

Cannabis strains refer to the various genetic blends of cannabis plants, which promise different physical effects. Three of the most popular strains are Indica, Sativa, and hybrids. Many cannabis users associate Sativa to a creative and wakeful kind of high, while Indica strains are linked to a soothing one that's great for addressing insomnia or alleviating pain.

The conventional belief in the cannabis world is that different strains will produce different experiences. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to back this up, and a growing number of researchers are starting to challenge this notion. 

"One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given cannabis plant-based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology," Dr. Ethan Russo, a scientific expert on the human endocannabinoid system, explains in a 2016 interview. "The differences in observed effects of cannabis are then due to their terpenoid content," he said.

 Rolling dried cannabis flowers in paper

The Downside of Getting Too High 

A fatal overdose from cannabis is very unlikely, but there are anecdotal accounts of people getting too high and not liking it at all. You can experience panic, paranoia, anxiety, delusions, and psychosis, which can be scary and extremely overwhelming, especially for first-time users, and which may lead to accidents if one is not careful or in the presence of good company. 

Physical side effects are also possible, such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, vomiting, and nausea.

Here are a few tips to avoid getting too high, too fast:

1. Start in Low Doses 

If you're new to cannabis, we highly recommend that you ask your local dispensary for the lowest THC dose possible to get you started. A safe range would be two to three milligrams in edibles. Some people may be too sensitive to THC and wouldn't handle anything beyond this dose, but speak to your local dispensary to be certain.

2. Take Things Slowly 

Overconsumption is at the highest risk when ingesting edibles because of their delayed onset. Wait for at least an hour before taking your next bite to see the product's maximum effect.

3. Stay Put & Remain Calm 

Mentally prepare yourself that everything you're feeling is temporary and will soon pass if you ever get too high. Stay or move to a place where you feel comfortable and safe. Do not get behind the wheel under any circumstances.

Have More Questions About Cannabis?

Whether you need cannabis for pleasure or pain management, Smokey's has got you covered. To know more about how to get the best cannabis experience, shoot us a message, and we'll get back to you shortly to help you find the right product for your needs.

Contact us today!