Put eight people in a smoking circle, and you’ll see eight different reactions. You’ll see people faking their reaction, others exaggerating, and some thrown for a loop. Somewhere among the eight are those who know what they’re doing and just enjoy.
There is something about smoking cannabis that triggers different effects. For this discussion, I am putting aside vaping, edibles, and other ways to consume cannabis.
# reasons people react differently:
1. No two systems are alike. It’s not enough to say, “No two of us are the same.” Among our differences is our individual Endocannabinoid Systems (ESC). The ESC spreads extensively through the human brain and body. The system’s makeup is engineered the same for everyone, but it is delivered and distributed differently among us all.
Genetics, disease, injury, and other factors can alter the design and function of the ECS from one person to another. With no universal pattern of neurotransmitter performance, we differ in millions of ways physically, psychologically, and cognitively.
Because the cannabinoids in marijuana map over to the ECS, that user’s unique ECS will respond uniquely.
2. Place plays an influence. The effect varies with setting, time, company, and occasion. In short, smoking alone will produce a different result than smoking with others. Smoking with alcohol or with other drugs will change the effect. Smoking on the beach at sunset with a significant other is chill while smoking your way through your studies can make things worse.
All cannabis has some THC content to influence psychoactivity. The impact may be very mild or strong. But, sights, sounds, tastes, and other physical and psychological factors can modulate that impact. Moods, music, location, and other environmental influences are already at work in the body’s biochemistry and the brain’s neurochemistry when cannabis is added to the mix.
3. Effects differ by strain. If everyone in your smoking circle used the same strain, their reactions would differ. But those who bring their own product may use something they know little about. They may not know the genetics or quality of the grass.
Detailed labeling on cannabis in legalized states provides some standard. Knowing what effects are expected from the strain provides no guarantee. However, knowing more narrows the likelihood of extreme reactions.
4. You must know your body. Cannabis affects thin people differently than overweight people. Effects differ with body type, age, gender, and more. They change as your age and body changes, and it differs from other biochemical influences from medications, illness, and infections.
These influences should encourage you to keep a journal of experiences because what you can handle at 20 could hurt you seriously at 65. Staying in good health, watching your nutrition, and exercising regularly may be too much to expect of a stoner. But your overall well-being should make the cannabis experience more predictive.
5. There’s always more to learn. Cannabis users will learn more about its effects on their individual situation. Over time, many of them think they know it all.
Cannabis advocates, university research results, and serious interests have loaded the internet with useful information. It is easy to identify the composition, impact, and side-effects of different cannabis strains. It is easy to find reviews of individual experiences with specific strains. And, it is easy to read up on signs of misuse and abuse.
6. Cannabis has a complex structure. Millions use it for major medical benefits. It has anti-anxiolytic benefits that modulate anxiety and depression. It reduces inflammation, seizures, and pain related to Chron’s Disease, fibromyalgia, arthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, neuropathic pain, and dozens of auto-immune disorders.
But certain strains affect certain people with extreme impact. For example, cannabis users who are predisposed to addictive behaviors may find themselves co-dependent on cannabis use. Individuals predisposed to panic attacks, paranoia, delusional thoughts, and/or schizophrenia risk dangerous results. Such concerns may prohibit these people from using. Or, they might opt for cannabis strains with alternative composition.
7. Men react differently than women. Studies have only recently started to examine cannabis’ effects on users differentiated by sex. Researchers have yet to consider if the difference reflects the difference in weight, body build, and musculature. Their respective ECS networks certainly differ in size, but the research has not investigated that either.
However, one study indicates men who have used higher THC content will experience more frequent and extreme psychic reactions than women. Men also show slower reaction time connected with altered activity in the caudate nucleus, striatum, and prefrontal cortex. Opting to use cannabis strains with a high or moderate presence of CBD can offset some of the THC mechanism.
8. Smoking alone is risky. If you have been smoking for some time, if you know the pros and cons of use, if you have tried different strains and settled on a few favorites, and if you know how to smoke properly, you shouldn’t have any problems smoking alone.
If you are new to cannabis, you should not smoke alone until you can with the confidence just mentioned. Because you are new to the exposure, your reaction may very well be negative. The first exposure to any stimulant or intoxicant will have adverse effects. Fearing they may be extreme, you should have an experienced smoker present to coach you on intake technique and handling effects.
How does it go?
There is no typical or classic response to marijuana use. You can expect some results. But your results are your own. Effects may fall within a range that others share. But you shouldn’t be surprised by something different in your experience once or how it differs next time.