Despite the growing acceptance and accessibility of cannabis in states where it’s been legalized, many outdated stigmas surrounding the plant remain. That means that even people who use cannabis for recreational or medical purposes might know more about its associations with party culture or old-school anti-marijuana films that depicted it as a societal menace (remember 1936’s Reefer Madness?) than how to properly consume it. So, let’s talk about how cannabis impacts the body and how to avoid overconsumption. Just like any other medication or supplement, though, please speak to your doctor before you begin using cannabis, as it can potentially interact with prescription medications.
How does cannabis impact the body when it is consumed?
When cannabis is ingested by smoking or vaping, it goes directly to the lungs and into the bloodstream, which signals the brain to release the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. This process creates the euphoric feelings or psychoactive “high” associated with THC. Any amount of THC in the system can potentially increase emotions, heighten senses, impaired judgment, trigger “the munchies,” or result in memory loss or hallucinations.
When cannabis is consumed in an edible, it takes longer to feel the effects because it must travel through the digestive system and be processed through the liver before being absorbed into the bloodstream. Cannabis can also be used sublingually as a tincture or transdermally as an oil-based topical cream or balm that is absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. (Note: Topicals without an oil or fat-based carrier, such as a water-based lotion, will not impact the bloodstream, and should not cause a high or positive drug test result).
How much should I consume?
The average cannabis dose is between 5mg-10mg. Regular users may have a much higher tolerance and require a larger dose to get their desired effect. This is because the CB1 receptors found in the body are oversaturated and no longer produce the same response as someone who does not regularly consume cannabis.
Whether you are an experienced user or just trying it out, you may find that your reaction changes based on your metabolism, and what you have eaten that day. For example, fatty foods cause THC to be absorbed more quickly. Your dispensary agent, or budrista, can help you select the right dose for your needs and experience level.
What happens to the body when cannabis is over consumed?
Smoking too much cannabis or overindulging on edibles can lead to a rather unpleasant experience, but there have been no reported fatalities due to overconsuming cannabis alone. A combination of time, proper hydration, and a calm environment may help alleviate unwanted feelings. However, in rare cases a person might have a “white out” or “green out” episode, where they may experience heightened paranoia, panic attacks, sweating, dizziness, nausea—or in extreme cases—fainting. Talk to your dispensary agent for information on how to come down safely if you accidentally get too high.
How can I avoid accidentally consuming too much cannabis?
- Double check your dose – Always check the recommended dosage and adjust according to your tolerance.
- “Start low and go slow” – Incremental dosing can greatly impact one’s experience with cannabis products, and it is especially important when it comes to using cannabis for medicinal purposes. Making it a practice to start with small amounts of cannabis and wait for a specific amount of time to see how it affects you before consuming more can help you avoid overconsuming while learning which dosing regimen works best for you.
- Take THC tolerance consumption breaks – Abstaining from cannabis use for an extended period of time can help reset your CB1 and CB2 receptors, which bind to THC and allows it to have an effect on your mind and body.
Remember that while medical and recreational cannabis use has been legalized in Illinois, cannabis remains illegal on a federal level. It is also illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. Consume responsibly and enjoy.