Many first-time cannabis users are overwhelmed by the number of strains and types of cannabis products there are to choose from in most dispensaries or through online services. In this article we’ll provide some guidance on where to get started with cannabis, to help you consider the key aspects of the experience.
To find your starting point with cannabis, here are four key areas of choice to consider:
- Purpose: Why are you using cannabis?
- Mode of Use: There are many ways to consume cannabis. What are you comfortable trying? Eating cannabis, using topicals or vaporizing, for example.
- Dosage: How much do you need to achieve your desired outcome? How do you repeat that experience?
- Feelings of “Getting High”: Are you OK with some experience of being “high”, or would you prefer to avoid it?
When it comes to considering purpose, there are many reasons why people choose to use cannabis, and for many users there is more than one reason they consume cannabis. The reasons why you are seeking to use cannabis can affect what type of cannabis you select in terms of active ingredient content as well as how much you consume. The two main active ingredients in cannabis, THC and CBD can be found in many different types of products. In general, cannabis can be divided into 3 main types: THC-dominant, CBD-dominant and Balanced (equal amounts of THC and CBD). THC and CBD have different therapeutic properties, depending on your ailment or purpose for using cannabis one may be more effective or preferred.
THC. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, can be the main active ingredient in cannabis or in a cannabis product. THC exists in 2 forms THC and THC(A). THC(A) is the form THC takes in the growing plant and in un-heated cannabis material. THC(A) is non-psychoactive. This is in contrast to THC, converted from THC(A) when cannabis is heated, which generally produces feelings of intoxication and is often associated with effects like “getting high”, “the munchies”, short-term memory loss and euphoria. THC has therapeutic uses associated with pain, nausea, appetite stimulation and insomnia to name some of the more studied effects. Additional therapeutic uses include GI disorders such as Chron’s Disease and IBS as well as PTSD and depression.
CBD. CBD, or cannabidiol, may also be the main active ingredient in cannabis or cannabis products. Many people considering cannabis use as a compliment or alternative to their current therapeutic or wellness regimen are attracted to CBD as it offers the benefits of cannabis without the concern of feelings of intoxication that are associated with THC. In some cases, the therapeutic effects of CBD and THC overlap, and in other ways they are distinct from one another. CBD can also be effective against inflammation and pain, although CBD has excited some researchers due to its exceptional anti-spasticity properties reducing tremors and convulsions, and the associated pain, for many patients. CBD has also been identified in preliminary research as providing relief for those suffering from Anxiety, Chronic Pain, Neuropathy, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS and Fibromyalgia. Focusing in on the ailment or condition you’re trying to achieve a shift in can help orient your choices more towards THC or CBD.
There are many ways to consume cannabis. Today’s cannabis has moved far beyond the joint smoking of the 60’s and 70’s. Today’s cannabis user can choose from a variety of ways to consume cannabis including vaporizers and topical creams to gummy bears and lozenges. Inhalation now includes the option to vaporize, this is the inhalation of gently heated cannabis vapor that is not burned or charred and imparts the benefits of cannabis without the same negative impacts of smoking. It is important to always purchase any vaporizing device or material intended to be vaporized from a licensed and tested company to ensure the product is free of contamination.
The consideration over inhaling as compared to ingesting cannabis isn’t just a matter of personal preference, it actually has a significant impact on the overall experience you have in terms of effects and benefits. Cannabis and cannabis products that are THC-dominant is where the consumer experiences the greatest differences in experience based on whether that cannabis it is inhaled or ingested. There are a few different forms of THC, we talked about THC and THC(A) earlier. THC as it exists in the plant, or when heated gently, is largely delta-9-THC(A) or delta-9-THC, respectively. Delta-9-THC effects are a significant portion of the experience a consumer has when smoking or vaporizing. When ingesting cannabis or cannabis food products this delta-9-THC is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC which is 5-10 times more psychoactive than the delta-9-THC experienced when inhaling cannabis vapor. This is the reason why it is so easy for people to overdo it when ingesting cannabis. In addition to the overall effects, the experience is also different in terms of effects and benefits. Anecdotally, it is not uncommon for users to prefer one versus another based on total experience.
The duration of inhaling versus ingesting should also be considered in one’s choice.
A small amount of orally consumed cannabis really goes a long way. I think this experiential difference between inhalation and ingestion is a surprise to many newcomers to cannabis who often regard eating cannabis confections as the most innocuous entry point for trying cannabis for the first time. While orally ingested cannabis also offers advantages, such as longer duration and a non-obvious association with cannabis, it is important for users to start with a low dose between 3-5 mg if consuming THC cannabis orally for the first time. If you don’t have the outcome you’re looking for, start over with a slightly increased dose on a different day. Tracking dosage and relating it to the experience and amount of THC and CBD consumed, can aide the consumer in having a repeatable and more predictable experience when they use cannabis. With the new laws in many states in the U.S. there is greater availability of dose-controlled products for both inhalation
FEELINGS OF GETTING HIGH
Its good to check in with yourself when you’re considering using cannabis for the first time on whether or not you want to experience feelings of getting “high”. This is another area of choice that can help you discern the cannabis options that are right for you. For THC-dominant cannabis, more cannabis or THC consumed will result in more intense effects. If you prefer little to no experience of “feeling high” look for CBD-dominant cannabis and cannabis products or those with a balanced ratio of THC and CBD. Be sure to check labels and make sure you are informed of the THC and CBD content, as well as what is considered a “serving”, for everything you try. For beginning cannabis consumers who are looking to try THC-focused cannabis or products, it can be a great idea to have some CBD on hand if you start to feel like you’ve overdone it on THC. CBD can help reverse the feeling of being “high” from having consumed too much THC for your liking. I recommend a CBD-vaporizer that will have a more immediate effect than something taken orally in which case it can take up to an hour until the effects are felt. If you’re having a bad experience with too much THC, a fast-acting CBD vaporizer can be a great rescue.
Cannabis use as a compliment or replacement in our wellness and health regimens comes with endless options and the need to make a choice about what direction you like to head in your cannabis journey. Hopefully, with a focus on your Purpose, identifying the Mode of Use your comfortable with, considering the Dose that’s best for you and assessing your Tolerance or Desire for Feeling High will hopefully assist in narrowing down your options for the first steps on your cannabis journey.
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