By Wes Annac, Editor, Canna Words
Written for Canna Words, a blog I’m currently working on as a side project. The blog will feature research and opinions on the cannabis plant, with topics that will range from hemp to the law and, as this article covers, the benefits and downsides of the plant’s use.
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Cannabis affects people in a variety of ways.
For some, it induces relaxation while helping manage physical or psychological pain. For others, it makes them feel uneasy or in extreme cases, intensely paranoid. Some will freak out if they get high, whereas others rely on the drug’s therapeutic properties to reduce anxiety.
People have consumed cannabis for thousands of years in much the same way we do now, but back then, there was often a religious or ceremonial element involved. Religious cannabis enthusiasts exist today, but the extent of its spiritual use is much smaller than in the past.
Today, many consumers are not trying to get in touch with a higher power but treat pain or unwind. The drug seems to make whatever they do more enjoyable, as it puts them in a happy, relaxed state far away from the stress of daily life.
As with anything, cannabis is not a black and white issue. There are benefits and downsides to its use that we should consider. Some of them are obvious, but there is one that young people or anybody who used the drug consistently in their youth should know.
This list will not cover the plant’s medicinal uses. Instead, we’ll look at it how it can help or hurt recreational users.
Benefit #1: It can induce a euphoric meditative state
Cannabis slows down the mind. In a busy world like ours, most of us don’t realize that this is exactly what we need. By slowing a person’s thoughts, cannabis creates a safe, comfortable space in their mind that allows them to let down their guard and enjoy the ride. It may even lead them to discover meditation.
Some people liken their first experience with cannabis to an awakening – a realization that such an incredible feeling exists. This could be why so many ancient cultures used it religiously, but for most first-time users, it’s less enlightening and more mind-opening.
They’re glad they found this magical plant and want to feel its euphoria as much as possible. Because of the ways the cannabis-induced meditative state helps them, many recreational users believe they are medicating in a personal and even spiritual sense.
As we’ll learn below, however, it doesn’t calm everyone.
Downside #1: It can induce paranoia, anxiety, or troubling thoughts
There is evidence to suggest that cannabis helps curb anxiety on a short-term basis in some consumers. For others, the opposite occurs. Cannabis-induced anxiety or paranoia can manifest in several ways; it commonly appears as a fearful feeling about your health and mortality, or paranoia about being caught.
Young, healthy people may be more likely to worry about the latter, whereas someone who’s sensitive or has a medical condition might worry that something has gone wrong with their body.
In the case of getting too high by smoking or vaporizing too strong of a strain or taking too many edibles, one could experience a high level of anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and the feeling that they’re having trouble breathing.
New or inexperienced users should start small with cannabis in any form and work their way up. This is especially true for edibles, which take longer to kick in (up to 3+ hours) and produce a far stronger high than smoking or vaporizing.
Since they take so long to work, edibles can give the impression that nothing is happening, prompting a person to eat more. When they do kick in, they hit hard. With edibles or anything related to cannabis, it pays to be mindful of your consumption. You can always do more, but you can never go back and do less.
Some users, no matter how low their dose or how hard they try to calm themselves when they’re high, just don’t respond well to weed. If it causes anxiety and troubling thoughts more often than euphoria, it might not be the best for you.
Most experienced users go through some form of paranoia, but usually, it’s not overwhelming enough to make a difference to them. They see it as a simple side effect that they, but not everyone, can manage.
Benefit #2: It can open the mind to insight and interesting ideas
The way cannabis slows down the mind can lead to insight and some interesting or at least entertaining ideas.
We all know the stereotype of the rambling stoner going on about abstract concepts that are half-baked or make hardly any sense. This stereotype dismisses the profound way in which cannabis can make you think deeply about pretty much everything.
I’m not implying that everything your ranting stoner friend says is correct. But we should appreciate the deep thought and willingness to question established norms that cannabis induces. There’s far too much intellectual blindness keeping people from exploring their mind’s potential as it is.
For better or worse, cannabis will make you think. A lot.
You can explore its meditative potential or let it take you down a rabbit hole of thought that will make you realize how little you know in the grand scheme of things. Rather than make you dumb and passive, it can make you hunger for fascinating information and new perspectives.
Anyone who’s ever gotten high and watched a nature or space documentary will know just what I mean.
Downside #2: It can cause dissociation
Particularly in people with PTSD or high levels of anxiety, cannabis can induce dissociative feelings. This is a feeling of detachment from life or the feeling that reality isn’t real – and not purely in a philosophical sense. Some consider it a mere side effect, but others find it too intense.
If you’ve ever talked to someone who’s high and they seem to not be fully present in the conversation, they might be mildly detached from reality. Although this isn’t a big deal and could be chalked up to a side effect, it’s worse for some than for others.
There’s not a lot I can say about this from a personal perspective because I’ve never experienced it, but you can learn more about it at this forum where sufferers of PTSD discuss it. You can also learn more at these three links.
The spiritually-minded might feel detached from reality or open to another state of consciousness when they use cannabis. Meditation can create the same feeling. This is different from dissociating so heavily that as someone in the PTSD thread experienced, the people and objects around you look like fake cardboard cutouts.
This is an extreme example, and again, it mainly applies to sufferers of anxiety, trauma, and PTSD. But it should go without saying that anyone who dissociates too heavily under the influence of cannabis might want to consider if it’s really good for them.
Despite this, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can indeed help manage symptoms of PTSD.
Benefit #3: It is arguably the healthiest and most natural way to change your state of mind
Cannabis is not only natural, but safer than most if not all legal drugs. It’s even safer than caffeine, which can kill you if you take too much. If you disregard the occasional sensational piece of news claiming to have the inside scoop on the “first ever death from marijuana”, zero people have died from taking cannabis alone.
One prominent anti-marijuana argument is that it causes laziness which leads to poor health. Although it is a depressant, which means it slows down the body, whether it makes someone lazy has nothing to do with the plant and everything to do with their life choices.
We each have a responsibility to keep the body healthy. If you eat poorly or lead a sedentary life and blame cannabis, it might be time to decide whether your decisions are in line with the health you deserve.
Keeping this in mind, cannabis consumers are using what is arguably the safest and most natural drug available. You won’t overdose or go comatose on it; at the worst, you might get some anxiety or feel uncomfortably detached. Just be sure not to overdo it with edibles or high-potency flower and you’ll be fine.
Consumers in legal states are fortunate to have cannabis as a healthy way to relax without fear of police busting down their doors.
Downside #3: For teenagers and adults under 25, consistent use can potentially impair brain function
Just like it’s common for teenagers to drink, it’s common for them to try cannabis. For most, it’s a fun way to get intoxicated with friends now and then. Others decide they want it every day.
There’s nothing wrong with responsible daily cannabis use if you’re an adult; for teenagers, it may not be as bad as drinking or doing other drugs every night. It is still not advisable for a teen to develop a habit to a mind-altering substance, and obviously, no parent wants their kid getting high.
It turns out that there’s good reason not to let your teenager try cannabis: consistent use can potentially impair brain function in people under 25. The brain is not fully formed in most people until around this age and using the drug daily or near-daily can impair brain development.
The brain is more fragile than any teenager who thinks they’re invincible is willing to acknowledge. Some teens may get self-righteous, accurately claiming they’ve been lied to about marijuana and have no reason to believe any more fear-based propaganda.
The truth is that to maintain a healthy brain, it’s best for a teen who’s curious about getting high to wait until adulthood. Most high school and college students will disregard this advice, but for any curious young person who feels like they could wait, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
In those early years of transition from childhood to adulthood, it’s best to figure out who you are without hinging your sense of identity on any drug you enjoy. It can make you feel like your life is empty when you don’t have that drug. If you can figure out who you are without it, you can fill your life with countless things you love instead of just one.
Cannabis carries a potential not for physical addiction but psychological dependence. Not everyone gets hooked or feels like they need it every day, but there are people whose lives revolve solely around getting high. Waiting until age 25 or later to try it could help prevent dependence and other downsides.
Benefit #4: It can inspire you to chase the life you want
An overlooked upside to using cannabis is that it can inspire you. Many creators find that it’s just what they need to get in touch with the creative force within them.
The euphoria the drug provides makes way for this creative essence to become more prominent. It makes them realize they would rather sit at the TV less and paint, write, craft, or make music more. It drives them to put their heart and soul into something they love.
Writers might find that it gives them more to say or lets them approach their work from a unique angle. To be fair, though, the opposite is true for some. It can distract them or increase the feeling of writer’s block until its effects wear off and they can think clearly again.
Cannabis doesn’t help with the creative flow as much as it provides inspiration. It may be great for brainstorming ideas but not so great for executing them.
It can inspire non-creative people in the same way, motivating them to get outside, exercise, or chase an entrepreneurial pursuit. In some cases, it can make them want to risk their comfort and stability for a better life.
As we’ll cover later, cannabis can induce feelings of rebellion against a society that seems increasingly backward. It can open your eyes to how broken our social systems are, which could motivate you to pursue success independent of a system you no longer want to contribute to.
If cannabis makes you want to take risks in pursuit of your dreams, then it’s a sign you’re not comfortable where you are. Everyone deserves a chance to live their purpose. Marijuana can help you break through the conditioning in your mind that makes you think it’s impossible.
Downside #4: Black-market weed can potentially be laced
This point requires two big disclaimers. The first is that weed from your local dealer is rarely laced. It doesn’t happen very often. The second is that this is one of the best arguments for legalization. What better way to ensure the product isn’t contaminated than to regulate it with strict health and safety rules?
So far, Canada, Jamaica, Uruguay, Mexico, the Netherlands, and 11 U.S. states have taken the lead on legalizing or tolerating recreational cannabis. This is a step forward in the fight for safe legal weed that’s not in the hands of murderous cartels, but businesses we can scrupulously monitor.
As it stands, however, the drug is still illegal in most places. This leaves only the cartels to get it to consumers in any way possible. An unlucky consumer could end up with cannabis that’s laced with more sinister drugs.
Quality and safety take a backseat when a drug is controlled by cartels that care more about money than the health of consumers. Cartel operations also raise serious environmental concerns, as they create hazardous illegal grow sites and use nasty chemicals which contaminate the soil and nearby waterways.
With an unregulated market, there’s no telling what can end up in your pipe or what hazards an illegal grow operation can pose. The only solution is to legalize.
Benefit #5: It can make you question things and rebel against authority
Many protest groups in the sixties and seventies had one thing in common: they used cannabis. It was so common that the government used drug laws to target demonstrators, as they knew they couldn’t arrest the groups for protesting but they could lock them up for having weed.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” – Former Nixon Domestic Policy Chief John Ehrlichman
Cannabis can make you question the world you live in and rebel against the people in power keeping it all in place.
We should question why society is set up this way and rebel against any social rules that prevent us from living our best life. We shouldn’t tolerate a life spent in servitude to people in power we’ve never met who make decisions that affect us all. We should resist. Cannabis can help bring about this rebellion.
By making you feel liberated and motivated to fight for change, it inspires the conscious activism the world needs.
Downside #5: It can lead to legal trouble
Another glaringly obvious argument for legalization is that in most places, being caught with cannabis can land you in jail. Fortunately, several U.S. states have adopted decriminalization laws that make low-level possession a civil issue leading to a fine rather than jailtime.
Nobody should be in jail over a plant. Most pot smokers pray it will never happen to them, but it does. This remains one of the harshest downsides to using the drug. For those who think it should be legal, this obvious downside probably won’t be enough to stop them from using it; but it’s good to be aware of the risk.
As we covered, cannabis can make you rebel against authority. This is a good thing, but if America’s history indicates anything, it’s that the authority you rebel against will use your love for the plant against you. What happened in the 60s and 70s is most likely happening today in places where the drug is illegal.
The government will use any excuse to target its critics – especially if they’re demonstrating in the streets. A cannabis consumer who keeps to him or herself might be fine, but the second you start speaking out, you become a target.
This is an unfortunate and unnecessary downside to using the drug that will hopefully disappear in the next ten years. Until then, users in illegal states and countries are forced to look over their shoulder when lighting up.
Overall, cannabis is benevolent. But everyone reacts to it differently and some are unlucky enough to be incarcerated over it.
It causes anxiety for some and eliminates it for others while inspiring rebellion and creative thought. There’s a potential to become dissociated under the influence, but thankfully, this only happens to a small percentage of people.
Those who buy from dispensaries in legal states don’t need to worry about the product being contaminated or laced, but everyone else should be on alert even if it’s unlikely. It never hurts to be vigilant about your health, and with anything on the black market, you can never be too sure what’s in it.
Cannabis is a great drug for some and a challenging one for others. Responsible use by an adult who’s less susceptible to its downsides can provide a safe, natural way to unwind or get inspired. Spiritual people might find its euphoric effects highly meditative and make it a part of their consciousness-expanding ritual.
Whatever its uses, and there are a lot, we should remember that it’s not 100% good or bad. By looking at it in either light, we fail to see the full picture of a drug that helps a lot of people but isn’t meant for everyone. Medical needs aside, not everyone will be drawn to cannabis – and that’s okay.
Sources linked in article.
About Wes Annac:
I’m a twenty-something writer & blogger with an interest in spirituality, love, awareness, activism, and other crazy stuff. I run Openhearted Rebellion – a blog dedicated to sharing wisdom and encouraging a revolution that begins in the heart.
I also run Canna Words – a blog in which I share some of my research and opinions on cannabis. There, I write about everything from legalization to hemp and the various ways people use the cannabis plant.
I’ve contributed to a few awesome websites that include Waking Times, Wake Up World, Golden Age of Gaia, and The Master Shift. I can be found on Facebook (facebook.com/wesannac, facebook.com/cultureofawareness) and Twitter (twitter.com/Wes_Annac, https://twitter.com/love rebellion)
If you enjoyed this post and want to support my work, consider donating via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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