Just say yes?
December 29, 2012 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone used marijuana and experienced its more pleasant effects after many years of staying away from the stuff due to the more unpleasant stuff?

[Just to preface, I have checked out many other forums, including erowid, however my friends in the green (no pun intended), have never steered me wrong!]

From the ages of 16-21, I was a very heavy pot smoker. Every day, in every way. For the first 3-4 years, I absolutely loved it. I felt more creative, got different perspectives on art, food, music, sex, everything. As my use and tolerance increased, it set off a series of panic and anxiety attacks which eventually required medication to keep these from interfering with my daily life.

Like most 21 year olds, my life was a mess at the time for a variety of reasons, but apart from weed, I had no other vices. I never drank (didn't like the taste) or even experiment with any other drugs. I think the anxiety disorder emerged from a perfect storm of factors, and definitely understand the contribution that marijuana has to these tendencies.

Fast forward ten years or so. I'm 32 (male), and in a much better place in life. I am still on medication (effexor, as I was never able to get off it because of withdrawal effects), but by all standard definitions, I have a pretty great thing going in life.

For some reason however, I have always missed being able to get high though. Call it nostalgia, but more and more, I have been increasingly craving some sort of release, especially as I get no pleasure from alcohol.

I feel that my life is in a stable enough place where I could begin to experiment slowly again with marijuana in more controlled environments, and reading some of the other threads here about people who have had bad experiences, have taken on board some of the advice offered there.

What I am essentially asking and looking for here is any stories of people who may have gone through a similar experience – Returning to recreational weed smoking after many years away due to bad experiences, and enjoying their newfound experiences. I would love to hear of any personal stories or anecdotal evidence that could support my decision, as well as any other tips or things to consider that could make things easier, or how to best prepare in case things go wrong.

LARGE DISCLAIMER! - I am more than well aware that many people here will think this is a bad idea, and I am not looking for advice on whether or not to indulge myself. I know that if I have another bad experience, that I'll be retiring it forever. I am also aware of other things I can do to achieve similar effects in my life such as meditation and exercise and sex, three things that are all very much in my life already. I'd like to stick to the above question as much as possible :) Thank you in advance!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I did it after about 20 years away and while I've never gone back to my late teen / early twenties level of pot smoking, I can and do now enjoy the occasional recreational toke with no ill effects. I also quit due to anxiety and I also still have anxiety - currently unmedicated because I'm too poor to medicate it. Anyway, I haven't had any problems with my return to pot except for one bad panic attack a couple years ago, about six months after I started up again and I think that was due to stronger weed and a bong. I steer clear of bonghits now (anyway for chrissake really I am too old for bongs, good lord, I mean, even just aesthetically I am too old for bongs) and I only smoke a little bit at parties.

So I wouldn't worry about it too much and I also wouldn't overthink it. If you set yourself up all worried and freaking out that you're going to freak out - well, that is the classic loop of a panic attack, right there, where you start reinforcing your own fears. Just take it slow and don't make a big deal out of it - try one toke with a friend, very casually and see how it goes.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:53 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

sio42's advice about finding a weed nerd is a good one. Some of the stuff available today is insanely potent and, inho, utterly unenjoyable.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:05 AM on December 29, 2012

I'm surprised that you blame the weed for your panic/anxiety attacks, since it's often used for treating anxiety! Maybe you were self-medicating until it got so bad you needed more powerful treatment.

I used to smoke weed as a teenager/in my twenties, but it was usually in conjunction with alcohol (my drug of choice), and I don't think I ever really just smoked without drinking. I gave up drinking about 10 years ago (early 30s), since it was no longer healthy for me. I spent most of my thirties completely sober, but when I was 39 I was dating someone who smoked and decided to try it. It was immediately clear to me that the experience of weed alone is something I really like. I invested in a vaporizer (the Magic Flight Launch Box, plus the AC adapter) to minimize the health effects of breathing smoke. I found that vaporizing is a much more gentle way of smoking, and it also makes the weed last longer.

At this point, I think using weed is almost entirely a good thing for me. I love the creative boost, the mellow feeling, and the way it helps me sleep. The only negatives are that I have a hard time finding it -- haven't yet located a reliable dealer -- and of course it is technically illegal (although it is decriminalized in my state).
posted by sockpuppetryarts at 7:45 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

+1 "weed nerd"

I smoked a bit here and there in my teens but by my twenties stopped because it invariably meant a bunch of stupid paranoia. I am now in my later thirties and have some joint problems, and my GP suggested trying it. So I now occasionally smoke tiny amounts -- I think that's probably key for now -- or eat brownies, then laugh a little too hard at the letters to the editor in "People" magazine and get confused if I have to put lids back on more than one container; lids are very puzzling for some reason -- but other than that my intake is so low that that's about it for mental effects. Not exactly 'recreational' and I don't do it that often because it seems to me to be a lot of work; if you have responsibilities they must be sorted beforehand (or else, for me, the anxiety would kick in), but, yes, possible to leave paranoia etc behind in one's crummy teens/early adulthood.

Being in a happier place in life certainly facilitated the no-anxiety use. I don't think you have a bad idea, just know your supplier and start out very, very small. Risibly, pathetically, small.

If any of your anxieties were related to what other people might think, ask around as you may be surprised to find out how many of your current peers either smoke occasionally or, on finding out that you do, think it's a fantastic idea and want to join you. YMMV on that one, obviously.
posted by kmennie at 7:45 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, while not in the same position as you (I never had a bad weed experience), I had my first joint in about 12 years this year. I sat on the couch and thought "Wow, this is awesome, why do I not do this way more often?"

Then I got up, stuck my head in the toilet, vomited profoundly for 10 minutes, and went to bed feeling like death warmed over. So, alas, no more pot for me.

If you're concerned about pot + Effexor (and I would have questions about this), I'd ask at Crazy Meds.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:45 AM on December 29, 2012

Two additional things to mull over:

1. Edibles. They've come a long way from high school pot brownies, and tend to give a gentler high than inhalation. The right dispensary will even have things like essential oils for direct application to the skin and those little glassine tabs (like the super-thin breath-fresheners) that will dissolve on your tongue. These sorts of things can deliver great highs without the coughing jags and serious red-eye.

2. Vaporizer. You're not inhaling the smoke of dead plant matter, or as much anyway, just vapor.

If as an adult it's not all about the phatty phatty blunt for you so much anymore as it is about relaxing and enjoying your high, these two avenues should be considered. They're both on the mellower end of the spectrum of delivery.

Did somebody say they needed a weed nerd?
posted by carsonb at 8:31 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why, yes, I have.

I remember my last smoke in my early 20's. I was having palpitations and terrified to move from the couch. It was really unpleasant and steered me away for almost 20 years. I became friends with a group of regular smokers and took a toke here and there with no ill effects. I eventually got a prescription and started smoking quite a bit. While I had shadows of the anxiety attack, I am now more cognizant of my own mental state and can head that sort of thing off before it gets out of control. However, I no longer smoke regularly. I was clearly using marijuana as a way to hide from my own problems. It was an addiction.

In a way, there's never been a better time to toke up. There are high quality strains all over the place. They are finally brining some science to how the various compounds make you feel. And there are plenty of non-smoking techniques to minimize lung damage.
posted by chairface at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Like you I smoked heavily in my late teens but stopped in my early twenties because of unpleasant effects on my psychiatric condition -- a condition not entirely drug-induced but certainly exacerbated by my lifestyle at the time. Fast forward 7-8 years and I too found myself missing the simple pleasure of getting high. At the absolute bottom of one of my deeper depressions, my curiousity got the best of me and I sampled a little (now, where I'm from has a rather legendary reputation for the quality of its bud, so I didn't find the potency much changed over the last decade, but my tolerance certainly had!) and found that not only did I not find myself panicked but that I actually somehow gained valuable insight into my condition and its root. Changing that condition didn't involve regular smoking, but looking back it was certainly a catalyst of sorts. Fast forward another few years and I still keep a little bit around, but it takes so little to achieve an effect that it takes me 6 months to go through what I would in a day at 18. In the end, I hadn't missed it as much as I thought, but a bit of careful experimentation let me put that feeling -- a bitterness of sorts about having to give up something I enjoyed -- behind me.
posted by Lorin at 10:04 AM on December 29, 2012

My experience is that weed is so much stronger than when I was in my 20s, and my research on the topic suggests that that is objectively accurate, and not an issue of my tolerance to cannabinoids.

Agree that you want to be clear about the kind of high you want (or better still, get recommendations of specific strains from your local weed nerd, as sio wisely suggests!) because there are strains that for most people feel "mellow" and strains that for many people are wild and trippy, to the point where some old hippies are reminded of the high from a PCP laced joint back in the day.

The book Heart of Dankness by Mark Haskell Smith might be of interest; though it's not the most entertaining read, it has lots of information about the current state of the art in cannabis horticulture (the book revolves around growers who are competing in the Cannabis Cup, an international growers' award).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:18 AM on December 29, 2012

But talk with your psychiatrist about weed/Effexor interactions and see what they say and what they think you should watch out for if you go ahead and toke up. I didn't notice any interactions but I am not a statistically significant sample size!
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:20 AM on December 29, 2012

I smoked a lot of pot in my twenties, but eventually stopped because it gave me panic attacks while I was using it. There's a great essay about why this is called The Dog Is Us.

A few years ago (I'm 40) I started using cannabis again - I like listening to music. However, I usually eat it in the form of cookies or brownies. I also don't take very much at all, just enough to give me a slight buzz.

Part of the problem with the pot of my youth was that it was very powerful, although it doesn't explain why I went from enjoying getting absolutely baked to hating the thought of it.

So I guess my advice would be to really watch how much you consume.

On top of that, if you are taking some sort of anti-anxiety medication, it would really be wise to stay away from pot, or do as Sid suggests above and talk to your doctor. Smoking pot can be dangerous for certain people experiencing certain psychiatric conditions.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:37 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are the withdrawal effects the only reason you're still on effexor?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:11 AM on December 29, 2012

There have actually been studies (on phone, can't look them up) that suggest that the physiological response to pot is highly dose dependent, with low doses causing relaxation and higher doses causing anxiety. I would start with a low dose and see how it goes.
posted by OmieWise at 2:02 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the dosage factor is overlooked... i.e. a shot of whiskey is a bit different than a beer when it 'takes effect' or 'hits' ( uhhh, anyhow. ). I'm certain that too many marijuana users smoke a bit tooo much before the effects begin, and grow; and that is ( again with teh alcohol analogy ) not unlike three or four quick shots of whiskey.... i.e. ooops; too late; here comes the ?medicinal? effect, no stopping it now ( well, I guess one could puke the booze; not sure what puking after smoking would decrease... ). Too easy to smoke or inhale too much in one puff or sitting and then find yourself in bizarro world with no turning back until the body processes the ( good or bad ) physiological and psycological effect of marijuana.

I think the word is "total moderation". Hey, that is two words! Be careful; and might not hurt to check in and out with a buddy before and after your experiment.

A clock and a journal might help too.
posted by buzzman at 2:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi. My name is gnutron and I am a nerd. That likes weed. Ahem.

First, if you live somewhere that has medical marijuana, go ahead and get yourself a legal recommendation. Here in CA it's very easy, costs about $50-100, takes about an hour and is good for a year. Shopping at a dispensary can be a very pleasurable experience. You can see and smell dozens of varieties, hopefully speak to someone that has knowledge about specific strains as well as access a wide variety of edibles.

Different strains of marijuana will have vastly different effects. Being able to know exactly what you are partaking of allows you to get the experience you desire. Very broadly: Sativa strains tend to be more mentally stimulating. Useful for anxiety, depression or allowing you to get high while still being focused/lucid enough to work, write, play music, etc. Indica strains are more physically felt - good for pain relief, insomnia, relaxation etc. These strains will leave your ass on the couch for several hours. And there are many hybrids that combine both these elements in varying degrees. The bottom line is that knowing exactly what's in your pipe makes a BIG difference.

As many people have mentioned, marijuana can be very potent these days. Start with a small dose. You can always smoke more. You can't unsmoke. I use regularly (almost daily) and most of the time one good hit is enough to get me right.

Also, set yourself up to have good experiences. Start yourself with a small dose. Make sure you have nothing important/stressful to do for the rest of the day. Stock up on some favorite drinks/snacks. Cue up some good music or movies. Take a walk outside.
posted by gnutron at 2:31 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

-Don't leave your destiny in the hands of a weednerd--bone up on the medical differences between strains. Think of it as interesting knowledge to stick in that dark place between your ears, like anything on the Internets.

-Start with a low-potency, anxiety-free Indica strain. These are your training wheels. You can graduate to a Sativa later.

-Go slow. Don't act like you're tanking Jager shots. Act like you're sipping a rare, expensive Islay Scotch. One hit, half an hour of music or Netflix, another hit. That's your pace.

-Edibles are A+, but be careful with the dosage. They're a quick ticket to panic-land if you fuck up the amount, even by a minute fraction.

-Vape, vape, vape. It's easier on the throat and lungs (though certainly not cough-free), and the high is noticeably different from the smoking high--it's smoother, calmer and less edgy. Vapes require an investment and tend to have a steep learning curve, but they're worth it. I'm surprised at the number of smokers who've yet to make a permanent crossover to vaping.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:21 AM on December 30, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
(best answers)

Thank you everyone for your generous and insightful replies. Some really great links in there, and I'm definitely going to try to track down a copy of The Dog is Us.

I'm gathering here that the consensus on a major point here is that knowing your strain is an important part of directing your experience - That said, there are no dispensaries as such in the region that I live, and the one reliable contact that I have does not really know such fine details.

If any self-proclaimed weed nerds are up for continuing a dialogue, please contact me at askmeanon@hush.com - Thank you again, and happy new year everyone!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:12 PM on December 31, 2012

I'm a bit bit late to this thread, but my long time partner would not smoke pot years ago when I first met him because it gave him panic/anxiety attacks. However, a couple years ago, at age 30 he tried it again... .and again... and again... and well, I guess a few years and some life changes later, he can totally use it, no problem. He believes the anxiety, not the marijuana was the root cause of his panic attacks, and once he became more settled, healthy, and calm,pot is actually enjoyable on occasion. Yay!!
posted by Rocket26 at 5:24 PM on January 1, 2013

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