Help me to be ok with my spouse's impending marijuana use
November 29, 2020 10:20 AM   Subscribe

My husband has suffered from anxiety all of his adult life. He has long been under the care of a psychiatrist and takes medications for it, which has made it manageable but he still experiences more anxiety than he would like on a regular basis. Ever since marijuana was legalized in our area, he has toyed with the idea of trying it for the anxiety. He recently decided he wants to try an edible and is planning a trip to a dispensary.

All of which should be none of my business, probably, except... my first husband was a pot smoker, and emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive. I hated the way being high changed his personality. He would become arrogant, sarcastic and uncaring. It was like "feeling no pain" also meant feeling no empathy, and no concern about our relationship. He wasn't exactly the greatest guy in the world when he was sober, but at least he could hold a normal conversation, show affection and act like I meant something to him. He was an ice-cold jerk when stoned, and he was stoned a LOT.

Also, the constant stupid laughing was extremely irritating after a while. I hated being around him.

One of the things I have really appreciated about my current relationship is how nice it has been to be with someone who is not fucked up all the time. My husband rarely drinks, doesn't even like the feeling of being tipsy, and has never smoked pot or used any other kind of recreational drug. I'm really dreading the thought of this changing and him becoming someone who always has an obvious buzz. Any tips on how to cope with this would be appreciated. I could deal with it once in a while I guess, but I also don't want to turn into the "you get high too much" police. I'm sure it will not be a constant thing as I imagine he will not use it during work hours, but evenings and weekends are my time with him, and that's when he'd be likely to be using it.

The other thing that concerns me is him trying this for the first time, and not knowing how it will affect him. My few experiences with marijuana as a young person were mostly not good ones. I did not like the feeling of being high, and had a panic attack from it. (I have not mentioned this to him recently, because I don't want to plant a seed of a self-fulfilling prophecy.) However, being aware that this can occur, I am concerned about the possibility. What do I do if this happens to him? How do I help him?

(I have read that edibles can be more intense than smoking, and mentioned this to him. But he says he would rather not smoke, so that is off the table.)

I should also mention that I have anxiety issues myself, so I am very sympathetic to him wanting to try a potential solution. I just don't want to end up hating my marriage because of it.
posted by sock puppy to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tips on edibles from the Canadian government ("start low, go slow").

You've clearly thought deeply about the origins of your concerns and how they arise from your past experiences. Consider sharing this question with your husband. It's important that he understands your feelings and fears about this, and being able to talk about them openly increases the chances that both of you will have your needs met.
posted by heatherlogan at 10:25 AM on November 29, 2020 [13 favorites]

So I take edibles for pain and have a lot of experience with them.

1. They don't, according to my wife, change my personality at all. Sometimes I get a bit of aphasia and I definitely get the munchies but it doesn't make me into a different person and I can (and do) have perfectly pleasant conversations and otherwise function as a partner.

2. If your husband reacts poorly to the edible, he is likely to have an unpleasant couple of hours and will probably want a low-stress environment and maybe something neutral to focus on. It can happen! If it happens, then the experiment has failed and he's not likely to want to try again, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Just make sure that first time is a) a low dose b) in a safe and friendly environment c) with no responsibilities for at least 6 hours. (If he takes *really* too much he's gonna barf a bunch and while that's no fun it's not going to do him any real harm.)

Like any mood-altering drug, including SSRIs and anti-anxiety meds, there will be a bit of a learning curve and some trial and error necessary. Different strains/doses/delivery mechanisms behave differently, and finding one that helps can *really* help, so I'm of the opinion that it's worth trying. And if the side effects are terrible, then it's not the right drug. But it doesn't generally make assholes out of otherwise perfectly nice people.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:34 AM on November 29, 2020 [8 favorites]

I think it should be okay but you and your husband should have a conversation about it, about your concerns and about how you'd like to be "part of the process" as this goes. This doesn't have to be you being the "you get high too much" police but it's also okay to be the "Hey I think pot is changing you in a way I don't like..." (if it does) "...and I'd like to discuss this" person

Edibles can be great for just taking the edge off without making someone high (necessarily). I am a person who doesn't otherwise smoke pot or use edibles who has been using them during COVID times to get out of my own head so I can sleep (I take about 1-2 mg before bed). My partner is an affable stoner who would probably be high most days if he could get away with it w/ work and his other commitments. We do not live together. I don't love it when he's high (he's forgetful even when not high, so this is a bit of an issue. He has a harder time having conversations, but he's still clearly my loving partner) We talked about it and set out a plan that we can both agree to and works for both of us. I also manage a high anxiety load and so being a part of this is an important thing for me.

That said, your ex sounds like he was kind of a jerk all the time, it's entirely possible that your husband, when high will just get relaxed, maybe happier and maybe spacier. It's okay, for a partner, to still have them be respectful and responsible and any of the other things you'd require in a partner. Sometimes people who grow up with substance abusers in their family (I had one) can get really tense feeling that they have to basically put up with anything that person tosses at them instead of being like "Hey when you get too high I feel like you kind of check out, can we talk about that?" Especially early on in the process, there may be some adjusting to doses, timing and etc, but availability of good regulated edibles and legalization have really changed the pot landscape because it is possible to regulate doses a lot more easily which means people can try marijuana and not have to just presume their options are "wicked high" or "Should I take some more, I'm not feeling this" I suspect it will be fine, and I wish you both luck with it.
posted by jessamyn at 10:40 AM on November 29, 2020 [18 favorites]

I can't emphasize enough how important it will be for your husband to start with a very, very low dose, especially since he lacks experience with it. Otherwise, he may get scared and want it to end, both feelings that will exacerbate his anxiety. Maybe an experienced friend could attend to him and provide reassurance, if that's not a role you feel able to take on given your own history. Perhaps your husband can consult with his psychiatrist, another marijuana-savvy physician or health practitioner. Some dispensaries have budtenders or consultants with health care backgrounds with whom he could make an appointment. All of this prep might make you feel better about the situation.
posted by carmicha at 10:40 AM on November 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

COVID might complicate this a lot, but I'm tempted to suggest having someone other than you be your husband's babysitter the first time he tries this. That way he can find out what it's like for him without worrying about how it will affect you. ("Oh no, can she tell I'm high, am I being annoying, etc etc etc" is a common source of first-time panic.)

Hopefully he'll come back saying "it worked great and I felt fine," his babysitter will come back saying "he was still a totally lovely human," and you'll feel safer being around him the second time around knowing that the first time went okay and didn't change his personality for the worse.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2020 [18 favorites]

have some associates for whom pot triggers anxiety; have had sporadic anxious moments myself. humbly suggest a variety of indica might be less likely to produce anxiety than a variety of sativa. ymmv. certainly there are better sources to opine/explicate than myself, but i have the impression there is general consensus that indica tends to be more sedating while sativa tends to be more stimulating. seconding mj-savvy psych/health practitioner.
posted by 20 year lurk at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

I would encourage you both to look into high-CBD edibles to start, as they are believed to be effective for relieving anxiety without the psychoactive, “gettin’ high” effects that are causing you trepidation. They can go from anywhere from 1:1 to 20:1 CBD:THC. You can also get CBD products that have no measurable THC. (Like decaf coffee, there’s some in there, at a proportionally low threshhold.)

Edibles are intense in part because they take a while to take effect ... people often overdose because they don’t feel anything in the first half hour and use more. Also, a legal industry has meant that products are tested and labelled with strengths and suggested usage, whereas in the before-times it was all guesswork.

Modern dispensaries are lovely, as the staff are well-trained to help you sort out products based on your needs.

Agreeing with posters who are saying your ex was the problem, not what substances he chose to use.

Best of luck to you both.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

Ugh, it'd be best if your husband could wait until after the pandemic and get an experienced friend to coach him through his initial testing.

Edible use really should start at 5-10% of one "serving" (as an example, I use a razor blade to cut one 1/4" gummy cube into about eighths, basically pinhead-sized dots - and this is a gummy that is mostly CBD (no high) with a little THC; a friend of mine who bakes commercially will give me a (potent) brownie once a year and I keep it in the freezer and shave slivers off the edge with a steak knife all year).

A person with anxiety should not just go bombs-away all-in because a lot of people get the absolute opposite of anxiety relief from THC. If 5% of a serving presents no issues or helps, he can step up 5% at a time. The "ooops too much" level, if you have anxiety, is something to be avoided, even in Canada where presumably it won't cost $3000 to go to the ER to be told "you're high, go home and sleep it off, dude".

His goal should be the least amount of high/product to get the relief he's looking for, and if he's not showing signs of having done that research and reached that conclusion, I don't blame you for your concerns. If he hasn't decided to start first with a CBD-only product to see if that provides any relief (these contain no THC so there is no high) OR spikes his anxiety (meaning he should probably cease this experiment without trying THC), he's not making a good-faith effort to undertake this mindfully. There's a ton of anectodal but pretty thorough research on the internet about mj for anxiety, has he read any of it?

I think you should either have this conversation with him or show him this thread and THEN have a conversation with him, so that he understands this is not a situation where he can larkily try something because he heard some guy say his cousin does it. He needs to approach this in a way that gives you some reassurance and agency or he needs to continue to adjust his meds instead of doing this.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

I have no experience with marijuana myself, but I do have experience with panicking about someone else's potential drug use (or my own, I don't generally drink and then at a few stressful points I have indulged in a habit of a bit of scotch to unwind at night, and it's been something else to berate myself for and worry that I'm about to go down a dark road.)

So... you said My husband rarely drinks, doesn't even like the feeling of being tipsy, and has never smoked pot or used any other kind of recreational drug. I think this is unlikely to change overnight, if at all, just because he's trying to deal with his anxiety.

It is a bit harder because he's doing the dosing and experimenting himself rather than with a professional, but I think I would try to treat it like any treatment. You two could discuss in advance what the signs would be that it's having a negative effect on him or your relationship, and you could ask him to hold kind of a weekly or monthly health summit with you where you two together talk about what's going right and wrong. I don't think it's likely he'll try it and fall into being a very different person.

You've dealt with a lot in the past, but this is a totally different person and situation. Deep breaths, journalling might help.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:53 AM on November 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Starting low is smart; so is not making the classic mistake of waiting an hour, deciding "this isn't doing anything" and taking more, only to have it all kick in at once. (But even if you do screw up and take too much, it's not life threatening, just unpleasant.)

Around here, any dispensary will have a bunch of edibles (and tinctures, etc) that are specifically intended to be calming and help with anxiety, including indica-specific and high CBD/low THC options (ie, with very little of the "get you high" component). In my limited experience, the people working in the dispensaries are almost always helpful and willing to talk through the options -- if they aren't, go to a different weed store.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have someone I dearly love who medicates anxiety with marijuana. I also was worried about it, but honestly the real problem for me is I wind up kind of preferring when this person is consuming a high CBD low THC edible, because they’re just...nicer overall and less anxiety-reactive. I think edibles are actually better for this than smoking, because people who use edibles are usually going for a different experience - there’s way more edibles, at least at my local store, for anxiety and relaxation than there are for “getting high”. He should definitely ask his local store person to help him - the store staff generally tend to be really knowledgeable about the product.
posted by corb at 10:57 AM on November 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Just popping back to mention using marijuana as a medicine includes all the precautions of mixing medications.

An adverse interaction, particularly if his anti-anxiety med is continuous use like an SSRI, can obscure the benefit that each medicine—taken individually—would have.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 11:25 AM on November 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Talk to him about your concerns; make sure he understands. Some pot stores have good staff who will help find the best options. Pot strains seem to have changed a lot; it's so powerful now. I break up a candy edible and use a crumb to help get to sleep. For me, a tiny amout is effective, and I hope he will start with a low dose.
posted by theora55 at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I used to work for a mental health agency, and the psychiatrists regularly had their patients fill out current assessment forms. One of the questions on the form is whether they are currently using marijuana. I hope your husband answers the question honestly. From what I understand, 1) It is not a good idea to self-medicate and 2) Marijuana does not always mix well with prescribed medications; these two things are something your husband might consider discussing with his psychiatrist before he moves forward with his marijuana-self-medication experiment.
posted by SageTrail at 11:36 AM on November 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

There are mints that go all the way down to 1mg of CBD/THC/both, which would let him control his dosage quite finely., 1mg CBD to start. The next time (not the same day) try 1mg THC to compare, and go from there.
posted by aramaic at 11:51 AM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

My husband rarely drinks, doesn't even like the feeling of being tipsy, and has never smoked pot or used any other kind of recreational drug.

Then it's my opinion that he won't like cannabis, but let him try. Better he ask his doctor for some anti-anxiety meds. Maybe you could use some, as well.

Note that not all stoners are like your ex.
posted by Rash at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm really dreading the thought of this changing and him becoming someone who always has an obvious buzz.

I find when people are using weed for a medical purpose (especially pain relief, but maybe anxiety too) there tends to be less of a buzz to it. It’s also likely and advisable your partner will be starting with a very low dose, less than what most people would consider recreational.

I take lower dose edibles pretty often for anxiety and for fun. I don’t think anyone would notice unless I told them. The effect at the doses I shoot for is quite mild. I tend to describe it as almost indistinguishable from just happening to feel extra nice that afternoon.
posted by Gymnopedist at 1:36 PM on November 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thank you all for your answers, they have all been so helpful. I feel better about things now.
posted by sock puppy at 1:44 PM on November 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

I have not tried pot myself, but do know many people who consume it in various forms for various reasons. For some of them, it does indeed make them less empathetic and caring, and just overall disconnected. For others, it helps tamp down on their anxiety and allows them to connect better with other people. In my experience, the second behavior is more common (by at least 2:1, probably more?). But I definitely understand your worry, based on your past experience, and would have the same worry myself! This is a good thing to talk through with your husband, and it sounds like you will be able to approach that conversation very productively. There's no way to know beforehand, but it is also possible that this is an anxiety treatment that could really help your husband and make him even more present and caring. (Though, as another poster mentioned, if he doesn't even particularly like being tipsy, he may not enjoy this experience much either.)

Summary: your husband will likely be different than your abusive ex, but it is quite understandable for you to worry. Talking about it together is likely the best solution.
posted by eviemath at 1:45 PM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also recommending that he try CBD before anything else. I have a constant low thrum of anxiety/nerves and daily CBD oil with as little as .3% THC really (and I mean REALLY) makes a difference. It also doesn't really get you high so much as it mellows you out and takes the edge off of everything.
posted by Young Kullervo at 3:38 PM on November 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think it's reasonable to not want a partner smoking & getting high all the time especially with the trauma you have experienced. It sounds like that would be unlikely for your husband & thankfully there are so many options that would be helpful for him without jeopardizing your mental health.

I just started taking high CBD oil 1:30 for near-constant anxiety. I plan on increasing the THC if I had to but only in tiny increments. I chose the oil because it is really easy to measure & administer. I take it mid-morning and it really has made a big difference for me with absolutely no high.
posted by i_mean_come_on_now at 4:26 PM on November 29, 2020

Just as a follow-up, I showed him this thread and we had a good talk. He was always planning to start very low... not sure why I immediately jumped to the scenario where he'd be baked half the time. He already spoke to his shrink about it a while back, and she is on board. Next step will be the dispensary later this week, where we have a very low dose product picked out, but will be open to input from the staff if they have advice.
posted by sock puppy at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

I also just want to say thanks again. The personal anecdotes and advice have been SO helpful.
posted by sock puppy at 4:34 PM on November 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

One thing to consider--and that might help allay some of your concerns--is that using cannabis medicinally is vastly different from using it recreationally. With medical use, your goal is not to get high, it's to alleviate your symptoms which usually happens at much lower doses. After all, like with prescription medicines, you want to get relief but also on with your daily work, not end up too out of it to get things accomplished.

Also, since he's never used cannabis before, I caution against him trying edibles right off. Edibles are notoriously difficult to dose. Being 'too high' isn't much fun even if you're an experienced cannabis users; it will be even less pleasant for someone with anxiety.

Instead, I would recommend that he try using a tincture where you measure out a dose by the number of drops (NOT ENTIRE DROPPERSFUL, literal drops). The bottles will say how many milligrams per drop.

In either case, he should approach this like making BBQ: go very low and very slow until he knows how he responds. Start with 1 milligram, wait 1 hour, record how he feels. That sort of thing. Most medical dispensaries will have charts on hand that he can use to track his response. They can also suggest specific strains that are good for anxiety.
posted by skye.dancer at 4:34 PM on November 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I’ve been using pot for 30+ years (mostly for fun, occasionally to reduce insomnia, pain, and anxiety). It has been helpful. Even with potent pot my personality doesn’t change in a huge way according to the people I have been around. It sounds like your abusive ex was an asshole when baked and not baked. I’m sorry he was so horrible.

I have been growing my own organic marijuana, making my own edibles (CBD and THC) and oils (CBD and THC) for decades. I give away tonnes of it weekly (lol I have 48 high THC brownies in the oven right now) to friends and co-workers. I’ve been around a lot of them when they have used the edibles and they haven’t turned into assholes either.

Your husband sounds lovely, responsible, and caring. I think you guys are on a really good track with all your open communication.
posted by saucysault at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Dispensaries are a lot like any other retail store now. Brightly lit, nicely merchandised, friendly and knowledgable employees, different products for different needs, and customers across the socioeconomic spectrum. I'd suggest an indica for relaxation. Cannabis is less mood-altering than something like xanax, for sure. Start low and see if it alleviates the symptoms - if he gets a tin of 5 mg gummies, for example, cut one in half at first and see how that works.
posted by Ostara at 6:43 PM on November 29, 2020

I used edibles with cbd/thc combo for shingles pain. 5mg (half a gummy) made the pain decrease, made me relaxed but did not alter my behavior or make me high. I have never been a pot user. A few weeks ago I tried a thc only edible of 10mg thc only -got super high. So in my experience, and advice from the pot store people, the brand, combo, and amount should be tweaked to find the right med amount to treat anxiety without getting high. It is possible. Good luck!!!
posted by ChristineSings at 7:10 PM on November 29, 2020

Not sure if it's been said, but if you're comfortable with him taking anti-anxiety medication, consider that marijuana is considerably less addictive and toxic to the brain than anything that would qualify as anti-anxiety (maybe propranolol exempted).
posted by namesarehard at 8:05 AM on November 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to add that you are handling this so well, and your husband is handling this so well: you're both being mindful of your own stuff, caring and loving towards the others, and open to various possibilities. The people at medical dispensaries are experts and can give excellent professional advice. I don't smoke pot regularly but can say that, seriously, they are awesome people and it's a nice place. As others have said, your husband can definitely go slow with edibles, etc. I have always been for legalization but never felt comfortable with the "scene." I also didn't feel so great about annoying people from my past. (We always think of the ones who are the worst, not the majority who are fine, right?!) After having spent a few months in a state where recreational pot is legal, I partook in a few forms -- not much but enough to also feel never tempted to want to again -- and the whole experience really changed my mind on it all. I was never weird, just sometimes teary -- and can say that I had some incredible insight and also learned to avoid indica because that made my sadness much, much worse in the moment. This is just one more thing to try and, while it could be disappointing for you both, it will likely be neutral or even very positive.
posted by smorgasbord at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2020

Just want to add a data point to a couple others above: I know someone reallllllly well who uses routinely, recreationally. I find that this person is far kinder to their spouse under the influence. This isn't to say there couldn't be issues; this person, for example, would rather do 'fun' things under the influence than spend a lot of time with their spouse, and if their spouse were expecting this person to spend all their time with the spouse, there could be conflict. But wanted to weigh in on the effects on personality not necessarily being negative.
posted by troywestfield at 8:39 AM on December 1, 2020

Hi! I have been in your and your husbands shoes. I used to be very, very wary of any mind-altering substances, having grown up with addict parents. I at one point had a partner who wanted to smoke for his mental illness. I was terrified, to be honest. I myself didn't try weed until I was 26/27. What helped was lots of conversations, which you are doing a great job at! And practice. There are different strains of marijuana that will affect your body differently. They can literally breed out the "high" effects of weed, and it works!

Another thing that helped me, and I'm not actually suggesting this, is to try it yourself. I actually get more empathetic and emotional after i smoke/eat an edible. Everyone is different, and there's no scientific or even logical reason to expect that your current partner will be any different than he is now.

As for advice for your husband - this is going to sound weird but swallow the edible before you'd swallow a normal bite of food! The desired flavor dissipates very quickly, and the flavor of the weed is truly disgusting, and it lingers. It took a lot of effort to get the weed taste out of my mouth, brushing my teeth didn't even offer immediate response. As soon as it's not a choking hazard, just swallow, don't savor it!

I have been "too high" before. It happened only once when I accidentally took too big of a hit on a dab pen. I have a dissociative disorder, and dissociated the whole time. It was very unpleasant, but it wasn't any different than a normal (but a bit severe) panic attack or dissociative episode. I have a friend that got "too high" once, and she just slept it off. Don't expect your husband to have a negative reaction! There are just some people who do not react negatively to weed at all.
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:16 PM on December 1, 2020

Myself, I've never been 'too high' on weed (and I'm a chronic user) but I've certainly been smoking with people who feel that way. However, I have eaten too much edible, and wound up writhing in agony on the floor with stomach cramps, for an hour. More than once. Start out slow.
posted by Rash at 12:54 PM on December 2, 2020

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