What Does Being High on Marijuana Feel Like?

Young people experiencing a marijuana high
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Many people who are curious about smoking pot, or who have family members or friends who use marijuana, wonder, "What does being high feel like?" Although the experience is different for everyone, there are certain effects that most users of marijuana feel when they smoke or eat pot.

Common responses to inhaling or ingesting marijuana (also known as cannabis) include feeling:

  • Anxious
  • Confused
  • Happy
  • Hungry
  • Impulsive
  • Panicked
  • Relaxed
  • Withdrawn


Factors That Affect What Being High Feels Like

When people are stoned on marijuana, the experience is strongly affected by factors that have little to do with the drug, and more to do with the sensitivity of the person taking the drug to their surroundings and their feelings about the people they are with. The frame of mind of the person using marijuana is known as "set" and the environment where they use marijuana as "setting."

Potency

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component of marijuana—the ingredient that causes its effects in the brain. When marijuana has more THC, its effects can be stronger. Drug Enforcement Agency analysis shows that THC levels in illegal marijuana rose rapidly from 1995 to 2019. Unlicensed sellers do not know or share the potency of the marijuana they are selling, so you do not know what you are getting.

Method of Administration

The effects of marijuana can be different depending on whether you smoke it, use a vaping device, or ingest it as an edible. Smoking and vaping produce a faster result than edibles and deliver more THC into the bloodstream. Because of the delayed result, people may unintentionally consume more THC through edibles.

The effects of smoking marijuana usually last for one to three hours. With edibles, effects take longer to appear, but then last for longer.

Frequency of Use

While a true addiction to marijuana is uncommon, people who use marijuana frequently may become dependent on it (especially when using more potent marijuana with a higher concentration of THC). They may need more of the drug or more frequent use to produce the effects they are seeking.

Age

Although there is not a lot of research available, some evidence suggests that cannabis may have a more harmful effect on executive function in teens vs. adults. This and other effects related to age may be most common in people who use marijuana quite frequently.

Sex

As with age, information on how people of different sexes experience marijuana is limited. Some research suggests that females might feel more internal effects from cannabis (such as depression and anxiety) while males show external effects (such as aggressiveness and impulsiveness).

Altered Sensory Perceptions

Most people experience changes in their sensory perceptions when they are stoned. While marijuana does not typically produce real hallucinations the way that hallucinogenic drugs like LSD do, people do tend to see the world in a different way when they are high on cannabis than they do normally.

Familiar faces and objects can seem unfamiliar or strange, often in a way that is amusing; colors can appear brighter; aesthetic appreciation can be enhanced: and the mood of the individual can be projected onto everything around them. When surroundings are perceived in a positive way, this can be enjoyable. But it can also happen in a negative way, causing the world to seem grim and harsh.

Enhancement of the sense of taste can result in a specific type of binge eating colloquially called "the munchies," in which larger amounts of food may be consumed than normal. People who are stoned may also eat foods in odd combinations, such as chocolate with pickles.

The sensory perceptions of hearing and taste are often most strongly affected by marijuana. People who have used marijuana will often report a greater appreciation of music and may spend the entire experience listening to music.

Changes in Mood and Mental State

The effects of marijuana on mood vary greatly from one person to another, but generally, emotions are exaggerated in a similar way to the intoxication effects of alcohol. Situations that normally seem emotionally neutral may appear amusing or ridiculous, or conversely, intimidating and upsetting.

Marijuana users will typically attempt to control the emotional stimulation they are exposed to while stoned, but this is not always possible. Situations involving real or imagined confrontation can be particularly upsetting and can result in intense paranoia in someone under the influence of marijuana.

The effects of marijuana on the ability to relax are rather contradictory. While many who become dependent on marijuana do so for the drug's initial relaxation effects, the rebound effect typically results in a higher level of anxiety in marijuana users. Some develop long-term anxiety disorders, which they attempt to self-medicate with marijuana, causing a vicious cycle.

People often feel confused or slowed down when they are high on marijuana, although this is often not upsetting and can even seem amusing to the person affected. Rarely does marijuana improve mental functioning. One study of regular marijuana users found that on days that they smoked marijuana, they were more impulsive than on days when they did not smoke. They were also more impulsive the following day.

Effects on Creativity

While some people claim that marijuana improves creativity, and there is some evidence that marijuana use is associated with the production of a greater number of novel ideas, it is unclear whether people who have novel ideas seek out marijuana, or whether the drug increases the novel ideas.

Also, some research has shown that higher doses result in less creativity than lower doses. One study did not find significant differences in the creativity of individuals using low dose THC and those not under the effects of marijuana at all.

Typically, people under the influence of marijuana express ideas that may seem bizarre, muddled, unfeasible, or incomprehensible to others. Some would-be artists use marijuana in the hope of a shortcut to artistic success—however, marijuana may make it more difficult to use creative thoughts productively.

Cognitive Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana use can also affect thinking skills. When using marijuana, some people may have problems with memory, problem-solving, learning, and attention. Verbal learning and memory and working memory are usually the most affected areas.

These cognitive effects may also persist after the high has worn off. This may happen more often in teens, especially those who start using marijuana at younger ages and use it frequently.

A Word From Verywell

Marijuana products can vary greatly, and so can individual people's responses to using the drug. That makes it difficult to predict what being high will feel like. Still, there is some evidence that marijuana can be helpful in easing the symptoms of sone medical conditions. Purchasing marijuana from a licensed seller can give you more information and control over the potency and ingredients in a marijuana product.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does weed make you feel emotionally?

    People have different emotional responses to weed. Some feel happy and relaxed, while others become anxious, fearful, and even paranoid. Sometimes people experience feelings of confusion and have difficulty focusing.

  • How does smoking weed make you feel the next day?

    Some people do experience a hangover effect after smoking weed: Fatigue, nausea, and headache, and a feeling of "brain fog." There is not a lot of scientific evidence about this phenomenon, and feelings the day after smoking weed could also be affected by whether the weed was combined with alcohol or another substance, dehydration, lack of sleep, binge eating, and so on.

  • How does medicinal weed make you feel?

    People who use medical marijuana report that it helps them with pain relief and relaxation. They also report some negative effects, such as coughing, "brain fog," increased appetite, and anxiety.

  • Does smoking weed cause you to feel relaxed?

    For some people, smoking weed results in relaxed, calm, happy feeling. But for others, smoking weed is unpleasant and makes them anxious or hostile.

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18 Sources
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