“The First Time I Got High” is the name of a short story that most of us have written in our heads, but of course the ending is different for just about everyone. In an ideal world, they all have happy endings. Maybe you meet a new crawdad friend, or discover the misunderstood nature of the scorpion, or run around town using dog beds as hats (all of which are true stories according to Leafly reviews).
Unfortunately, not everyone has such a whimsical time. Some first experiences come with anxiety, paranoia, dissociation, racing heart or thoughts, and/or other unpleasant sensations. A bad trip can even be enough to swear off cannabis for a lifetime, so when introducing someone to cannabis for the first time, it’s important that you know how to do so properly.
So listen up, trip sitters. Here’s some semi-obvious advice that will help ensure your smoking buddy will sing songs of cannabis’s glory forevermore (or at least smoke with you a second time).
1. Create a comfortable set and setting.
Think about how much your environment affects you while you’re high: when you’re around your best friend versus a crowd of strangers; when you’re inside versus outside; or when you’re at home versus at a busy grocery store. Setting and mood is everything.
If it’s someone’s first time trying cannabis, help them do so in their happy place. Anxiety-prone individuals might want to try it out at home first with a friend that he/she is comfortable around. Put on some music. Plan an outdoor adventure. Load up on funny movies (may I suggest The Room). Order in food or have a picnic. Boot up Mario Kart.
There are endless ways to design a perfectly chill first-time experience. What’s most important is that the person feels in control of their environment and surrounded by people and activities he/she enjoys.
2. Know that THC sensitivities differ from person to person, and consider a high-CBD strain.
Too many times, I’ve heard heavyweight stoners pushing cannabis on newbies. “Come on, that was a wimpy hit. DO IT AGAIN,” like they’re an initiate at THC boot camp. If someone’s putting THC in their body for the first time, let them process that wimpy hit. That might just be plenty for them at this point.
If your curious friend or family member is iffy on high-THC strains, try offering something high in CBD. A minimally psychoactive strain or product can be the perfect opportunity for one to dip a toe into the world of cannabis. It also helps to demonstrate that cannabis doesn’t have to be about becoming a twice-baked potato. Relaxation and stress relief, it turns out, doesn’t have to cost your ability to function.
3. Don’t whip out the 3-foot bong first.
Unless your friend demands the 3-foot bong because that’s how he/she always pictured this moment, maybe start with something less intimidating. Consider a small pipe, or better yet, a vaporizer. These apparatuses allow for better dose control, and they’re less likely to scorch your buddy’s throat (redemption points for the sensei who keeps throat coat tea with honey on hand, just in case your friend biffs the inhale).
4. If you’re doing edibles, start small. Very small.
I’ll start out by saying that edibles are a bad idea for first timers. Anyone who’s tried cannabis-infused edibles knows that they can push euphoria’s ceiling to the psychedelic heavens, and large doses can drive one into temporary insanity. To the cannabis virgin, even standard doses can be overwhelming.
So, for the love of all things good in this world, start small. Try a 5mg edible (that has been tested and confirmed), and let them ride the peak before introducing more.
5. Key into your friend’s head space and know what to do if they’re having a bad time.
Despite your best efforts to create a perfect first-time experience, sometimes cannabis just doesn’t agree with its consumer. Keep a pulse on your friend’s mood and head space by checking in with them; if they’re experiencing unpleasant symptoms, here are a few ways to help them manage them.
Some people experience increased heart rate, dizziness, headaches, and other unpleasant symptoms, but know that these should pass with time. Most bad trips induced by cannabis manifest simply as anxiety or paranoia (my friends and I like to call this beast “The Fear”). In this instance, try exercising a few of these tips:
- Relocate to a comfortable place if you aren’t already. Sometimes simply being home solves everything.
- Relax with music, a hot shower, and/or aromatherapy (black pepper oil is particularly clutch for acute anxiety).
- Laughter is the great weapon of anxiety; throw on a stupid movie, crack some jokes, or read some really stoned strain reviews.
- Pump the water. Hydration can help prevent many discomforts caused by cannabis.
- Get some fresh air. Going for a walk outside and filling your lungs with fresh, clean air can be immensely therapeutic for anyone undergoing anxiety, whether induced by cannabis or not.
- Try a CBD-only product. CBD is known to counteract some of THC’s anxious side effects, especially when combined with any of the relaxing activities listed above.
And above all, remember that no one on earth has died of a cannabis overdose and everything will be okay. (Besides, if our friend Josh survived a 2,080mg edible, we’re confident your friend will make it, too.)