What Does Being High Feel Like? A Complete Guide
14 May 2021
If you’re new to the world of weed, either recreationally or medicinally, the first question that may come to mind is, “what does being high feel like?”
Ever since the rollout of legalized cannabis in North America, there has been a growing catalogue of evidence to support weed’s various benefits and medicinal properties. Still, knowing what and how something might affect you doesn’t necessarily tell you how it will make you feel in the moment.
So, that’s what we’re here to do!
Today, we’ll be discussing what being high feels like and what you should expect if it’s your first time using weed. That said, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
What Does Being High Feel Like?
If you follow pop culture and Hollywood, chances are you’ve seen a depiction of being high as a mellowed-out experience that has you craving for all kinds of junk food. While fun in your favourite stoner movies, these portrayals of the stereotypical stoner aren’t always accurate to what your experience might entail.
For instance, if you ask a cannabis connoisseur who exclusively smokes high THCV strains what to expect, they’d likely tell you that being high feels like an energizing trip that helps creativity flow.
The truth is, being high doesn’t always feel the same. In fact, it can offer a completely different experience depending on how you consume your weed or even by the type of strain you’re using.
Not to mention, cannabis affects every person’s body differently. The intensity of the effects and longevity of the high is dependent on a wide range of factors, including the strain and ingestion method.
However, there are more individual elements to consider, such as a person’s weight, age, body type, metabolism, and more.
Before we jump into the details, let’s first cover the basics.
Smoking and Vaping Weed
This method of consuming weed is definitely the most common of them all. Some tokers love and stick with smoking due to the nostalgia and tradition factor. That said, with the increased popularization of vaping, many have decided to make the switch since vaping is widely considered a far healthier and safer alternative.
The effects of smoking weed come on quickly because of how they enter our body’s endocannabinoid system. Without delving too far into the biology of it, when you inhale weed smoke, it enters your lungs – duh. There, it goes through millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli, making it quick and efficient for the chemical compounds in your icky sticky to enter the bloodstream.
Typically when smoking or vaping weed, the high tends to last anywhere from 1-3 hours and is not too dense of an experience. However, that last point is heavily dependent on how much weed you smoke and the dosage level.
In most cases, smoking or vaping weed is the most balanced way you’ll be able to enjoy the high. You’ll be able to feel the effects quite clearly without the effects lasting as long or feeling as enhanced as they would with cannabis edibles.
That said, when dosed correctly, eating weed produces a high that is typically much more intense and lasts significantly longer than the ones achieved through smoking or vaping.
One crucial factor to consider with edibles is that there is usually an extended onset time ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours before you can expect to feel the effects.
This delayed onset is where many novice tokers make the rookie mistake of literally biting off more than they can chew because they “don’t feel anything yet.” Don’t worry. We’ve all been there at one point. It’s almost like a rite of passage in the cannabis world.
That said, you’ll quickly learn the lesson that dosing with edibles is a much more delicate dance than smoking, and too much of a good thing can send you on a one-way trip to green out if you’re not careful.
On top of that, the effects of edibles can last for around 3-6 hours, depending on the dose.
The disparity between the smoking and vaping high as opposed to an edible high comes down to biology, yet again. Don’t worry. We’ll make this explanation as simple as possible!
Basically, when you ingest weed through an edible, your body and endocannabinoid system process it differently. Part of this comes down to how the weed enters your system in the first place. While smoking goes straight into the lungs and into the bloodstream, edibles are a whole different story.
When you ingest an edible, instead of travelling to the lungs, it travels to your stomach instead. From there, it continues on to your intestines. Before the absorption process occurs, the blood first travels through your liver for ‘cleaning’ to ensure you stay healthy.
The liver is also where enzymes convert the THC in the cannabis edible into a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC or 11-OH-THC. The 11-hydroxy-THC is what is then transported through the bloodstream and into the brain.
Compared to inhaling THC in weed smoke, 11-hydroxy-THC is substantially more potent, causing much more intense and long-lasting effects.
For more information on 11-hydroxy-THC and why edibles are so much more potent, check out our in-depth guide!
Before you ask, no, you cannot just rub some weed-infused cream on the side of your temples and have it seep into your brain.
While topicals may seem like a simple and straightforward method for getting high, you might be disappointed to hear that they will not, in fact, produce any psychoactive effects.
Science indicates that CB1 and CBD1 receptors are located throughout the skin. As such, we now have further insights into the endocannabinoid system and its role in regulating homeostasis through maintaining the formation and regeneration of your body’s skin barrier.
In this way, most users utilize topicals for localized relief for aches, pains and other types of irritation by applying these cannabis-infused products directly to the problem area. This direct relief is mediated by the local nerves and immune cells in the skin.
So, while they may not get you high, cannabis topicals have a wide range of uses, including providing relief for conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, itching and more.
What Are Some Common Feelings Associated with Being High?
As we said before, the experience of being high is subjective to the individual user. With this in mind, there is no 100% accurate way to answer the question of “what does being high feel like?” with absolute certainty.
Additionally, contextual cues include the type of strain you’re using, the unique blend of cannabinoids and terpenes it possesses, your particular tolerance level, and more, all of which could indicate how an experience will go or what might happen.
That said, there are some commonly felt sensations that you’ll likely experience in one way or another when consuming weed, which we will outline below!
Altered Perception of Time
One of the most striking feelings while being high is the altered perception of time. This feeling might be weird to describe, but for some people, time does not feel linear while being high.
In other words, you might feel like some moments last for an eternity, which can either be a good or bad thing, depending on the environment you’re in, the crowd you’re with, and the general vibe at the moment. You may be watching your favourite stoner movie or get lost in a deep conversation, look up at the clock, and realize not even five minutes has gone by.
Still, to you, it may feel as though it’s been hours.
Don’t worry! This sensation is totally common. In fact, according to London-based psychiatrist Zerrin Atakan, who surveyed a bunch of studies regarding weed and time distortion, “70% of studies found that users experienced over-estimation of time.”
There’s a certain type of novelty about the feeling of weightlessness while high. Even while walking, your arms may feel like pendulums, swaying with the wind.
It’s an interesting feeling and can make simple things like walking, running, or working out a pleasure to do.
This sensation is typically associated with a ‘body high,’ where the weed’s impact on your brain affects how your body feels. This reaction happens when THC interferes with the communication between cells in the body’s nervous system.
Commonly, it results in users feeling incredibly relaxed. So, whether you are inclined to get active or feel your limbs grow heavy and sink into the couch, you can indulge in feeling mellow from the inside out!
Contrary to popular belief, not all stoner stereotypes are true, and cannabis can also make users feel more energized.
This enhanced alertness isn’t necessarily on par with your morning cup of coffee, but it might actually be better in a few ways. With this in mind, many users utilize a good old-fashioned wake and bake to gain the motivation and energy to tackle their household chores or help them conquer particularly long cardio workouts.
In this way, although many may perceive weed as solely being for relaxation purposes, that is certainly not the case! That said, it definitely depends on the particular strain you’re using and the distinct combination of cannabinoids it contains.
With this in mind, strains with THCV are what you should look for if you’re looking for energizing effects.
There’s no real way to sugar-coat this one. Depending on the strain, weed has a tendency to make a lot of users feel horny. These effects aren’t a new discovery either.
Pairing weed and sex dates as far back as 700 AD in ancient India – if they used it, you know it’s got to be true. After all, the people literally created an entire book for all the different neat ways to have sex!
Additionally, according to a 2017 study surrounding the effects of weed and sex, over half of participants reported an “aphrodisiac effect” following consumption and an “enhancement in pleasure and satisfaction.” However, these results aren’t surprising, seeing as one of the endocannabinoid system’s functions is maintaining and regulating libido.
How Can You Tell You’re High?
The feeling of being high can be so subtle that the feeling can pass you by without you even knowing it. If you don’t know what to look out for, in some instances, you might not even know if you’re high or not.
That said, we’re here to help! Here are some of the primary giveaways to indicate whether you or someone else is high.
As mentioned earlier, weed impacts the way we perceive the world. It does so by affecting our various physical senses.
If you’re able to pay attention to your vision after you’ve consumed some weed, you’ll likely notice your peripheral vision becoming blurred while colours and lights become much more vibrant.
It’s almost as if your cone of vision becomes narrower, but the things that you do see are much more vibrant and lively.
Research also indicates that THC can impact appetite, such as bringing on a classic case of the munchies, while also enhancing the sensory appeal of foods, thereby, in some instances, making them taste better.
Cannabis can also impact your hearing, causing things such as music to sound better. According to Professor of Music, Health and the Brain at Anglia Ruskin University, Jorg Fachner, cannabis can enhance the user’s focus to see “the space between the notes.”
This sensation causes the music to be perceived as more lovely, clean and distinct.
After puffing on some good green for a while, you’ll likely start to notice your mouth starting to feel increasingly dry. This sensation is commonly referred to as cottonmouth, and is an entirely normal and common side effect of smoking weed.
Cottonmouth occurs in the mouth due to a lack of saliva. This decrease occurs because the body’s endocannabinoid system is directly tied to the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates saliva production.
Research indicates that THC is structurally very similar to an endocannabinoid called anandamide. Anandamide is responsible for limiting saliva production in our saliva glands. Since the two compounds are so similar, researchers believe that THC is responsible for this decrease in saliva production, which, in turn, causes the annoying cottonmouth sensation.
Don’t worry. All this means is that you should keep some water on hand when using weed to avoid this from happening. If you do that, you should be golden!
Red eyes are one of the easiest and more prominent indicators for determining if someone has been partaking in some pot.
While many believe that it’s irritation from the smoke that makes tokers eyes turn red, this is a common misconception. Instead, the cannabinoids present in weed cause dilation or widening of the blood vessels in your eyes.
This reaction increases the blood flow to these particular areas, resulting in an overall decrease in blood pressure. The increased blood flow to your eyeballs is what actually causes them to appear red, while the lowered blood pressure might cause some users to feel dizzy.
As we touched on briefly in the first point, cannabis can help stimulate appetite. In medicinal contexts, this can be incredibly beneficial for patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy. In the scenario of recreational users, this effect has received the affectionate title of “the munchies.”
The munchies occur because THC facilitates a hormone known as ghrelin, which is a key indicator that lets us know when we should eat. The release of ghrelin, coupled with the other sensory effects associated with being high, causes us to feel famished and makes foods taste even better than usual.
Additionally, THC also limits the effects of compounds known as POMC neurons, which help signal to our stomachs that it’s full, and we should stop eating. When these neurons are blocked, there is nothing there to signify to our brains that we’re full, causing users to continue to eat, sometimes to the point where they feel sick.
You want to avoid this last sensation at all costs. Typically, if someone is feeling nauseous, it usually means that they’ve indulged a bit too heavily with their friend Mary Jane.
Many users would refer to this scenario as a green out, as it typically results in someone throwing up or having taken things just a little too far.
This stage is often considered the highest level of, well, being high. In most cases, it feels incredibly uncomfortable and unpleasant. That said, don’t worry. There are no recorded cases of death from someone consuming too much weed. However, we’re sorry to tell you, all you can really do, in this scenario, is ride it out, hydrate, and try and sleep it off.
With this in mind, there are some remedies for helping ease the symptoms of a green out. You can find out more in our complete guide on how to sober up from weed.
What Does Being High Feel Like? Final Thoughts
Cannabis has a wide range of benefits that apply to both medical and recreational contexts. That said, it is still a substance that should be approached with caution and used responsibly.
Keep in mind that the cannabinoids in cannabis interact with each individual user differently. As such, your high might not emulate the exact experience described above, but it should have a few familiar elements.
This variation is because everyone is built differently, with different metabolisms, tolerance levels, physical makeups and unique endocannabinoid systems. Additionally, specific strains and consumption methods will also greatly impact how the overall high will feel.
Remember, when trying something new, start low and go slow to avoid unpleasant experiences such as a green out. Cannabis should be enjoyable, and experimentation is an entertaining and healthy thing to do.
So long as you are careful and know your limit, and stay within it, you’re sure to have a good time.