When it comes to strain selection, cannabis consumers have more options than ever before. In contemporary cannabis markets, three dominant types of strains prevail. The most popular strains are high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive in the cannabis plant. Alternate options are strains high in non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD), and strains that contain a mix of the two compounds. But, what happens when you smoke high-THC strains? It is a powerful psychoactive. Here are the details:
Cannabis is higher in THC than it was back in the hippie era. In general, strains with 10 percent THC and below are recommended for new consumers. Strains under 15 percent will provide a strong but perhaps manageable experience for cannabis novices.
However, strains today often feature between 20 and 30 percent THC, which is a very high percentage. By today’s standard, a high-THC strain is a strain with 17 percent THC and above. Those with over 25 percent can almost be described as ultra-high in the psychoactive.
High-THC strains affect everyone differently. Those new to cannabis may experience some unwanted side effects with high-THC strains. However, for consumers who are able to tolerate high-THC cannabis, the herb can have some seriously enjoyable effects. Here’s what happens when you smoke a high-THC strain.
There’s a reason why people say that cannabis causes a “high.”
The herb is a powerful mood elevator, causing feelings of bliss and euphoria. Unlike other substances like amphetamines or the popular street drug ecstasy, the euphoria caused by cannabis generally does not make you feel out of control or overly emotional.
Rather, THC often makes people feel calm and in a very good mood. Consumers often report that it tends to help them forget their stresses and worries and instead focus on the present and find enjoyment in what they’re currently experiencing.
2. Skewed sense of time
High-THC cannabis can alter your perception of time. Specifically, research has shown that it causes time to speed up. 15 minutes may seem like a half an hour, and an hour can seem like a half of a day.
Many consumers enjoy the time-warping sensation of cannabis. For some, it may even lead to the development of a different relationship with time.
Sometimes, THC can feel mentally energizing. Yet, the compound is most commonly associated with sleep. Research suggests that THC can not only help people fall asleep faster and help them stay asleep longer, but it may also extend the amount of time a person spends in deep sleep.
Deep sleep is the restorative phase in the sleep cycle when the body releases growth hormone and repairs the damage that has been done over the course of the day.
While most cannabis strains tend to make you feel a little sleepy by the time they wear off, certain strains are more sedative than others. Interestingly, the scent of a particular cannabis bud is what seems to cause the differences between strains. Terpenes, which are aroma molecules found in plants.
The presence of some terpenes, like myrcene, a compound that supplies a musty scent in cannabis resin amplifies the sleepy, stuck-to-the-couch, lethargic sensation some cannabis buds provide.
4. Pain reduction
For newbies, low doses of THC are thought to be most effective for pain. Though, those with a tolerance for cannabis may find more effective pain relief from higher THC strains. The cannabinoid is a powerful analgesic. So powerful that it is often used by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
However, research has shown that low to moderate-THC strains may be more effective as pain relievers in healthy people who are new or have little tolerance for cannabis.
The general rule of thumb? If you’re hoping for pain relief, start small and work up to the most effective dose for you. Those with medical conditions should always work with a doctor when starting medical cannabis treatments.
5. Reduced short-term memory
THC can affect your spatial and short-term working memory. The effects of THC on memory are mostly acute, occurring for just a short period of time while under the influence of cannabis.
After smoking a high-THC strain, you are more likely to forget things like where you left your keys, what your last thought was, or the name of the TV show you were watching.
Memory tests in long-term cannabis consumers have reviled slight deficits in verbal memory recall, with cannabis consumers losing the ability to remember one word in a verbal memory test for every five years of smoking. Though, lifestyle factors could not be completely ruled out as the real culprits behind the memory deficits shown in this particular study.
Otherwise, research suggests that consuming cannabis may actually improve memory in aging adults. To learn more about how cannabis affects the aging brain, read here.
The downside of THC
High-THC strains are not for everyone. While they are often preferred by experienced cannabis consumers and medical cannabis patients, unfortunately, high THC strains can come with some downsides. Here are a few negative side effects of high-THC strains:
1. Anxiety and paranoia
Some people may experience anxiety and paranoia with high doses of THC. These emotions are temporary. The chances of experiencing anxiety with a high-THC strain can be reduced by opting to consume cannabis in an environment that feels safe and comfortable.
Microdosing and taking it slow with a high-THC strain can also decrease the likelihood that you experience paranoia and anxiety.
2. Rapid heartbeat
High doses of THC can cause the heart to beat faster. This is why cannabis is not thought to be something that mixes well with blood pressure or heart medications. Research has shown that cannabis can cause a five-fold increase in heart rate. This is a little more than sex or intense exercise.
3. Red eye
Red, blood shot eyes are often a tell-tale sign that someone has been smoking cannabis. THC is a vasodilator, which means that it opens blood vessels. This causes blood pressure to lower, which causes more blood to flow into the vessels in the eyes.
While red eye can be embarrassing or annoying to some, this side effect is why cannabis is considered helpful to patients with glaucoma and ocular pressure.
Cannabis can sometimes cause foggy headed or dizzy sensation. Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the neurotransmitter network that THC activates in the body, may play a role in sensations of vertigo and motion sickness.
While more work is needed to determine exactly why THC can cause dizziness, high-THC strains can cause this unwanted side effect in consumers without tolerance.