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Smoking Weed Can Be a Lot of Fun, but Let’s Not Pretend It Doesn’t Fuck You Up

This post first appeared on VICE UK.

At last year’s Notting Hill Carnival—before the Red Stripe, warm rum, and weak drugs hijacked my general awareness of everything around me—I noticed some teenage boys smoking a joint. As is the case every time I get a whiff of skunk, the aroma took me straight back to my teens and early 20s, flooding my mind with a barrage of memories that I’m aware were a lot of fun but can’t really string together all that coherently.

I was instantly beaten around the brain with that old catch-22: instinctively wanting to take a huge toke while also being very aware that doing so would be a terrible idea. That the innocent Nike foot soldiers in front of me would morph into a terrifying kaleidoscope of bum-fluff demons, their neon rosary beads and NOS balloons forming some kind of oppressive Goblin City on the streets of West London.

Not for the first time, I began to think about the sometimes pleasurable, often worrying, mostly confusing legacy weed has had on my life. Because here’s the thing: Getting high can be a lot of fun, but let’s not pretend that smoking a load of skunk doesn’t fuck you up a bit.

My first spliff wasn’t particularly memorable; smoking weed just became a thing I did with my friends around the age of 16. And by “a thing,” I don’t mean a passing fad or an occasional pastime; it was all I did. Every day after school, we’d either sit in the park—or climb a tree in Hampstead Heath, if we were feeling especially motivated—and get high. I’m sure many of you have similar memories.

Sometimes we smoked soap bar and ended up with hot-rock holes in our clothes; sometimes we smoked bush weed—and a lot of it, because it was full of seeds and wouldn’t get you lean if you didn’t. But mainly it was skunk, the one your parents tell you is much stronger than the stuff they had in their day. Which, in fairness to your parents, is accurate: It’s about five times more potent than that brown Thai stick stuff you get wrapped up in red string.

Not everyone has the same experiences with weed. The overwhelming amount of conflicting studies—the ones that prove cannabis definitely causes schizophrenia, or the ones that prove it definitely doesn’t—should be evidence enough of that. Weed works for some people; it doesn’t work for others. However, I can’t help feeling there’s a bit of a confirmation bias going on among some of those it does “work” for.

The majority of heavy smokers I know would tell you they can regularly get high and get on with their lives without feeling lazy, paranoid, or anxious. Press some of them a little harder and they’ll admit that this isn’t always the case; that they’ll often find themselves experiencing more social anxiety and paranoia the morning after smoking compared with how they feel following a weed-free evening. Or that they can’t suppress the thought that their heavy skunk consumption had something to do with their transition from outgoing 15-year-old to introverted 25-year-old.

Of course, all of this is qualitative at best—none of it has been recorded, tracked, medically qualified, or any of the other stuff it might take to convince the loudest voices on r/trees. However, the sheer number of people who’ve shared these feelings with me is enough to suggest there are probably others out there who are feeling the same but have chosen to keep up appearances around their friends.

Photo by Jake Lewis

Looking back, I was definitely one of those kids. I lived close to a friend of mine in North London, and more often that not, if we’d been smoking I’d crash on his floor, the thought of a walk—followed by a night bus—down Holloway Road simply too much of an ordeal for my hazy brain. I knew I’d probably survive, but I couldn’t deal with the stress of wondering if every person I saw might be a genuine nutter, out to punch me in the throat and steal my Nokia.

This sort of thing went on for years: smoking and kind of enjoying it (or at least thinking I did), before leaving whichever house I was in and readying myself to deal with all the bloodthirsty degenerates waiting for me outside. Bizarre, paranoid behavior began to seem normal; I accepted it as collateral for the apparent enjoyment of smoking weed with my friends.

I still wonder if weed made me act and think a certain way, or if that’s just how I was at the time. I tend to think getting high exacerbates the negative thoughts we already have, and I recognize now that I was a pretty anxious, nervy kid. So smoking bud, given my propensity to feel anxious and nervy, was clearly a bad idea. Only, I felt I had to join in, because at an age where fitting in is more important than your own mental health, how could I say no?

Even now, hearing that people I once knew have gone through some kind of drug-induced psychosis doesn’t seem all that dramatic. You just shrug your shoulders and try to remember how they were when you were younger. Weren’t they always a bit weird? Or did skunk just do a total number on them?

I suppose I’m lucky that I got away from weed before it got to me. My suspicion is that a lot of people simply smoke through their worries, refusing to admit that the moments of anxiety and paranoia are really happening.

I’m not anti-drugs in any respect, and I’m certainly not going to judge anyone for smoking weed. I’m also not suggesting that there’s anything inherently wrong with cannabis (the medicinal benefits are numerous and deserve a ream of their own articles), or that some people really can’t get through an eighth a day well into their 80s without any negative side effects.

But what I am saying is, if you smoke a lot of weed and do feel creeping thoughts of anxiety and paranoia, maybe just don’t smoke so much? Or at least admit to yourself that what you’re feeling is real rather than dismissing it and ripping another bong, because your brain will thank you in the long run.

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Some stoners need to admit that a dime bag a day might not be that great for their brains.

Fuck weed

Is a great strain for boosting libido. Great focused effect

A potent sativa. Great to share with a friend and feel free to laugh together. Smells fruity and earthy. Tastes sweet and kinda pine-ish. If you are not a “seasoned” smoker, you may want to start with smaller doses. You will still enjoy this smoke.

Definitely a helps get laundry done!

Got an ATF (full-spectrum) vape cart from my mmj dispensary & am digging it. The taste is indeed unique: slightly minty with hints of fruit & pine. Not citrus but some other kind of fruit. And the high is surprisingly chill for a high-THC Sativa. But one puff makes me feel more focused/creative in a functional way. Great late morning/afternoon strain. As someone who suffers both anxiety & depression, this is a good one to have in the toolkit.

Got an ATF (full-spectrum) vape cart from my mmj dispensary & am digging it. The taste is indeed unique: slightly minty with hints of fruit & pine. Not citrus but some other kind of fruit. And the high is surprisingly chill for a high-THC Sativa. But one puff makes me feel more focused/creative in a functional way. Great late morning/afternoon strain. As someone who suffers both anxiety & depression, this is a good one to have in the toolkit.

This strain lives up to it’s lofty reputation, both through it’s wonderful terpene profile and it’s powerful stone. The head high is incredibly giggly and uplifting, and will give you a boost of energy when you’re in a creative rut. The body high is also spectacular, being almost similar to a good haze strain. ATF is the perfect strain for casual social settings such as dinner with friends, or a party, but is also capable of delivering a high that is completely mind-bending and sure to shut you down for a while. The terpenes are incredibly flavorful, and dabs of the strain are very sour and sweet, with strong herby undertones, and hints of diesel. I have not had the chance to try buds of this strain unfortunately. This strain is a great choice for unwinding at the end of the day, but makes a good smoke for most any time. Be warned, while it may increase energy levels, it can also knock you on your butt if you smoke too much, so start small and work your way up to the dose that’s perfect for you.

The Alaskan Thunder Fuck, also known as “ATF,” is a sativa dominant strain. It is immensely popular for a high which is quite different from anything you may have already encountered before. The strain can be smoked in the morning or in the day due to its uplifting characteristics. The buds look … ]]>