How to Use Medical Marijuana Safely and ResponsiMedical marijuana is a safe alternative treatment option (by comparison), but it’s still a powerful drug that can cause problems for you if you don’t know what you’re doing. With a little knowledge and practice, however, you can use it to get relief from several conditions and manage the negative side effects.
In this post we’ll be discussing medical marijuana, its benefits, drawbacks, and everything you need to know. Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, so you should check with yours before trying it, and similarly, obey the laws and regulations in your area regarding the procurement and use of medical marijuana.
While I have a good idea of how I can use marijuana safely and responsibly, you and your doctor know better than I do. You definitely need to talk to a healthcare professional and not base your choices entirely off of some guy’s article online, even if it’s this one. That said, I’ve learned a few things that help me avoid tolerance, dependency, and avoiding negative side effects.
Plan Ahead for the First Few Times
First, let’s talk about managing the first time. Marijuana will steamroll you in the beginning if you’ve never had the stuff before—especially edibles. After a few uses you won’t have this problem, but initially you will likely get very high for a very long time. Take your first dose in a small amount (4-6mg) in the early evening (7:00 to 9:00 PM) before a day where you have nothing of consequence to do. Have a sober or marijuana-tolerant friend you trust hang out with you so they can help you differentiate between your state of mind and reality. Marijuana can make you paranoid and feel like something bad will happen. Unless you’re in pain, start vomiting, or showing any symptoms that are objectively bad, you will probably be fine. Use your friend to help.
I also found that keeping a stopwatch handy helps as well. You will likely experience time dilation to some degree when using marijuana (containing THC) and you may worry about the rate of your breathing. Most likely you will breathe normally and just think you’ve slowed down significantly. A stopwatch can help you realize that the drugs affected your perception of time. Simply start the stopwatch and hide it from view but keep your finger on the stop button. Next, breathe and count the number of seconds up to 15 or 20. When you reach 20, stop the stopwatch. You’ll most likely find that the number you counted up to differs notably from the number of seconds that actually passed. Seeing evidence of time dilation can help ease your anxiety because you can then fully accept that you are impaired.
Manage the Munchies
Most people get the munchies, so if you don’t want to gain a bunch of weight due to ceaseless hunger you should plan what you’ll eat in advance so you stick to that plan. Additionally, brush your teeth when you have nothing left to eat. This will help encourage you to stop eating when you intended to stop. Of course, some people don’t develop a crazy appetite when they’re high. If you’re like me though, and get really hungry, plan some safeguards in advance to ensure you don’t eat yourself out of house and home.
Learn to Act Normally
Many people find marijuana fun and enjoy it socially. I don’t, and while I mostly slept through my highs I spent time learning about them so I could manage and control myself for those hours I might have to be around other people. When high, most people lose their inhibitions, get giggly, overeat, get hazy red eyes, and develop a variety of other obvious effects that scream “this guy’s high af.” With some eyedrops and behavioral practice, you can avoid coming off as high in a public setting.
To learn to behave like a normal human being when you’re affected by drugs, you need to take them when alone and note your behavior. How do you feel? What do you like to do? How does these interests differ from what way you normally act? In the future, you can use this information to scale back those behaviors and find a normal equilibrium. Of course, you can only do this if you use a responsible amount, so that comes first. With practice you’ll learn how certain amounts affect you and you can avoid taking too much. You should always err on the side of less even when you’re just going to sleep. You don’t want to wake up and feel high if you have to drive somewhere or go to work, right? Until you get the hang of what you’re doing, dose less. That’ll allow you to live life normally, avoid negative side effects, and easily act like a normal human being when you’re around other people.
Control Your Tolerance
Everyone builds up a tolerance to drugs. They become less effective over time as the body adjusts to their presence. While you have a ton of cannabinoid receptors in your brain and developing a tolerance to marijuana can take a good while, it does happen and you need to know how to handle it.
Because you have the two major types of marijuana (indica and sativa), you can switch between them every other week to avoid a heavy tolerance to one or the other. This may not suit your needs, but if you don’t mind the differences it will help you build a tolerance much more slowly. Every three months you need to take at least a week off. Personally, I took every fourth week off. In pain management, this can get tricky, but you likely have other pain drugs available to you to get you through that week if the residual effects of the marijuana don’t do that on their own. In my case, I could take a week off and avoid significant pain. Everyone is a little bit different so you’ll have to see how it works for you.
Even if you use marijuana for medical reasons, continued use will demonstrate how nice it can make you feel. I hated it the first five times I took it. I still hate being around people if I’m even remotely high, however I find it relaxing to sit and watch TV alone in my bedroom. I enjoy the taste of food more. When a drug offers positive feelings, it’s natural you’ll want it more. While marijuana doesn’t cause much in the realm of physical dependency—at least, not without very prolonged frequent use at high doses—you do run the risk of psychological dependency. That’s the case with anything, including a great chocolate cake.
Like I mentioned about tolerance, taking breaks is essential. You need to continuously prove to yourself that you do not need the drug to feel good. Because my family has a history of drug abuse, I took regular breaks every fourth week—a fairly aggressive approach for someone with chronic pain. If I felt particularly good one day, I’d skip taking my nightly dose. It helps to make a habit out of choosing not to take the drug so you have frequent memories of feeling good and happy without it. If you don’t have those memories, you will have a very easy time convincing yourself that you need the drug when you’re sad. Do not let this happen. It will not end well.
If you worry about dependency and addiction, keep a diary of only the days you were not using marijuana so you have lots of specific information about your life when not using drugs. While this guide deals with the benefits of medical marijuana, it—as well as any drug—poses some serious risks with regular use. Take precautions to avoid falling victim to dependency and addiction. As an ultimate safety net, find a drug rehab center in your area to have on file in case you need one, or find a good therapist or a counselor who can help you manage. We all make mistakes, and using powerful drugs responsibly—even ones prescribed to you—poses a tough challenge. If you slip up or worry about slipping up, you can get help. Talk to a healthcare professional if things get out of hand or you worry they might. Safety first!