Cannabis can be smoked, eaten and vaped – and is the UK’s most widely-used illegal drug
How it looks, tastes and smells
What does it look like?
Soft black resin, furry green leaves and hard brown lumps, cannabis can look very different depending on its type – but it all comes from cannabis plants.
You’re most likely to come across these types:
Also known as grass, weed is made from drying out the leaves and flowering parts of the cannabis plant. It can look like dried herbs and is usually brownish-green in colour.
This is the name given for particular strains of grass that are very strong. Skunk’s become very popular in recent years and is often bright, pale or dark green in colour and covered in tiny crystals.
Not nearly as common as it used to be, hash (or hashish) is made from the resin of the cannabis plant and can be black, brown, soft or hard – depending on the type.
This is a dark, sticky and honey-coloured substance that’s much less common than other types.
These are highly concentrated forms of cannabis that are extracted using butane. They come in a solid form known as ‘dab’ or ‘shatter’ and can be used as e-liquids in vape pens.
What does it taste/smell like?
Cannabis has a musky, sweet smell. Some of the more potent types of cannabis can have a stronger smell, but this isn’t a reliable guide to the strength of any particular batch.
How do people take it?
In the UK, most people mix it with tobacco and roll it into a cannabis cigarette known as a spliff or joint. Some people don’t use tobacco at all and make weed-only spliffs – either because they prefer it that way or to avoid becoming dependent on nictotine.
Users do this mix by mixing the drug with tobacco and putting it in a pipe, lighting it, and then inhaling the smoke through water out of a large tube. There are many types of bongs, and not everyone uses tobacco. Like with joints, using tobacco in bongs increases the risk of nicotine dependence.
Eat and drink it (edibles)
People do this by mixing it into cakes (hash brownies), tea, yoghurt or sweets (gummies/lollipops). The amount of cannabis in these products can vary greatly and sometimes other harmful drugs are added too. The effects of consuming edibles are unpredictable and it can be very easy to accidentally take a larger dose than you wanted to.
This method has become more popular in recent years. Most people use a vapouriser which heats the cannabis, rather than burning it. Very little is known about the health impact of vaping cannabis.
Smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of becoming dependent on nicotine. To avoid this, don’t use tobacco in bongs and spliffs.
How it feels
How does it make you feel?
The effects of cannabis can vary massively. Some people say feeling ‘stoned’ makes them feel chilled out and happy in their own thoughts, while others say it makes them giggly and chatty. But it can also make people feel lethargic, unmotivated and some people become paranoid, confused and anxious.
The sort of experience you have depends on a lot of thinks like;
- the kind of person you are (e.g. outgoing or shy)
- the mood you’re in, (if you’re feeling down it will probably make you feel worse)
- the environment you’re in (you’re more likely to feel paranoid or anxious if you don’t feel comfortable where you are or if you’re with people you don’t trust)
- how much THC it has (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis)
- how much CBD it has (which is thought to make users less likely to feel anxious and paranoid)
- how much you take
- how often you take it
Cannabis changes how you think and some people say it gives them a different perspective on things. It does affect your judgement though and people often think conversations or thoughts they have (whether good or bad) are much more deep or important when they’re stoned than they would do normally.
It can also make you hungry, known as having ‘the munchies’, or make you feel sick, known as ‘a whitey’. It can make you feel drowsy or sleepy and can give you the sense that time is slowing down.
THC & CBD
The hallucinogenic effects of cannabis are mainly due to a compound in cannabis called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
The other important compound in cannabis is CBD (cannabidiol). Skunk and other forms of strong cannabis contain high levels of THC but very little, or no, CBD.
It’s thought that CBD can balance out some of the effects of THC and make users less likely to feel anxious and paranoid. You can’t tell from looking or smelling cannabis whether there’s a balance of CBD and THC in it, but in general, hash may have more CBD than skunk.
How does it make people behave?
Cannabis can make some people giggly and chatty, and other people paranoid, confused and anxious – it really depends on the type of person taking it and the circumstances they take it under.
Experience mild hallucinations if they take particularly strong cannabis.
Become lethargic and unmotivated.
Have problems concentrating and learning new information. This is because studies suggest that cannabis effects the part of the brain we use for learning and remembering things.
Perform badly in exams. Because cannabis impacts the part of the brain we use for learning and remembering things, regular use by young people (whose brains are still developing) has been linked to poor exam results.
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
To kick in:
When smoked, it normally takes a minute or two to feel stoned. If you eat cannabis, it can up to an hour.
How long it lasts:
This depends on how much you smoke. Generally, the effect is strongest for about 10 minutes to half an hour after smoking cannabis, but if you smoke a lot, you may still feel stoned for a couple of hours. If you eat cannabis, the peak effects can last for 2 to 4 hours, and there may even be a few more hours before the effects wear off completely.
People may still feel the effects the next day, particularly after a heavy session.
How long will it be detectable?
If you’ve used cannabis as a one-off, it will show up in a urine test for around 2 to 3 days afterwards.
However, this can go up to a month for regular users.
How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.
Physical health risks
Smoking cannabis can;
- make you wheeze and out of breath
- make you cough uncomfortably or painfully
- make your asthma worse if you have it
There’s been less research on it but smoking cannabis is likely to have many of the long term physical health risk as smoking tobacco (even if you don’t mix the cannabis with tobacco). So smoking cannabis can also;
- increase the risk of lung cancer
- increase your heart rate and affect your blood pressure, which makes it particularly harmful for people with heart disease
- reduce your sperm count if you’re male, affecting your ability to have children
- suppress your ovulation if you’re female, affecting your ability to have children
- increase the risk of your baby being born smaller than expected if you smoke it while pregnant
Mental health risks
Using cannabis can:
- affect your motivation to do things
- impair your memory so you can’t remember things or learn new information
- give you mood swings
- disturb your sleep and make you depressed
- make you anxious, panicky, or even aggressive
- make you see or hear things that aren’t there (known as hallucinating or tripping)
- cause hours (or days) of anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations, which only settle down if the person stops taking it – and sometimes don’t settle down at all
- cause a serious relapse for people with psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia
- increase your chances of developing illnesses like schizophrenia, especially if you have a family background of mental illness and you start smoking in your teenage years
What is cannabis cut with?
Lots of things. Dealers cut hash with similar-looking substances or heavy materials to increase the weight of the drug and make a bigger profit.
Although not all cannabis is cut, it’s very hard to know when it is or isn’t – so you could be smoking, eating or vaping chemicals from all sorts of unknown substances, including pesticides used when growing the cannabis.
Tobacco is often mixed with cannabis, for making joints or smoking bongs. If you mix cannabis with tobacco you’ll be taking on the same risks you get from smoking tobacco.
These are: addiction to nicotine (the drug in tobacco), coughs, chest infections and in the longer-term, cancer and heart disease.
Is it dangerous to mix with other drugs?
Yes, any time you mix drugs together you take on new risks.
For example, if you drive when stoned or high you double your chances of having a fatal or serious injury car crash, but if you drive after mixing cannabis with alcohol, you’re 16 times more likely to crash.
Smoking or vaping cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine which is the addictive drug in tobacco.
Can you get addicted?
Yes. Heavy cannabis users often get cravings and find it hard not to take the drug – even when they know it’s causing them physical, mental or social problems.
When heavy users do try to stop they can:
- feel moody and irritable
- feel sick
- find it hard to sleep
- find it hard to eat
- experience sweating and shaking
- get diarrhoea
If you roll your spliffs with tobacco, you’re also at risk of getting addicted (or staying addicted) to nicotine.
This is a Class B drug, which means it’s illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
Possession can get you up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.
Additional law details
Cannabis is different to other Class B drugs as it comes under the discretionary warning scheme.
This means that a police officer can choose to issue you with a street warning only (which doesn’t form a criminal record, though it will be recorded), so long as:
- you’re in possession of a small amount of cannabis only, and for your personal use
- it’s the first time you’ve been caught with an illicit drug and you have no previous record of offence
- you are compliant, non-aggressive and admit that the cannabis is for your own use only
If you’re caught with cannabis and it’s your second offence, the police can issue with a fixed-term fee notice, which is an on-the-spot fine for £80.
As long as you pay that within 21 days, there’s no criminal record. If there’s a third occasion, you will be arrested and taken to the police station.
The main active chemical in Cannabis (Weed) is THC which can have various effects on the brain. Find out the effects, the risks and the law from FRANK.
Bad Cannabis Trip: What It Is And How To Prevent It
Although this might be a very common occurrence, there is not a lot of information out there to help stoners deal with a bad trip. Here is our guide to making sure you get through one as easily as possible.
WHAT IS A BAD CANNABIS TRIP?
Having a bad cannabis “trip” is completely normal, and there are numerous reasons as to why it could happen. With the individuality of both consumers and products, it can be hard to pin down specific causal factors. What we can tell you is that everything from the music you’re listening to, to the company you keep can trigger this event. Not to mention the specific strains and products you use, as well as how many tokes, dabs, or bites you’ve taken. However, it won’t necessarily matter how high your tolerance is.
What you experience after consuming cannabis will vary from person to person. Also, different forms of cannabis can produce unique effects.
For instance, edibles are known for taking longer to kick-in, yet the high is often more intense and longer-lasting. It is always important to go slow when trying a new form of cannabis.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF A BAD TRIP
Symptoms of a bad trip will vary, but there are some commonly reported instances. One possible symptom will be a numb feeling on your face. This may be paired with sweating, shortness of breath, and a pale look. If you don’t know what is going on, it is normal to feel scared. This fear may be followed by some stomach discomfort, which might lead you to vomit. However, it will depend on your specific conditions. Being unsettled by this discomfort is what usually leads people to throw up. Our stomachs are very deeply connected to our nervous systems, and these psychological feelings will morph into physical ones if you keep thinking about them.
It can indeed be a very unsettling sensation when you don’t know what is going on. Being “too high” is never a good thing. You can always wait it out while focussing on the thought that you won’t be the first ever person to die from a marijuana overdose. But in case this event occurs more often than you’d like, we’re here to teach you how to prevent bad trips from happening.
HOW TO PREVENT A BAD CANNABIS TRIP
With such a wide range of causes for this discomforting situation, it’s very hard to say with confidence which preventative methods will be 100% effective. What we can do is give you a few tips that are known to help or at least provide peace of mind (which is extremely important during a bad trip).
Be sure you’re in a comfortable setting. Being too high at a family dinner is the perfect recipe for a crazy trip. The same will happen if you’re in the streets, paranoid that the cops might show up. Just be honest with yourself and you’ll already minimise the chances of having a bad trip. Surround yourself with people you enjoy being around and who won’t judge you. Having uncomfortable strangers in the group will not help you relax if the weed comes on strong.
It will also be ideal to dedicate a safe place where you can relax by yourself if need be. Making sure you have a quiet room in the house or a car near your sesh spot will surely help reduce your anxiety. And finally, make sure you eat well and hydrate yourself throughout the sesh. This will keep your body under less stress, and may very well minimise the effects of the high to begin with.
HOW TO STOP A BAD TRIP IN ITS TRACKS
Like we said, a bad trip might be very hard to predict and consequently, to prevent. It may come at a time when you take all the precautions in the world and still find yourself feeling uncomfortably high. Let’s explore what to do in such a scenario.
When you feel it coming, excuse yourself from where you are and grab a seat. Find somewhere peaceful where you can be alone. Ask your friends for soda or a sugary drink. This will boost blood sugar levels. If the trip continues for a longer period of time, have something sweet to eat. A dry piece of cake or some cookies will be very helpful. If you’re a coffee drinker, it might also wake you up to have a cup. But if you’re not an experienced caffeine drinker, stay away from it as it may spike your anxiety. With the physical aspects taken care of, try to relax. Focus on the fact that this is all just temporary and the worst case scenario is throwing up. There will be no permanent effects.
Don’t watch TV or listen to music. This may only stress your eyes and head. Close your eyes if you don’t feel it increases the dizziness and nausea. When you feel capable and slightly back in control, talk to a friend. Go outside for a bit and try to distract yourself. Next thing you know, you’ll be taking a few tokes in the squad’s next rotation.
HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR FRIENDS
Now that you know how to take care of yourself during a bad trip, it’s always useful to know how to help your friends. This will ensure you and your mates have the most enjoyable experience possible.
First of all, be present, but not obsessive. The last thing your buddy needs is someone telling him/her to breathe every five seconds. Make sure you ask the obvious questions once, and that’s it. Ask if they need anything to drink/eat, or if they need help going somewhere else. Be sure your friend actually wants you there. Don’t take it personally if they want to be left alone; it is perfectly normal.
A bad trip will never be the end of the world, but it can certainly feel like it when the time comes! All you’ll need to think about or help your friend realise is that the situation is a very common occurrence. It happens to every toker at some point. Smoke responsibly and you’ll have everything under control. Just remember to have fun and support each other!
Almost every stoner has experienced a bad weed