Jaene, whose been in the medical cannabis industry for years, is currently a cannabis consultant at Oakland's Harborside Health Center. She also teaches iRest meditation with OperationEVAC (Educating Veterans About Cannabis). She has written and edited various cannabis articles for digital and print media, and enjoys educating patients who are brand new to cannabis on all of the wonderful benefits the plant has to offer. In this article, Jaene gives her advice to cannabis newcomers.
1. Cannabis May Help You
Eschewing big tobacco? Weaning off of big pharma? Tired of the nonsense of big alcohol? You’ve found your home. In case you’ve been dozing off, a quick Google search of just about any symptom and cannabis, and you’ll see: Cannabis can help with many, many things. Cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body—in the brain, immune cells, connective tissue, glands and organs—and the endocannabinoid system works in conjunction with all your major systems. So, what are you seeking? Relief from pain? Something for insomnia? A little something for anxiety or a mood boost? There’s something for everyone in cannabis medicine.
2. You Don't Need to Get High
If you’re brand new to cannabis, don’t worry. You don’t have to get high. But it’s fun for some people, so perhaps you might want to try it out ... at some point. Euphoria is a decent place to be—and, FYI, you don’t have to be completely disassociated from reality. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in small doses can enhance any experience. But so can cannabidiol (CBD). Or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).
To our limited understanding and research of the some 113 different cannabinoids isolated thus far, only one, THC, is highly psychoactive. Cannabinol (CBN), a great cannabinoid for sleep, is mildly psychoactive, as it’s aged THC, but mostly it will make you drowsy. As a side note, available cannabinoids for uptake in products through the major methods of delivery—inhaling, ingesting, sublingually, topically and transdermally—number only about six to eight. We’re on the very tip of the iceberg. But make no mistake, things are about to change in a big way.
3. Know Your Comfort Level With Cannabis Products Available to You
If you’re new to cannabis, the world is your oyster. You’re taking your health into your own hands. Congratulations. The truth about cannabis is that the real benefits come from allowing all of the cannabinoids to work together as they naturally do—in what’s called the “entourage effect.” That means using CBD and THC. Using CBD alone will have some beneficial effects, but the best medicine is whole plant medicine, in the same way that it’s more nutritious to eat whole foods.
The key with using new or different cannabis products is being honest about your comfort level. I’m a regular cannabis user. I’ve been in the medical cannabis industry for almost four years. But I’m still not a big edibles person. My preferred methods of delivery are: smoking flower in a glass pipe or vaporizing it in a clean table or handheld device. There are many other options available to you. It’s up to you decide what works best for your body.
4. Cannabis Really Helps With Pain ... Really!
Recently, I experienced the worst pain of my life. Somehow, I threw my neck out. I couldn’t even sit up without screaming—each time I tried to lift my head, painful spasms shot up my neck into my skull. It was a whole new level of pain for me, and on hindsight, it really does give me a firsthand understanding of what some people experience on a day-to-day basis.
But at the time, I didn’t have this perspective. I was terrified. Mostly, I was terrified by the thought that I’d never find my way out of that pain. I tried smoking flower. I used tincture. I used topicals. I even took, against my better judgment, an ibuprofen (which I very rarely do).
When the spasming continued even after all of this, I turned to FECO—full extract cannabis oil. This thick, gooey, tar-like, whole-plant edible is some of the strongest, full-spectrum medicine available. And because of its potency, it’s used to treat serious illnesses like cancer and AIDS, and for chronic pain associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia.
The recommended dosage of FECO is half a grain of rice. It’s super sticky and tastes bitter. But, when the pain is so bad you cannot move—or if you do move, you’ll vomit—you’ll try anything to stop it. Anything. We wonder how people get addicted to opioids. Well, now I don’t.
I didn’t care about the taste of the FECO. I put the half-grain of rice-sized dose on the inside of my cheek. It lodged there for a bit until I was able to swallow it. After about a half an hour, I could feel myself disengaging from the pain. The spasms ceased. I could breathe and move around without wailing. But I was also very high. Very.
5. Being High Can Make You Paranoid
Getting very high on cannabis may cause anxiety and paranoia. Google “cop confiscates pot, makes brownies, calls 911” or “Dad eats pot brownies, says mean things to cat” to see what I mean. It can be frightening. I’ve overdone it on edibles a couple of times. I threw up, ruminated on all of our impending deaths, and had a two-day high-over.
But I also had the perspective of knowing that this was part and parcel of large doses of highly concentrated cannabis medicine. I counsel patients every day on how to avoid getting too high. So, I took my own advice and went to bed. Once the morbid thoughts ceased, I slept really well through the night and could laugh about it the next day.
So, the takeaway is: If you get too high, just know it will pass. Surround yourself with things you love and go to sleep as soon as you can.
6. Cannabis Can Help Decrease Opioid Use
If you’re trying to quit the harder stuff—pharmaceuticals for pain, sleep, anxiety or depression, or smoking cigarettes—it’s possible to do this with the help of cannabis flower, topical, tinctures and edibles. You’ll want a doctor’s guidance to do this. My advice is to seek medical advice and not attempt it on your own. If your regular doctor is resistant to this idea, find a doctor who specializes in cannabis medicine. Follow his or her instructions, and check in regularly.
Do you have questions about cannabis? Go to HelloMD's Answers page where you can connect with a health practitioner or well-informed member of our community who will respond to your queries.