Originally posted April 4th 2017
Many of us have a story of consuming cannabis and it hitting a lot harder than we'd anticipated, getting a quick lesson in dosing and discovering our "subjective therapeutic window" which Uwe Blesching describes in The Cannabis Health Index as a personal dosage that is just enough to feel the desired benefits of cannabis, and not an excessive amount that can counteract these effects. You can find your subjective therapeutic window by taking a small hit of a joint, bowl, or other smoking apparatus, waiting for 10 minutes or more to see the effects, then taking the same amount again and wait another 10 minutes if you desire a stronger effect.
Discovering your subjective therapeutic window is important for a comfortable and enjoyable high, but until then you may face frustration with consuming too little, and more likely, have an unpleasant trip from consuming too much THC, so it helps to be prepared with tools to stay calm and grounded even when your high seems to be getting out of hand. Here are a 4 tips and techniques that have helped me prevent and coax down getting too high,
1. Always have CBD products on hand
CBD is the yin to THC's yang. Where THC produces the psychoactive mental high, CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis that does not give any mind altering effects and is generally used to treat pain, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and as an anti-inflammatory. CBD is extremely effective in taming the psychoactive influence of THC, allowing consumers to experience THC's therapeutic properties. CBD tinctures are a great tool to de-escalate a high as the dropper makes dosing easy, and sublingual application allows for fast acting relief from an uncomfortable trip.
2. Practice 2:1 breathing
2:1 breathing is a deep, diaphragmatic breath where the exhale lasts twice as long the inhale. This is beneficial because the heart beats slower on an exhale which is generally calming and reduces fear and anxiety - common symptoms for someone who's consumed more than their ideal dose of THC. This breathing practice is used often in yoga and meditation to bring focus to the present moment, give a soft focus to the practitioner's mind, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our internal system responsible for rest and digestion which sends signals to the mind and body to relax.
When you've smoked too much cannabis, practicing 2:1 breathing for a few minutes in a seated position can calm your nerves and also give you a focus on your inhales and exhales, drawing your senses to inward rather than to outward sensory stimuli.
3. Be mindful of your thoughts
Once you get caught up in the fact that you're just too high, it's easy to get carried away to a point of panic. Your thoughts and breath have a lot of power in affecting how you feel. If you're in a panic and only repeat thoughts that reinforce this, you're facilitating more thoughts that will make the situation feel even worse. Mindfulness is known to reduce stress and when combined with 2:1 breathing is a great way to activate the parasympathetic system and cultivate calm. While practicing 2:1 breathing be mindful of any thoughts that come up. Notice, is this thought helpful? Is this thought accurate? Do not actively try to change your thoughts, just acknowledge them as they come in, notice what kind of thought it is, don't judge it or yourself, then let the thought go and bring your attention back to your breath. And remind yourself that any negative effects that you're feeling from the bad trip will soon pass.
4. Move with curiosity and non-judgement
Judging yourself when you get too high is an easy place to go to, but switching this action to curiosity creates an opportunity to explore yourself and actively learn from the situation. I recently took an Anusara cannabis yoga workshop (my first time doing a cannabis-enhanced class under someone else's instruction) where I smoked a kief covered joint and scoffed medicated gummie bears - it was heaven. We started the class and after a few poses I noticed my hands were shaking as I pressed them together in samasthiti. I could feel a vibration through my whole body. There were two perspectives I could have taken in this situation; one embraced curiosity and the other a critique. Rather than scold myself for how I shook in the pose, I noticed the energy and excitement the cannabis caused in me, how it effected my practice, how my breath and heartbeat were magnified, how I could be curious and love the way I moved and my capabilities at this moment. This shifted my thoughts out of whether I had smoked more than I should to a state of calm and child-like curiosity, where I was happy to learn and explore my body and mind as if it were new. If you practice yoga, I recommend doing slow rounds of classic sun salutations and pay extra attention to the breath and the way your body feels. Notice without judging. Stand in a strong samasthiti or mountain pose with your feet rooted, legs engaged, and tailbone lengthening to the floor. Be compassionate with yourself, see if you can move with a beginner's curiosity, and stay with yourself until you feel calm and grounded.