I’ve talked to many people about their experiences with edibles and I’ve heard a lot of horror stories. Nearly all of these bad experiences seem to be caused by consuming too much THC. Fortunately, prohibition is ending and those of us in legal states can easily find edibles that have been tested for potency, making it easy to avoid the unpleasant side-effects of over-consumption.
Years ago, two or three months after starting a new job, my new boss offered me a cookie. Naturally, I accepted and ate it immediately, as one does with cookies. I then finished up my shift and started driving the short distance home. I wasn’t going straight home — I needed to get some gas and stop to the post office. Halfway there I realized I had no idea how I would navigate to both the gas station and the post office and then get home. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe there was something in that cookie.1
I managed to find the post office, so I waited in line anywhere between three and thirty minutes — I no longer had the ability to gauge time in any meaningful way. I made my way home and opened my package only to discover a small loaf of zucchini bread from my mother. I ate most of it while texting a friend to tell him what happened. Texting quickly became too difficult, so I slept for ten straight hours instead.
I woke up incredibly groggy and very grateful to my mother for her serendipitously timed gift. At no point did I feel like I had died and I don’t have a cat, let alone a judgemental one2, so this doesn’t really qualify as a horror story, but I can’t say that I’d like to be surprised with an edible of indeterminate dosage again.3
So what do I do differently now that I’ve started eating edibles intentionally? Even professionally made edibles don’t offer much advice to beginners beyond start low and go slow. While that is a good starting point, it doesn’t do much to help people get comfortable with edibles or provide much guidance for people who have moved beyond the novice stage. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:
- I only consume the amount that works for me. It’s nearly impossible to determine the dosage of homemade edibles because it’s not easy for home cooks to get their materials tested. However, knowing the dosage is essential to a good experience with edibles. I have no idea how much was in that cookie, but given how long I slept and how groggy I felt the next morning, it’s safe to say that there was far more THC in it than I would have chosen. Knowing the dose also allows you scale up or down, depending on your needs. I generally prefer a 10 mg dose, but if I need to get up early the next morning, I might choose to eat half that.
- I pay attention to the strain. I love using our Gold Country Afgoo to help me sleep, but the reason that it works so well is that it’s an indica-heavy hybrid. I would choose a different strain if I were using edibles for pain management during the work day.
- I plan things out ahead of time. I know that the Afgoo edibles will make me sleepy, so I do not take them at work or when I need to drive. They also make me hungry, so I make sure I have something available beyond a pint of ice cream — eating 75% of my daily calories just before bedtime does not make for a good morning.
- I pay attention to how I feel. When I first started using edibles, I’d set a timer to go off every hour or so to remind me to check in with myself. It sounds a bit silly, but it really helped me learn how I react so I could understand what to expect. I now know exactly how much I need to go to sleep and when I should take it.
When You’ve Had Too Much
While it’s possible to eat so much cannabis that you feel uncomfortable, no one has ever died from edibles. Most lethal overdoses are the result of bad combinations of drugs, but cannabis doesn’t seem to create the dangerous interactions that other drugs are known for.
Even in a worst case scenario, too much cannabis isn’t terribly dangerous. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy the experience of taking too much. Many people report anxiety, dry mouth, paranoia, increased heart rate, lack of coordination, and vomiting after too many edibles. While those side-effects are unpleasant, the good news is that they go away by themselves, usually within 30 minutes to two hours.
Still, if you’re feeling miserable, you want to feel better immediately, not in two hours. Here are a few things you can do to improve the situation:
- Breathe. Take a few minutes and practice mindful breathing to calm your mind and body. This will help fight the anxiety and paranoia and may also lower your heart rate and quell the urge to vomit. (Not everyone will experience every possible side effect.)
- Drink some water. Dry mouth is a very common side-effect and water is the obvious — and effective — solution. Drinking water also promotes mindfulness and distracts you from any anxiety or paranoia you might be experiencing.
- Do not take any drugs or alcohol. While cannabis doesn’t cause dangerous drug interactions, alcohol and drugs will not make you feel better if you feel uncomfortably high. CBD is the exception to this; it’s been shown to counteract the effects of THC.
- Avoid eating foods high in myrcene or fat, as they can intensify the experience.
- Find a way to distract yourself. If you’re not suffering from a lack of coordination, taking a shower or going for a walk in a familiar place can help center you. You can also try listening to music, watching a movie or television show, coloring, video games, or knitting.4
- Talk to a friend and let them know what’s going on. Just knowing that there’s someone out there who cares about your well-being can make you feel better. If you don’t have any friends available, try something like the TripSit chatroom or subreddit where you can talk to a friendly stranger.
- Try the black pepper trick. Many people find that chewing two or three black peppercorns helps them calm down.
- Try to remind yourself that the discomfort you are feeling is temporary. You will feel better soon.
Share both your advice and your horror stories in the comments.