There’s something about edibles that sparks wild experiences, even in veteran, longtime cannabis smokers who are not unacquainted with the effects of THC.
“On the whole, edibles are a very different beast from smoking buds or vape pens. It’s THC, but it’s a different quality of high. Because of the way it is absorbed, it affects people very differently,” says Dr. Bill Costas, a Denver-based clinical psychologist who has worked in the metro area for more than 30 years.
His experience with edibles took place in the early years of legalization. “It was both a body and a head high, and I was really messed up on both levels to the point of feeling very uncomfortable. I couldn’t manage to stand up and go outside. I couldn’t do it 30 or 45 minutes later. You are along for the ride, and it’s a much longer ride than you expect,” he shares.
Part of the problem is what Costas calls the “hysteria” surrounding edibles (and cannabis in general), including a lot of alarmist headlines that prime novice users of edibles to be anxious.
Sensi asked readers to share their memories, and they responded with tales that are horrifying, healing, and hilarious. Because of sensitive employment situations or simple embarrassment, the writers are not identified. The stories are all real … or, at least as real as remembered.
“So, I took 20 mg more to get in the groove.”
A reader who had stopped smoking years earlier decided to give edibles a try when she had a chance to see Furthur, a reformation of the Grateful Dead (sans Jerry Garcia). “I bought a 100 mg edible. Everyone I talked to said to try 10 mg at first and see how you feel. Well, I took it at the beginning of the show, and by the end of the first set, I felt almost nothing. So, I took 20 mg more to get in the groove for the second set.
Move the clock forward about 30 minutes, I could barely stand up. By “China Doll,” I thought someone had slipped me a dose of LSD 25. With about four songs to go, I asked my husband if we could go home. He looked at me like I asked him to commit murder. I couldn’t stand up without help, and I almost dragged my husband into the bathroom to help me. The end result? No one was injured or hospitalized and a lesson was learned.”
“The cops came, the paramedics came”
A reader related a story about a friend who visited Colorado soon after legalization: “She hadn’t smoked for decades but picked up some chocolate. We split like 10 mg, she freaked out and thought she was having a heart attack, and called 911. The cops came, and the paramedics came. I had the giggles while the officer explained to her that she was going to be fine and that she wasn’t the first person this happened to. In fact, she wasn’t even the first person that week. The officer noted that the worst case he had seen was a woman who ate some edibles and was picked up running down the side of the road ‘butt naked.’”
“The only thing that got my brain to shut off ”
Edibles came to the rescue in the case of a Denver mother. “I got pregnant after fertility treatments. It ended up being ectopic, I nearly died and had emergency surgery. Afterward, I had a lot of grief and anxiety that I couldn’t calm down. I spent about eight months trying everything to sleep. I finally decided to try a small amount of edible gummies. It worked immediately, and it was the only thing that got my brain to shut off so I could sleep. I rarely use them now, only once in a while in very small doses. It takes a while to metabolize, so it allows me to fall asleep as well as stay asleep. I have been very grateful for this medicinal aspect of it.”
“How edibles education happens”
“A friend said, ‘Hey, do you want some chocolate?’ and a big discussion about dosage ensued. Mypotophile friend said, ‘Eat the whole thing, I always
do.’ My occasional-user friend said, ‘Nah, she better start off slow.’ So I had a nibble of the most delicious mint chocolate and felt great. It was fun, like “having-a-second-glass-of-wine” fun. Fast forward a month and I found my nibbled-on chocolate sample and an extra piece. I ate one and it tasted so good I munched down the next. What could it hurt? That’s how I discovered the difference between a fun dose and a ‘now I can only crawl from my bed to the bathroom’ dose. Live and learn.”
When you’ve overdone the edibles, time really is the best medicine for its unpleasant effects. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to alleviate the anxiety.
“First, you have to remind yourself that you are along for the ride however long it lasts. If you are focusing your attention on time, you will spiral down the rabbit hole,” says Costas. “Next, remember that you can’t overdose on THC. It has never happened. Nobody has ever died simply from a high dose of THC.”
Costas’ number-one strategy for dealing with an edibles episode? The power of positive thinking. “Detour your thinking from fear, anxiety, paranoia. Any time your thoughts go to a negative place, intentionally redirect them. It sounds too simple, but turn the
experience into having a good time,” he says. “Think of something fun—the music, something you’re looking at or tasting. Get lost in a pleasant dreamy moment instead of, ‘When will this end?’ I know that if I can direct my thoughts, I can aff, etc my emotional state. It changes my awareness, my breathing, and my brain chemistry. It means that I do have control. I may not be able to become less stoned, but I can make myself less anxious.”
To have a better experience, consider some practical precautions before you swallow the THC-infused goodies. Choose your set, setting, and company carefully: Where you will you be when the full effect of the edibles happens? Who will be with you? What sort of sensory environment will you be in? Make sure you have scheduled enough time, given the slow onset and lingering effects of edibles.
Be sure to eat edibles before the big meal, not after, or the effects will linger much longer. “For me, I’m not going to have an edibles experience at Denny’s with strangers. I might go into the mountains. It’s good to have the right music. If you watch TV, you may not want to turn on Criminal Minds,” Costas suggests.
Edibles taste much better than they used to. There are advances in micro-dosing, rapid absorption, and targeted cannabinoids for specific therapeutic effects. Better dose control, packaging, and instructions make it more likely that the first time is a good time for edibles novices.
However, in the end, they are still edibles and subject to the variables that make eating different from smoking and vaping. It will still be up to each user’s self-awareness and learning over time.