Part 3 – Preparing for a Positive Cannabis Experience; The Importance of Set & Setting
Navigating Vermont’s New Cannabis Marketplace; A Three Part Series on Building a Positive Cannabis Experience
Everyone always asks us what they can do to feel better after they have over consumed THC. While there are a handful of activities that might lessen any potential negative experiences , the best policy is always prevention through preparation. One of the most reported and most feared negative effects of cannabis consumption is anxiety; in the worst case scenario, paranoia. Thankfully there is a lot we can do before consumption to best prepare us for a positive experience. When used responsibly and with intention, cannabis products can offer many benefits including symptom relief and enhanced creativity. Below we offer advice on how to approach your cannabis journey, followed by 5 Pro-Tips on how to address cannabis-induced anxiety:
- Consult with your primary care practitioner before experimenting with cannabis if you are taking prescription medications or managing a health condition. Talk to them about whether the Vermont Medical Cannabis Program is an option for you. Medical dispensaries offer private consultations and home delivery.
- Build a relaxation practice before you start experimenting with new products so that you have a tried and true method when you need it. This could be breathwork, meditation, yoga, a relaxing playlist or your favorite walk in the woods. Just like cannabis, you discover what works best for you.
- Research the dispensary options before you go to shop; find the ones that are closest to your comfort zone. Is it important for you to speak with a female budtender? Are you looking for a company focused on wellness or recreation? Do you prefer cannabis flower or are you looking for a wide variety of products across multiple categories? What is your budget? Websites are usually great indicators of what to expect at the store. If you still have questions, call ahead and talk to somebody on staff who can answer your questions before you visit in person.
- Experiment with products at home or in a safe, private setting with someone you trust and who has experience. Plan on being in that environment for a while as some products require hours to take effect or can last hours in duration. Having a comfy place to take a nap if needed is highly encouraged.
- Be well-hydrated and keep extra water on hand. It is best to consume after a snack or meal. Consuming on an empty stomach can affect how your body metabolizes a product, potentially with negative consequences.
- Set an intention for your experience; how do you want to feel and for how long? What is your current mood? Are you looking to enhance that mood or change it? Cannabis has the potential to do either; your mindset can be just as critical to success as the “right” product.
- Start with one cannabis product at a time to gauge how it will affect you. Even though there exist general guidelines about the average onset and duration of effect for each category of product, every person will have their own unique experience. It is also important to avoid alcohol or psychoactive substances when experimenting with cannabis.
- Go low and slow when it comes to dose. We recommend that beginners start with lower potency flower (12-16% ∆9THC if you can find it) for smoking or vaporizing. One short inhale should suffice until you have an understanding of the effect for each particular cultivar. One to two milligrams (mg) of ∆9THC is a relatively safe place to start with infused products. Titrate up over time to determine your minimum effective dose, the dose that offers you benefit without adverse effects. Sublingual oils and tinctures offer drop by drop dose management, a powerful tool for the newly initiated.
- Take notes on your experience so that you have something to reference when considering future use. At a minimum, it is important to track the product used, the dose consumed and the onset, quality and duration of effects. More detailed note takers can include set and setting attributes such as, “I was at home alone after a long, difficult day at work. I was dehydrated and skipped lunch. I drank way too much coffee today. I was tired and cranky and wanted to relax and ease my mind.”
Even the best laid plans can sometimes result in an uncomfortable experience. While there is no tried and true method to remedy these situations swiftly, there are a handful of tools that consumers report can be useful in the moment. Below we highlight 5 Pro Tips on how to address cannabis-induced anxiety:
- Consume a CBD product. Research and anecdotal evidence have shown that CBD can be helpful in reducing anxiety. If anxiety is a concern for you, consider adding a CBD product to your daily health regimen before you begin experimenting with ∆9THC, instead of trying a CBD product for the first time as a remedy in an acute situation. The goal here is twofold: 1) Consuming CBD on a regular basis may reduce your overall anxiety levels which could reduce the possibility or intensity of cannabis-induced anxiety. As we noted earlier, cannabis can augment feelings that already exist under the surface. 2) Identifying a product that helps reduce your anxiety builds confidence and contributes to a positive mindset. Now you know that you have something that works! Make sure that you have it on hand so that it is there when you need it.
- Use that relaxation technique you have already developed. See bullet 2 above ⬆️.
- Surround yourself in scent. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to relieve anxiety and lift mood. Scents can be experienced through concentrated extracts like essential oils, either by diffusing them into your space or practicing palm inhalation. Lavender and Chamomile are good, safe choices here. If you do not have essential oils on hand you can work with the fresh or dried flowers directly. Rubbing the flowers between your fingers intensifies the scent. You could also make a tea with the flowers. Some people swear by lemon, which has an uplifting, clarifying effect. Essential oil of lemon is readily available, but you could also twist some fresh lemon zest under your nose or squeeze fresh lemon juice into a cup of warm water.
- Create a new focus; distraction can be your best friend in anxious times. Play a game, watch a movie, read a book or better yet, do some housekeeping! There is always something to do in this regard and we hear it works wonders 😀.
- When all else fails, sleep it off. The good news with cannabis is that time is on your side. Eventually, within hours, the effects will recede and a good old-fashioned nap is a great way to bridge the gap. Plus, most of us are sleep-deprived anyway and naps help us pay off our sleep debt, making sleep one of the most important forms of self care.