Cannabis is its formal name, but maybe you know it as ‘Weed’ or ‘Pot’. To be honest, it’s probably the most common drug on the streets. We’re not denying that the stuff can get you totally relaxed, and is actually pretty beneficial in a number of medical situations but discussion around it can get pretty complicated. From different ways to take it to the potential side-effects, we’re here to answer the age old question ‘What’s the deal with dope?’

A young, blonde man is sitting at a desk on his laptop. He is looking up Cannabis. This is a wide-angle image.

What is cannabis? 

Cannabis is a plant containing the drug THC – The High Content. We’re just kidding, it actually stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, but The High Content is easier to pronounce. Basically, if the weed has a high level of THC, you can expect to get really stoned. It’s also important to note that THC is one of the most detectable chemicals on drug tests, so don’t get stoned right before work.

It comes in three different forms: Grass, marijuana or weed: the dried leaves and flowers of the plant, Hash or solid: a sticky brown resin that’s scraped off cannabis buds and moulded into a block, and Cannabis oil: a thick liquid made from either hash or grass. 

A couple of disclaimers

It’s important to note that cannabis isn’t just for stoners – it can truly help people. Weed is often used for people with long-term conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and chronic pain as it can help ease pain and relax the muscles. As a result, it can greatly improve their quality of life. This is why weed users and some others argue for the legalisation of weed. A lot of healthy people don’t even use the actual stuff, just products infused with cannabidoil (CBD) which is a compound found in cannabis. 

There’s also a distinct difference between this type of weed (known as medicinal weed) and the stuff you get on the streets. Since you have to have a prescription to get ahold of medical marijuana, it’s a lot more reliable than the weed you buy for a rave. The latter can be laced with all types of nasties, especially considering you don’t know exactly what the dealers done to grow it; We’d wager a guess that medicinal weed is just a tad more regulated in its growing conditions. Just something to keep in mind when you picture someone taking medicinal weed.

Why are drugs laced with other substances?

It’s quite a common practice for people selling drugs to lace them with other substances. This is because it helps them to save some of their drugs to make them last longer or go further, which means they can sell more and also create different ‘highs’. Stronger or different highs will then also encourage the user to go back for more. Anyone selling substances could potentially do this, so if you are prescribed weed then it’s almost definitely safer than the weed you might buy from a drug dealer.

How do you take cannabis? 

Cannabis can be taken in a bunch of different ways:

  • Rolled up with tobacco and smoked as a joint
  • You can smoke marijuana using a bong
  • Smoked using a pipe
  • Using a vapouriser
  • Eaten, usually in cakes and brownies, or stirred into yoghurt
  • Inhaled in a room filled with cannabis smoke a.k.a a ‘hotbox’ 

What are the effects of getting high? 

How cannabis affects you is extremely variable; it depends on how much you take and if you’ve taken it before. We can’t say for sure what you’ll go through but if you’re wondering ‘What does weed feel like’ , here’s what it feels like to be high:

  • Feeling chilled out and relaxed, i.e. stoned
  • Finding EVERYTHING hilarious
  • Being very chatty
  • Having deep theories about life and the universe and seeing hidden meanings in everything, including kids’ TV shows
  • Becoming more aware of your senses – you’ll probably start rubbing cushions cos they’re oh so soft, don’t say we didn’t warn you
  • Feeling like time has slowed down. Kinda like you’re back in GCSE physics 
  • An overpowering desire to eat everything in sight (AKA the munchies)

Are there any bad side effects? 

Short-term effects of weed

  • Coughing – if you’re smoking it
  • Losing your short-term memory
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy and confused
  • Low blood pressure, which can make you feel faint
  • Clumsiness
  • Vomiting, especially if you mix it with alcohol or other drugs. For more info, see our article on mixing drugs
  • Temporary short-term memory loss

Long-term effects of weed:

  • Smoking weed can lead to respiratory problems and, if you mix it with tobacco, can lead to cancer
  • There are links between smoking cannabis and low sperm counts in men, and sometimes lower fertility in women
  • Heavy smoking damages the immune system
  • Using it a lot can affect your concentration
  • It can make asthma worse
  • It can cause some long-term mental health issues, including anxiety and psychotic symptoms

Some dope questions on the trip 

How long does it take to get high?

If you smoke it, the effects are pretty immediate, but if you eat it in a brownie it can take half an hour or longer to kick in. Beware, cannabis can stay in your system for quite some time – roughly 36 hours in your bloodstream and 90 (yes, NINE-ZERO) days on your hair. This is especially true if you’re using stronger strains, like ‘white widow’, so always have a good idea of what you’re putting in your body. 

At the end of the day the time it takes for the drug to hit and for it to leave the body are completely dependent on the person taking it. Factors like height, age and metabolism come into play. So, we can never give you exact data for any of this, just approximations and a warning to take it slow

What’s the comedown like?

The day after you’ll probably feel tired and a bit zoned out. You may have trouble remembering things, feel stiff, have dry mouth and red, itchy eyes. To find out more about coping with comedowns, click here.

What’s a bad trip?

Not everyone enjoys cannabis. Instead of taking you to your happy place, it can make your heart race; you might panic, start hallucinating, or just feel crap. These effects can even last for a couple of days after you’ve taken it.

Other common questions

What is a whitey?

After reading that you may need a second round of saying ‘What is a whitey’ before you fully process it. A whitey is when cannabis makes you feel really faint and nauseous. You go pale (hence the name), feel cold, sweat, shake, vomit and sometimes pass out.

It can happen because you’re tired, hungry, dehydrated or you’ve just smoked too much. Be sure to get immediate medical attention though. If you want to find out more about overdosing, click here. 

Is cannabis addictive?

Cannabis itself isn’t physically addictive. However, if you smoke cannabis in a spliff stuffed with tobacco you’ll soon become addicted to nicotine – just like anyone who smokes cigarettes. The feeling of being stoned also has the potential to be psychologically addictive. 

If you or your friend need support with addiction, visit our article on the topic.

Should I use a cigarette filter in my spliff?

Probably not. You may think it will make your joint healthier because less tar gets through, but it stops the THC as well. You’ll just have to smoke a lot more to get any effect – and that’s not good (in case you needed any clarification). Use a folded cardboard roach instead.

Does cannabis cause schizophrenia?

Cannabis doesn’t cause schizophrenia directly, and most people won’t experience any mental health problems because of dope. But, if you’re predisposed to schizophrenia, taking cannabis can increase your chances of developing it. There’s no exact way of telling who’s likely to get schizophrenia, but you should be ultra-careful about using cannabis if:

  • Someone in your family has had schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder
  • You’ve had schizophrenia before, as cannabis can cause a relapse. It’s also worth mentioning that the risks are higher if you used cannabis a lot in your teens.

How can I reduce the risks if I take cannabis? 

Cannabis is often seen as natural and ‘safe’, but, as with any substance, there are DEFINITELY risks. With cannabis you need to be especially careful with your lungs:

  • Put as little tobacco in your spliff as possible.
  • Don’t hold the smoke in – especially if you’re mixing it with tobacco. It just deposits more tar in your lungs.
  • Don’t drive when you’re high, or on any substance really.
  • If you’re using a pipe or a bong, for the love of God, keep it clean.
  • If you’re eating cannabis remember it takes longer to work than smoking it. Getting impatient and having too much’ll just mean you pull a whitey.

What if I get caught taking cannabis? 

Cannabis is a class B drug, so if the police catch you with weed they have three options:

  1. Give you a cannabis warning – the police will keep a record of the fact you were caught with cannabis, but it won’t go on your criminal record.
  2. Issue a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND)they can fine you £80 on the spot if you’ve already had a cannabis warning. If you pay it within the next 21 days you won’t get a criminal record.
  3. Arrest you – if you’ve already had a cannabis warning and a PND, the police will take you to the station, where you could either get another cannabis warning or PND, a caution (which will go on your criminal record), or be charged with possession.

You can get a maximum of five years in prison and a fine for possession. If you’re caught supplying, making, or growing cannabis, you’re looking at up to 14 years in prison. To find out more about drugs and the law, click here. You can also use services such as FRANK to get informed, or even if you want to chat about legal issues. 


Next Steps

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drugs a-z

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 04-Sep-2021