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10 Side Effects of Being High

If you were to ask Kat Williams, he'd tell you the side effects of being high are happy, hungry, and sleepy.

By Fred Eugene ParkPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

There is no more popular drug in this country than weed. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 11 million Americans from the ages of 18 to 25 used cannabis in 2014. The institute also noted that use among youth has declined, though fewer young people consider weed a danger. While the side effects of being high become familiar with time, they may take a while to recognize or get used to at first. If you are not well versed and unsure if you are actually high, there are a number of symptoms to look for to confirm your suspicions. Most importantly, realize that being high is rarely dangerous to the body and will always wear off, so don't let any of these realizations alarm you. Once you have some experience under your belt, you will recognize that you are gonna be fine, and it's all in your mind. For the "professionals" out there, while the short term effects are minimal, there are a number of potential long term side effects to consider.

Elevated Heart Rate

One of the most frequent, paranoia-causing side effects of being high is an elevated heart rate. This sudden increase in heart rate may be perplexing to those who have never experienced it, seeing as it comes on without any bodily exertion. Though rarely a sign of medical danger, the elevated heart rate can be jarring to novices and those with a lot of anxiety. When considerably stoned, people often find that their heart is beating very fast, as if you had just finished an intense cardio workout. This mostly happens to those with a little less experience, as well as those under considerable stress. As an important note, mixing of prescription stimulants or energy drinks and cannabis is not recommended, especially if you are particularly averse to the symptoms discussed in this section. While this can be nerve wracking, it is important to realize that, more often than not, it is not a heart attack or anything worthy of medical attention. Accordingly, it is best to remain calm and understand that this feeling is short term, as panicking will only keep your heart rate elevated as a natural response to your agitation. If you find yourself in such a situation, just stay calm and remember to remain hydrated.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Let me start by saying this is defined very differently for cannabis than for alcohol and hard drugs. Those who seek to stop abusing marijuana may find the transition a bit difficult. Getting off smoking pot will not always leave you with throbbing headaches, nausea, sweats, and "stomach" problems, but you are likely to notice a change of emotions. Because weed acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, it effects the way these neurons fire and influences the amount of dopamine and other chemicals in the brain. Since dopamine is associated with positive emotions in the brain, discontinuing weed use can cause a sudden drop in dopamine, until the brain is able to recover and resume normal function. Because of this, some people may experience varying degrees of depression after quitting cannabis or running out of it. Frequently, such a chemical situation can cause a shortness of temper, heightened anxiety, and difficulty being enthusiastic. This flatness of emotion can be vexing, but will not last forever. Though this can be incredibly wearing on the psyche, it is best to remember that this distress usually lasts less than a week, by which point your brain begins to produce its own dopamine effectively. If you find that you still want to stop smoking, but you are too anxious and stir crazy, you may want to consider taking some CBD oil for a while, as this will offer some of the medical assets of cannabis without the high.

Cotton Mouth and Dehydration

Though this one is pretty stereotypical, it is important to understand in a broader context. While cottonmouth is usually just seen as one of the more annoying side effects of being high on marijuana, it is essentially your first sign of dehydration. Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica (weed), both come from a similar plant family to the hops used in beer. Accordingly, both tend to have the same dehydrating characteristics as beer. When you have cottonmouth, it is best to drink water to stay hydrated, as this will nip the issue in the bud. Though this is usually perceived as a minor annoyance, resolving cottonmouth will keep you from becoming more severely dehydrated. If you have a dry mouth, don't just continue smoking, as this will make your mouth and throat even more dry and sore, and lead to faintness and other signs of major dehydration. Remember, always stay hydrated! That's a sure-fired way to get rid of cotton mouth in the future.


As Buffalo Springfield once said, it "strikes deep." It is no secret that one of the known potential side effects of marijuana is paranoia. Why do something that is just going to freak you out? Though also known for allowing a state of calm and peace, those who are either naturally anxious or just wary of the experience may find that cannabis makes them frightened of potential negativity. Weed is certainly not a panacea. Those who continually find they don't enjoy cannabis should therefore reconsider their actions. Because it often causes the brain to focus more intensely, cannabis often causes a hyper awareness of surroundings. While this can be beneficial, it can often feed on latent anxiety, causing the user to question even the smallest sounds and movements. While this is certainly no sure sign of a mental health problem or even incompatibility with weed, it certainly means you don't need to smoke anymore for now. As weed is not for everyone, only continue to smoke it if you enjoy the way it makes you feel, as you will be a real bummer to your cohorts otherwise.

Short Term Memory Loss

Unless you forgot, you know well the reputation that weed has for weakening short term memory retention. Though this effect is not 100 percent irreversible, it is hard to deny when consulting or even generally interacting with most stoners. For the most part, pot users will find that thoughts which enter their mind will fade quickly, becoming incredibly difficult to retrieve. In addition to the fleeting creative thoughts that float by, people will often forget their intended task or details surrounding it. As a result, many will find they have more experiences, in which they forget what they are doing or thinking such as entering a room and forgetting why. While different people can experience varying effects from cannabis, its effects on short term memory are pretty widely recognized and acknowledged.


While different types of weed can produce different types of highs, enough of any strain of weed will strong arm you into napping, like it or not. It is safe to say that weed and sleep go hand in hand. With the strongest effects occurring in indica strains, this drowsiness is typically strongest in the decaying stages of your high. While there is much debate over the healthiness of doing so, many people exploit this side effect to self treat insomnia and sleep deprivation. This treatment is controversial because it is unclear if sleep induced by cannabis includes adequate REM sleep, a phase of sleep critical to good health and wellness. Ever notice how smoking weed caused you to dream less? Because the side effects of being high are somewhat cumulative over the course of a day, drowsiness can manifest after a long day of abusing marijuana.

Mild Visual and Auditory Hallucinations

Tying into the paranoia that can often result from smoking with little experience and/or to excess, some people who have smoked weed have experienced the funky side effects of getting stoned by hallucinating. While these hallucinations are rarely major, they can be jarring to some people. Usually, the hallucinations manifest in moments of fear or stress, especially when smoking outdoors at night. These hallucinations can be completely imagined, but are also often the result of the mind misinterpreting a perfectly natural sight or sound. When smoking in the woods at night, one member of a group may believe they see a shape moving across the light between the trees. Whether a trick of the light or a wild animal passing through, the sight or sound will usually amount to nothing, as hard as this may be to sell to a bunch of stoned people in the dark.

The Munchies

The munchies are one side effect of marijuana that has, more or less, penetrated public consciousness across the board. It is well known, and often stereotyped, that cannabis often causes one to develop a ravenous appetite. While this isn't the most dangerous or incapacitating of side effects, it can often catch up with you if you don't exercise a degree of self control. Especially when taking place mostly at night, the munchies can cause you to eat large amounts of food with questionable nutrition and slowly gain weight. This is because the body does not digest food as efficiently by the end of the day. When smoking weed regularly, it is best to limit the amount of unhealthy snack food you keep in your house at a time if you don't want to risk gaining weight.

Reduced Nausea/Other Gastric Symptoms

In addition to increasing appetite, cannabis can also settle the stomach and other parts of the digestive system. Though many other substances like stimulants and alcohol tend to cause digestive discomfort and problems, cannabis has a uniquely opposite effect for many marijuana users. Though seen as controversial by many medical officials, many people claim to have found relief from gut pains and exceptionally unpleasant and unhealthy trips to the restroom. This fact is perhaps less well-known than the knowledge of its use to kill nausea and build appetites in cancer patients and other terminally ill people. Like many of the other seemingly beneficial effects of weed, this could prove to add fuel to the case for medical legalization in places where other arguments have gone neglected.

Increased Phlegm

Whether or not weed is more or less healthy to smoke than tobacco, the fact is that abusing marijuana will also cause a great deal of tar and phlegm buildup. Though the experienced stoner will not necessarily cough very hard when taking hits compared to the novice, chances are they'll be coughing a lot more after the fact. Like any type of foreign smoke, gas, or vapor we put into our body, the lungs are irritated by pot smoke. As a result, phlegm builds up as a defense mechanism from the irritation. Though phlegm may seem like more of a nuisance compared to other side effects of being high, if it strikes at the right time under the right circumstances, excess phlegm in the lungs and throat could lead to pneumonia and/or bronchitis, as well as other infections of the lungs. Don't smoke when it hurts to do so!


About the Creator

Fred Eugene Park

Fred Park is a writer, singer and guitarist with a deep passion for music, sports and history. Fred graduated from Purchase College in 2016 with a BA in history.

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