Seniors Ask: How High is Too High?

How high is too high?

In California, on January 1, 2018, thanks to changes in the rules governing marijuana use, people were not required to have a physician’s recommendation to shop in a dispensary. This made it possible for cannabis curious adults to openly visit dispensaries to ask questions and purchase marijuana.

She asked me, “How high is too high?” She was the first to ask, but not the last.

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Advise from a nurse

I, Barbara Blaser RN, was almost giddy with excitement as our doors swung open on that day. I greeted the first new senior patient, and I naively remember saying, “Welcome! How can I help you?” The beautiful woman said she was 83 years old, and she and her friends didn't want to die without ever having been high! She wanted to buy enough marijuana for them to have a party and to get high, but not to kill themselves. She asked me, “How high is too high?” She was the first to ask, but not the last.

I was able to explain that, by law, she could only make purchases for herself. We also talked about the possible dangers of giving everyone a product they were unfamiliar with, and possibly sending some of them home while impaired. She was able to understand and promised to bring her friends back soon.

It reminded me that I had once asked this same question, almost 14 years earlier, when I had a huge piece of delicious banana bread, slathered with butter, without asking if it was medicated. I pretty much discovered it was, about 2 hours after eating it, while I was having my hair washed at the salon, and I wanted to marry the shampoo person. My senses were heightened. I saw and heard things that I had never experienced FOR 13 HOURS. I don't remember being too high, but I was impaired.

The Difference Between THC and CBD

For new users there are several things to know. Not all marijuana is created equally. For instance, in particular with edibles and tinctures, they often contain both a cannabis compound called CBD (Cannabidiol) and one called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD does not generally get a person high or stoned. THC, on the other hand, can produce a high that can be pleasurable, but it may also cause dry mouth, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, poor muscle control, panic, anxiety, and delayed reaction times.

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Start low and go slow

There is no data to indicate anyone has ever died from using cannabis. It is strongly recommended that all new users start low and go slow. Try a 2.5 - 5 milligram dose, and wait two hours before taking more; the most common novice mistake is eating a higher dose to start, especially as most edibles are dosed in 10 milligram units. And, anyone with multiple serious medical issues that could be impacted by marijuana, should consult with a knowledgeable physician or a nurse practitioner first.

Limit Your Intake of Cannabis Products

Some additional suggestions include only trying one product at a time. If you are going to use edibles, tinctures, and topicals, try one for several days, or longer, before adding a second product. Journal. Record what you took, when, how it made you feel. If you take a dose, and you experience any unpleasant symptoms, don't take another dose until you talk to the dispensary staff. Use your head. People say, “I felt terrible the first time I tried it, I thought I might feel better the next time!” No, don't do it. Check in with a budtender, and figure out what might have gone wrong, and why, and solve the problem for next time.

If You Consume Too Much Cannabis

If the feeling of cannabis overwhelms you, Dr. James Lathrop, from Cannabis City, recommends laying down and resting. If possible, before you try a THC product, have a CBD product available - a dose of CBD will counteract the THC’s effect, lowering the psychedelic effect that can occur at high doses. Have black pepper or lemons on hand - chew or sniffing these may help, too. Push fluids, have a snack, and try to relax. You should have a plan, just in case. Call someone to come distract you. and start low, go slow every time. Really!

Marijuana provides treatment for so many conditions often thought to be part of the aging process - pain, anxiety, dementia, insomnia, depression, cancer, and Parkinson's. It’s important to become an informed consumer. You can enjoy your life at any age, and marijuana can help you.