What Getting High Alone Can Teach You About Yourself
A Canadian study published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review looked for differences between people who consume cannabis socially versus those who consume cannabis solo, and found:
Compared to individuals reporting their most recent cannabis-using occasion as social, solitary users were signiﬁcantly more likely to screen positive for psychosis, endorse more symptoms of cannabis abuse/dependence, report using cannabis to cope, and use cannabis on more days within the previous 30 days.
In its own words, the study “sought to examine the extent to which the social context of cannabis use is related to patterns of use and associated harms.”
Harms, but What About Benefits?
Please note that this statement of purpose doesn’t even consider the possibility that there may be associated benefits to cannabis in addition to associated harms. In fact, Toni Spinella—a master’s student in psychology and neuroscience and the study’s lead author—seems to think anyone who uses cannabis for “coping” treads in dangerous waters.
The study’s author seems to assume that anyone who uses cannabis for ‘coping’ treads in dangerous waters. But don’t we all cope with something?
“It’s possible that they lack other coping strategies,” Spinella told the CBC. “If you’re alone, why are you using alone? That’s something that you might want to ask yourself and if you realize, ‘OK, I’m using alone because I’m sad tonight or I’m stressed,’ then maybe that’s a red flag that you should think more about.”
Fair enough, but a red flag compared to what other coping mechanisms? Whiskey? Junk food? Internet scrolling? Gambling? Binge watching? Xanax?
Is Solo Smoking Making Me Psychotic?
As for the idea that consuming cannabis alone might lead to psychosis, allow me to start by asking a couple of common sense questions:
- Is it possible that people with mental health conditions are more likely to use cannabis in an attempt to self-medicate that condition?
- Is it possible that people using cannabis to treat mental health conditions would be more likely to do so alone rather than in a social setting?
The answer to both questions is pretty clearly yes.
Studies have shown that cannabis and cannabinoids can improve the symptoms of schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. And if you’re using cannabis to treat one of these conditions, doesn’t that seem like something you’re more likely to do at home with some frequency (compared to someone who smokes weed maybe once a month whenever it’s offered to them at a party)?
A Link Is Not a Cause
So while there may indeed be a correlation between psychosis and getting high alone, that’s a far cry from causation. Even the study’s author admits this. That’s why the CBC had to use a fudge term in its otherwise alarming headline:
Can you can spot the fudge term?
Trick question. There are two of them: linked to and suggests.
Linked to means there’s no actual evidence to show that cannabis causes psychosis. Rather, someone with psychosis may be more likely to use cannabis than someone without psychosis.
Suggests means that even the evidence showing a “link” between the consumption and the medical condition is pretty paltry.
In Defense of Crutches
Toni Spinella’s aversion to using cannabis as a coping mechanism reminds me of a joke by Doug Benson, a longtime cannabis comedian and the host of Getting Doug With High.
Some people say marijuana is a crutch. Yeah. Crutches help people walk.
Someone should tell Spinella that while we’d all like to live in a world where nobody ever gets stressed out or feels sad, that just ain’t happening. In the meantime, we need to find relatively healthy ways to cope.
A Therapeutic Option
Even if you live the life of a fully-optimized self-actualizing perfect person, you’re still going to be touched by trauma, depression, and anxiety—all of which can be treated with cannabis, a therapeutic option that’s demonstrably safer and less habit-forming than pharmaceutical drugs.
Cannabis has even been shown to help those suffering from loneliness itself, which the medical establishment increasingly sees as a real and growing epidemic. A recent study by Cigna, a health insurance company, found that a full 47 percent of Americans often feel lonely or left out. Thirteen percent say not one person knows them well. This has serious health consequences.
Loneliness as a Public Health Issue
In 2010, researchers at Brigham Young University published a groundbreaking study that showed chronic loneliness can take about 15 years off of a person’s life expectancy—roughly the same impact as obesity, or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes per day.
But the good news is cannabis can greatly diminish the negative impacts of loneliness.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Kentucky published findings from a study that asked, “Can marijuana reduce social pain?” The answer was yes:
Marijuana buffered the lonely from: negative self-ratings of self-worth and mental health, depression over time, and even distress following exclusion… Marijuana has been used to treat physical pain, and the current findings suggest it may also reduce emotional pain.
Again, the researchers make clear that cannabis also has potential harms. And that coping with loneliness is not the same as overcoming it.
Put another way: You don’t want to use crutches for the rest of your life, but it’s better than trying to walk on a broken leg
You Don’t Have to Be Lonely to Be A Lone Stoner
“The Lonely Stoner seems to free his mind at night.”— Kid Cudi
We’ve already pointed out that Toni Spinella’s research ignores the considerable evidence that cannabis may be a therapeutically beneficial treatment for someone dealing with loneliness and depression. But she also fails to recognize that a relatively healthy person may find significant benefit from a little alone time with the bong.
I don’t have a study to back me up here, but I do speak from personal experience when I say that just as getting high together can help two or more people connect in a profound or at least interesting way (i.e. “get on the same wavelength”), cannabis can also help us connect with our own authentic selves.
Enlighten Up Yourself
“When you smoke the herb,” Bob Marley once said, “it reveals you to yourself.”
What’s revealed is not always flattering, but even a difficult realization about one’s self can yield helpful insights and spur true psychological growth.
Again, I can’t cite a study for this since most cannabis research continues to ignore the plant’s benefits, but I can call in an expert witness: Famed astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan, best known as the host of Cosmos, a 13-part exploration of far-out space science that became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television.
Astronomer Carl Sagan, professor of astronomy and space science at Cornell University, was one of the first scientists to speak out about the positive properties of cannabis. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Sagan contributed an anonymous essay to Marijuana Reconsidered (1971), a book written by eminent cannabis researcher Dr. Lester Grinspoon, one of Sagan’s closest friends. Identified only as Mr. X., Sagan explained that his support for ending cannabis prohibition was not just political, but also deeply personal.
He found real value in using cannabis introspectively:
Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness… that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.
A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word ‘crazy’ to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us.
There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day.
Tips for a Solo Flight
As the author of a book called How to Smoke Pot (Properly), I feel compelled to close with a few practical thoughts on how to optimize your solitary cannabis experiences.
- Before you get stoned, decide what you’re going to do after you get stoned, and then do it.
- If possible, get out into nature before you spark up. This is particularly good advice if you’re battling depression.
- Turn off your phone and instead utilize an archaic technology known as a “notebook” to jot down all your brilliant highdeas before they slip away.
In his hit song “Day and Night,” Grammy winner Kid Cudi introduced The Lonely Stoner, an alter-ego based on a period in his life when he spent a lot of time engaged in what jazz musicians used to call woodshedding. Which back in the day literally meant spending a few months holed up in a woodshed practicing your instrument nonstop. Often with the help of a little reefer to keep in the flow.
You probably don’t have a few months to spare right now to fully focus on a creative pursuit, but why not try it for a day? Find a time and place to be alone for 24 hours without distraction, track down some strains known to boost creativity, and set the intention of creating or learning something new.
Then drop a note in the comments and let us know how it went.
A recent study raised alarms about enjoying cannabis alone. But a solo sesh can lead to creative thoughts, introspection, and fresh insights.
9 Fun Things To Do Stoned To Get To Know Yourself
Smoking weed gets a bad rap. OK, maybe not a bad rap, per se, but it definitely has a reputation as an activity for slackers. Many people picture the average weed smoker as a guy in his underwear, sitting on the couch, watching TV in a daze. But it’s not true вЂ” and if you yourself are a woman who smokes weed, you know better, and have probably done plenty of fun, interesting things stoned.
While I’ve written before about how weed can be abused just like any other substance and how smoking weed can certainly make me lazy, when used in moderation, I find it can also help me become incredibly introspective and functions as a fun aid in getting to know myself better. While alcohol tends to simply make me more outgoing and get me in the mood for trouble, marijuana will often make me feel more reflective, creative, and even body positive.
Over my decade of recreational use, I’ve found that while it is sometimes fun to just smoke and watch Broad City , there are plenty of fun things to do high that also have the added benefit of helping me see myself more mindfully.
Not sure what the hell I’m talking about, damn hippie? Read on for nine ways I’ve leveraged getting high to my introspective benefit.
1. Make Some Art
The benefits of coloring are well documented вЂ” a little time with a coloring book and some crayons can yield everything from stress reduction to increased focus. But many of us tend to prevent ourselves from enjoying this meditative and creative activity as adults because we think we’ve outgrown it, or “aren’t artists.”
Well, here’s my rule of thumb: pretty much anything that I used to do as a little kid (including playing dress-up) is still fun. Especially when I’m high. When I’m riding the green haze (a thing I just made up . you think we can make it catch on?), I like to pull out that adult coloring book and some pens, put on some tunes, and go to town. Or better yet, finger paint.
If I’m doing this with a partner or friend, I’m always impressed by how much more relaxed and open our conversation becomes. It’s amazing what our minds become free to do when our hands are occupied.
2. Sort Through Your Closet
This might sound like a horrible thing to do anytime, let alone when you’re high; but if you’re the type who sometimes gets a kick out of organization, this can actually be a lot of fun вЂ” not to mention, productive.
I find that when I’m high, I’m more easily able to get rid of those pieces that just aren’t me anymore, but that I have been holding onto out of guilt or attachment. Sometimes, it’s a little easier for me to see things as they are when I’m stoned. For me, that perspective is super useful when it comes to figuring out just what my style is right now, rather than what I might think it “should” be.
I’m pretty sure this has been a suggestion on every single list I’ve ever written, but hey, there’s a reason.
I find that different things come up for me when I masturbate or have sex stoned. I might have a harder time coming, or an easier time. I might find I’m having thoughts or fantasies that I wouldn’t otherwise. I might feel like watching porn I haven’t wanted to watch before. I just try to be honest about my desires вЂ” and follow them. I try to notice whatever’s happening, without judgement, and try to pay attention to the sensations in my body and breath. It helps me be more honest and present the next time I’m having sex sober, though of course, it’s different for everyone.
4. Take A Hot Bath Or Shower
To me, this just feels great. I like to take a bath, put bubbles in it and light a candle, then listen to music or read. If I’m in the shower, I like to take my time. I think of this as my chance to pamper myself, and lather up or shave slowly. The sensations feels amazing, and I feel like I’m pretty the picture of self-care.
5. Try To Meditate
Yes, I know this sounds like the worst possible time to try to empty your mind, but luckily, that’s not really what meditation is all about. Mindfulness meditation is more about noticing your own thought patterns as a detached observer. I know that when I’m stoned, I’m often in a good position to do this anyway, since my normal thought patterns are somewhat disrupted and accentuated.
I like putting on a chill song, closing my eyes, and simply noticing what thoughts pop into my head. I pull myself back to my breath when I start to wander off with them. I sometimes also light a candle and simply place my attention on the flame, for extra groovy points.
6. Listen To Your Hunger
When I’m stoned, sometimes I get the munchies. And like a lot of women, I have a lot of baggage around said munchies.
But for me, being high has actually been a great time to reprogram some of my associations with food. If I feel snacky, sometimes I try asking myself: What am I actually craving right now? If I could eat one thing, what would it be?
Then, I try something truly radical: allow myself to go and eat it, without judgement. As I eat, I try to slow down and focus on the taste, the sensations, and the pleasure of the food. I try to promise myself that I will listen to my body and let it decide when I’m full, rather than deciding how much to eat based on the amount I think I “should” consume.
Though you may imagine this ending with me eating until I’m sick, that actually isn’t what happens for me вЂ” in fact, often, by honoring how much food I want and my desires, I’m more likely to end up eating the amount that’s right for me and my body.
7. Confront Your Own Image
When you’re stoned, you usually have some interesting outside perspective on yourself вЂ” so when I want to see something truly mind-blowing, I take a hand mirror and check out my vag.
I might also try one of my favorite body image exercises, which is to confront my full body in the mirror while standing up (this is great sober as well, which goes for all of these, obviously). I look at myself in the mirror, and then turn the inward narrative out. I tell myself what I’m feeling. What do I like about what I see? By forcing yourself to say your feelings about your body to your own face, you have the potential to make friends with it and reprogram your inner critic.
For extra fun-and-trippy points, I might also do this by recording myself on Photobooth, looking at myself as I speak my inner narrative about what I see, and then play it back to myself afterwards.
8. Go See Live Music Alone
I’m a big proponent of women doing more stuff out alone. One of my favorite activities to do alone, stoned or otherwise, is to go see live jazz.
I’m lucky that I live in New York, where there’s plenty of jazz, but even if you live somewhere else, see if you can find some live music. I like to let my mind wander as I watch, and I know that I feel less self-conscious sitting alone when I have someone besides the bartender to place my attention on. I might also bring a journal to write down thoughts and sketches as I listen.
Of course, it’s different in every city and bar, but I find that going out alone is nothing to be afraid of. People won’t tend to bother me if I look busy scribbling, and if I want to meet new people, my emboldened state helps me make some eye contact.
9. Dance On Your Own
This might sound like a silly thing to do вЂ” and it is. But it’s also really fun, and in my experience, it has helped me cultivate lots of body positivity. When I put on the tunes I loved to dance to as a teen (Beyonce, Shakira, and the Save The Last Dance soundtrack вЂ” all the way) I find myself uninhibited in a way I just can’t access when I’m in public. Sometimes, it’s important to dance knowing no one’s watching.
While I also love to do this for exercise and a dose of self-love while sober, I’ve found that dancing alone high makes things next-level fun. I’m already open and less likely to judge my own moves вЂ” and it feels great to be hyperaware of how good it feels just to move my body, and how sexy I really am. I highly recommend it.
This post was originally published on December 8, 2015. It was updated on June 27, 2019.
Smoking weed gets a bad rap. OK, maybe not a bad rap, per se, but it definitely has a reputation as an activity for slackers. Many people picture the average weed smoker as a guy in his underwear, sitting on the couch, watching TV in a daze. ButвЂ¦