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How to Help Your Friends Who Are Smoking Cannabis for the First Time

April 14, 2017
Tips to Guide Friends Smoking Cannabis for the First Time
“The First Time I Got High” is the name of a short story that most of us have written in our heads, but of course the ending is different for just about everyone. In an ideal world, they all have happy endings. Maybe you meet a new crawdad friend, or discover the misunderstood nature of the scorpion, or run around town using dog beds as hats (all of which are true stories according to Leafly reviews).

Unfortunately, not everyone has such a whimsical time. Some first experiences come with anxiety, paranoia, dissociation, racing heart or thoughts, and/or other unpleasant sensations. A bad trip can even be enough to swear off cannabis for a lifetime, so when introducing someone to cannabis for the first time, it’s important that you know how to do so properly.

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So listen up, trip sitters. Here’s some semi-obvious advice that will help ensure your smoking buddy will sing songs of cannabis’s glory forevermore (or at least smoke with you a second time).

1. Create a comfortable set and setting.

Create a comfortable setting for enjoying cannabis
Think about how much your environment affects you while you’re high: when you’re around your best friend versus a crowd of strangers; when you’re inside versus outside; or when you’re at home versus at a busy grocery store. Setting and mood is everything.

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If it’s someone’s first time trying cannabis, help them do so in their happy place. Anxiety-prone individuals might want to try it out at home first with a friend that he/she is comfortable around. Put on some music. Plan an outdoor adventure. Load up on funny movies (may I suggest The Room). Order in food or have a picnic. Boot up Mario Kart.

There are endless ways to design a perfectly chill first-time experience. What’s most important is that the person feels in control of their environment and surrounded by people and activities he/she enjoys.

 2. Know that THC sensitivities differ from person to person, and consider a high-CBD strain.

Cannabis strains and joints
Too many times, I’ve heard heavyweight stoners pushing cannabis on newbies. “Come on, that was a wimpy hit. DO IT AGAIN,” like they’re an initiate at THC boot camp.  If someone’s putting THC in their body for the first time, let them process that wimpy hit. That might just be plenty for them at this point.

If your curious friend or family member is iffy on high-THC strains, try offering something high in CBD. A minimally psychoactive strain or product can be the perfect opportunity for one to dip a toe into the world of cannabis. It also helps to demonstrate that cannabis doesn’t have to be about becoming a twice-baked potato. Relaxation and stress relief, it turns out, doesn’t have to cost your ability to function.

3. Don’t whip out the 3-foot bong first.

Cannabis vape pens
Unless your friend demands the 3-foot bong because that’s how he/she always pictured this moment, maybe start with something less intimidating. Consider a small pipe, or better yet, a vaporizer. These apparatuses allow for better dose control, and they’re less likely to scorch your buddy’s throat (redemption points for the sensei who keeps throat coat tea with honey on hand, just in case your friend biffs the inhale).

4. If you’re doing edibles, start small. Very small.

Start small with cannabis edibles
I’ll start out by saying that edibles are a bad idea for first timers. Anyone who’s tried cannabis-infused edibles knows that they can push euphoria’s ceiling to the psychedelic heavens, and large doses can drive one into temporary insanity. To the cannabis virgin, even standard doses can be overwhelming.

So, for the love of all things good in this world, start small. Try a 5mg edible (that has been tested and confirmed), and let them ride the peak before introducing more.

 5. Key into your friend’s head space and know what to do if they’re having a bad time.

Take a walk with a friend who may be overwhelmed by first-time cannabis consumption
Despite your best efforts to create a perfect first-time experience, sometimes cannabis just doesn’t agree with its consumer. Keep a pulse on your friend’s mood and head space by checking in with them; if they’re experiencing unpleasant symptoms, here are a few ways to help them manage them.

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Some people experience increased heart rate, dizziness, headaches, and other unpleasant symptoms, but know that these should pass with time. Most bad trips induced by cannabis manifest simply as anxiety or paranoia (my friends and I like to call this beast “The Fear”). In this instance, try exercising a few of these tips:

  • Relocate to a comfortable place if you aren’t already. Sometimes simply being home solves everything.
  • Relax with music, a hot shower, and/or aromatherapy (black pepper oil is particularly clutch for acute anxiety).
  • Laughter is the great weapon of anxiety; throw on a stupid movie, crack some jokes, or read some really stoned strain reviews.
  • Pump the water. Hydration can help prevent many discomforts caused by cannabis.
  • Get some fresh air. Going for a walk outside and filling your lungs with fresh, clean air can be immensely therapeutic for anyone undergoing anxiety, whether induced by cannabis or not.
  • Try a CBD-only product. CBD is known to counteract some of THC’s anxious side effects, especially when combined with any of the relaxing activities listed above.
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And above all, remember that no one on earth has died of a cannabis overdose and everything will be okay. (Besides, if our friend Josh survived a 2,080mg edible, we’re confident your friend will make it, too.)

Bailey Rahn's Bio Image

Bailey Rahn

Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.

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  • familyguy

    Good article. There is a good saying less is more, with today’s weed. One or two hits will do (less) the enjoyment is far better (more).

  • noah vail

    nothing like good old orange juice to bring someone down…simple and quick

    • Christopher Pratt

      Any idea why OJ works?

      • Roger A Weaver

        OJ is use to killing things! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Sorry… for the bad humor.

    • Grow Your Own

      Never heard that about a use for OJ. Never had to bring anybody down after Cannabis either.

    • viper643

      very true. works for LSD also.

  • hunter

    My first time smoking was on a beach, around a bonfire. Where i discovered that if i stood towards the fire with my shirt lifted and rubbed my hands on my belly, it was like heaven. Next thing you know, the 6 seasoned smokers I was with were all standing in a circle around the same bonfire, doing the same thing. I’ve always wondered what people passing by thought was going on…

  • jwhgrouppe@gmail.c

    msg me 4 dat gd kushkushy here mates

  • I think everyone remembers their first time smoking lol. For me I was 15 at a party, I could smell the weed smoke in the air. I walked up to a group of people and asked if I could smoke. I told them it was my first time they allowed me to chill with them. I just remember having a chill ass night.

  • That Guy Nick

    Loved this article, definitely brought back some fond memories. Wish I could of had some of this information when I first started and started introducing cannabis to my friends.

  • Christopher Pratt

    I want to experience a 2080mg edible!

  • Paul Craven

    Good suggestions. I would never initiate someone with edibles. When you talk about wimpy hits you will eventually and rather quickly feel the results. Edibles are a whole different story and will very much effect people differently. Just the time factor can be an issue. A newbie may be impatient waiting for the edible to take effect.

  • Christy Mahmood

    Nice article… someone should guide a first timer friend so the experience should be memorable..

  • viper643

    “wimpy hit ” is not the friend to try first time with. Eventually we will become a nation of tolerance towards legality. The reefer madness gang is slowly dying off and legalization will cure the paranoia many experience simply because of the illegality. After decades of using rec and medical cannabis ; eating ANYTHING calms the intensity of too high. The orange juice suggestion by noah will is right on.