How to Plan for the Four Stages of Being High

Close up shot of a man smoking a joint

Your first time can be a great time if you know what to expect from the whole high cycle. Hopefully, you’re reading this beforehand, but if not, there’s still time! You should also already read our advice about what first timers should know about cannabis.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a good idea to avoid anything dangerous or important. The first time you get high should be a kind of trial run, a learning experience that allows you to see how you personally react to cannabis—your personal high cycle—so next time you’ll know your limits and what kind of experience to expect. As long as you ease into it, pay attention to how you’re feeling, and avoid hazards like traffic, you’re gonna have a good time. If you drive high, it’s not only illegal, but you or somebody else will probably have a bad time. Don’t drive under the influence, we want you to have a good time! With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin.

There are four main stages of any high: the come-up, the peak, the plateau, and the come-down. Here’s what to expect.

The Come-Up

You’ll feel it first in your head and your lungs. It’s perfectly normal to experience tightness in your face and a mild sense of vertigo before the high settles into the back of your mind like a low-hanging cloud.

During the come-up, you can expect to lose track of time a little—especially if it’s your firs time. You might start to feel some déjà vu, or notice that things take a lot longer to happen than they usually do. Sometimes things will seem to happen faster than they usually do. You might even start to feel some déjà vu. This is also normal, and sometimes even a little fun! The technical term for this is “time dilation,” and you’ll get used to it after about fifteen or twenty minutes. It won’t last forever, and if you approach it with a light heart, you’ll probably get some laughs out of it.

You may also feel some restlessness in your joints, but some light stretching or a brisk walk will have you feeling limber again. If you’re partaking with a significant other, now is the perfect time to ask for a back rub, or better yet—offer to give one.

The come-up will last for about thirty to forty-five minutes, and then you’ll really be able to notice the effects. First-timers should probably wait at least this long before taking another hit.

The Peak

After about forty-five minutes, lights will seem brighter and colors more vibrant, the littlest things will make you giggle, and your favorite song will sound more perfect than even you remember it being. This is the peak, and it’s just like looking out from the top of a mountain. You might not taste colors or smell sounds, but you may start pondering the deep questions of the universe. Why is the sky blue if air is clear? Does snow have a taste? Why are ducks always wearing little dog masks?

If you start to feel that your heart rate has become elevated, find a calm comfortable place to sit and relax for a while until you get your feet under you. Try drinking water, eating a snack, and enjoying some light entertainment. Cartoons are a great option, so is having a conversation with your friends.

As great as it is to connect with other people, we want to encourage you to talk to them directly—like a phone call or a text message—rather than a post to Facebook or Twitter. You may very well have thoughts that you want to share with the world, or revelations you think everyone needs to know right now, but it’s best to resist the temptation to post them on social media. As great as your highdea™©® may seem at the time, it’s something you might want to save for after you’ve come down a bit. Once it’s out there, it’s there forever for friends, coworkers, potential employers, and future in-laws. If it’s a great idea, it will still be great when you’re sober again. Maybe.

The same goes for any kind of live-streaming or phone-calls with relatives or authority figures. Now is not the time to call your boss! And if your grandmother calls to wish you a happy birthday, let it go to voicemail, listen to it, then call her back later. Grandmothers love that sort of thing, —being surprised on a random Thursday by their favorite grandchild calling them back? It’s the least you could do to call your grandmother once in a while, after everything she’s done for you. Just let yourself come down from the peak before trying to do anything important.

The Plateau

The plateau is where you’ll spend most of the high, and it’s also when you’ll be most comfortable. Whatever came before it, you’ll know by the time you hit the plateau if you’re too high, not high enough, or just the right amount of high. If you feel like you might want to take another hit, now’s the time to indulge—just be aware that you’ll be starting a new high cycle of coming up, peaking, plateauing, and coming down. And don’t forget that every additional hit increases your chances of getting too high, —or just higher than you wanted to be. If that happens, don’t worry, we have a guide for that too.

You may begin to feel more active once you’re a couple of hours into it. We recommend going for a walk somewhere close by. Just go outside and see which direction you find most appealing. As long as you take all right or all left turns, you’ll make it back home. Pro-tip: it’s much harder to get lost if you have your phone with you. The plateau is a great time for exploration and recreation. You could exercise, watch a movie, play a stimulating video game—some people even enjoy reading! You might not always follow everything that’s happening (you might even get déjà vu), but you can still get the gist and that’s fun enough sometimes.

The Come-Down

After another three hours, that curtain of fog lifting from your mind. You’ll have a greater sensitivity to things like sound and temperature, and you may even feel a little tired. Some people get irritable during this time, especially chronic users. You can expect to come down over the course of a couple of hours, and different people like to do different things as they transition back.

If you like to read, this is a great time to settle down with something to ease your transition back from the high. Graphic novels like Sandman or Scott Pilgrim can be very engaging. If you haven’t had anything to eat yet, definitely get on that with some snacks—or better yet, get some dinner! If you manage to stay hydrated and well-fed, you’ll avoid the dry mouth and uneasiness some people report feeling the morning after they indulge.

If you don’t keep a journal, now is a great time to start. Writing down strains you enjoy and where you got them, what the different stages of the high were like, and the things you most enjoyed doing while high helps you make informed decisions next time, allowing you to maximize your experience by getting exactly what you want out of it. We don’t recommend using social media to share your thoughts in the moment, but keeping a journal will let you save the gems for later. Your memory isn’t the best when you’re high, so the come-down is a great time to jot down all those highdeas™©® you couldn’t stop talking about.

The next question is, how can you stay safe while enjoying cannabis? Step one: stay calm.


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