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! Hopefully you 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 traffic and strangers, if you can manage it. 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 own 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 traffic, you’re gonna have a good time. If you drive under the influence, it’s not only illegal, but you or somebody else might have a bad time. We want you to have a good time! With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin.

The Come-Up (00:00-00:45)

Okay, what to expect. There are four main stages of any high: the come-up, the peak, the plateau, and the come-down. You’ll feel it first in your head and your lungs. It’s perfectly normal to notice tightness in your face and a little shortness of breath before the high settles into the back of your mind like a warm morning fog.  

During the come-up, you can expect to lose track of time a little bit. Things will seem like they’ve been happening for a lot longer than they usually do, or that you’ve done way too much in an impossibly short amount of time. This is also normal, and sometimes even a little fun! The technical term for this phenomenon is “time dilation,” and you’ll get used to it after about fifteen or twenty minutes. Nothing to worry about.

You may feel restless in your joints and appendages, but some light stretching or a brisk walk will have you feeling limber again. If you’re partaking with your 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.

The Peak (00:45-01:45)

After forty-five minutes or so, lights will begin to seem brighter and colors more vibrant, the littlest things will make you giggle, and your favorite song will sound more perfect than ever. This is the peak,—like looking out from the top of a mountain. You might not taste colors or smell sounds, but you may start asking questions like, “What if the blue that I see when I see blue is actually a different color than what everybody else sees? They think their ‘blue’ is blue, but what if it’s actually green? Or purple? Or something totally different?”

It’s normal to experience some vertigo at this point, and you may notice 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 and enjoying some light entertainment. Cartoons are a great option, so is having a conversation with your friends. 

A word about social media: you may very well have thoughts that you want to share with the world, or revelations you think everyone needs to know right now. Resist the temptation to post to social media because once you do, it’s out there forever for friends, coworkers, potential employers, and future in-laws. 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. 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 and phone-calls with relatives or authority figures. Now is not the time to call your boss and give them a piece of your mind! And if your grandmother calls to wish you a happy birthday, let it go to voicemail and 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, but let yourself come down from the peak before trying to do anything important.

The Plateau (01:45-04:00)

The plateau is where you’ll spend most of the high, and fortunately it’s also when you’re at your 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—just be aware that you’ll be starting a new 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 at least 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, and we recommend going for a walk somewhere close by. Just go outside and see which direction you find most appealing. 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! We have trouble keeping the words in order and we can’t always follow everything that’s happening, but we can get the gist and that’s still fun.

The Come-Down (04:00-05:30)

About three hours later, you may feel a 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. 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, grab a snack—or better yet, get some dinner! If you make sure 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 do you stay safe while enjoying cannabis. Especially for the first time.

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