There have been a handful of instances over the course of my life in which I actually, nonhyperbolically thought I was going to die. About four times out of five, I was hungover from excess boozing the night before. On one such occasion, I was convinced — again, not exaggerating — that I was vomiting up my stomach. Not the contents of it, but the actual organ, as if it had started self-liquidating in protest against the amount of tequila and subsequent violent retching I had assaulted it with. It's really no wonder some believe that smoking weed is far healthier for you than drinking alcohol.
Around the same time as these near-death experiences, I was also self-medicating seven days a week, whether I was watching TV with my roommate, at a party with friends, alone at home just reading a book, or on vacation in a foreign land. I was a pothead. During this phase, many years ago, I was perpetually high, tipsy, high and tipsy, or recovering. Needless to say, these years are a bit of a blur, but one clear thing I learned from them, that I can say unequivocally now, is that I'd much rather be recovering from weed.
Though research on the condition is limited, I can attest from personal experience that weed hangovers are a real thing. The most substantial study conducted on the after-effects of marijuana was in 1985, when researchers from the National Institute of Health gave 13 male participants either marijuana joints or placebo joints. After the subjects had a full night of sleep, the researchers found that the participants who had smoked real marijuana exhibited some lingering effects that the placebo-smokers did not, suggesting that "marijuana smoking can produce residual (hangover) effects the day after smoking."
To call it a hangover may be a bit of an overstatement because weed-induced symptoms are completely unrecognizable from alcohol-induced ones. For most people, me included, a hangover from drinking one too many vodka shots is far more uncomfortable than a hangover from taking one too many puffs on a passed joint. That's because the former wreaks havoc on your body, while the latter moderately dulls your mind.
The symptoms of an alcohol-induced hangover are largely physical — nausea, headache, fatigue, body aches, etc. — while the most pronounced symptom of smoking too much weed is brain fog.
"Brain fog" may be a colloquial and somewhat vague term, but, according to some researchers, it may encompass several specific cognitive effects that are linked to smoking marijuana: shortened attention span, short-term memory loss, difficulty forming words or sentences, difficulty with numbers, and decreased psychomotor skills.
If you've ever gotten a little too high at night, then chances are you've experienced this condition the next day. You find yourself staring into the void of your shower wall, unable to remember whether or not you conditioned your hair. It takes you a little longer to respond to morning emails. You forget the word for "turnstile." Your thoughts are idling in a hazy fog, just waiting to break free.
Of course, smoking too much weed can cause some physical effects as well, like dehydration, nausea, headache, fatigue, and dry eyes, but, for the most part, they are almost absurdly benign compared to their alcohol-induced counterparts.
The good news here is that, like alcohol hangovers, weed hangovers are entirely preventable.
The first step? Check the quality of the cannabis you're ingesting. Just like a night of drinking well whiskey will make you feel more sick than drinking Johnnie Walker Blue Label, smoking skunk weed will make you feel more groggy the next morning. According to Herb.co, some traits of high-quality weed include crystals, orange fibers, and stickiness, so make sure to check for these when selecting your marijuana.
Secondly, consider your method of getting high. In my personal experience, vaping can significantly — significantly — decrease any signs of brain fog. It all but eliminates it completely. I also have much cleaner highs when I vape than I do with my dinky old bowl. Plus, there are a slew of other advantages to vaping, namely that it's just straight-up healthier for you. In fact, there's arguably only one unhealthy aspect of smoking marijuana, and that's the smoking part. When you burn cannabis, just like tobacco, you create tar and carcinogens, which can lead to respiratory problems and even cancer, and vaping pretty much removes those toxins from the process.
Alternatively, you can switch to edibles, which come in a wide range of foods, from gummy candies to beef jerky. (Just be careful of the amount you consume because edibles can be very potent.) Then there's CBD oil, which is a cannabis compound that gives you the same medical benefits of marijuana but is not psychoactive like THC, which is what makes you feel "high." If achieving that high sensation is your aim, then CBD oil might not be for you, but if you use marijuana to reduce stress and anxiety, then this option will do that without putting you in a fog the next morning.
Lastly, while many people use marijuana as a sleep aid, if you are more concerned about how sharp you are the next day, try to stop smoking at least four hours before bed.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and counting (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts), plus the District of Columbia, weed is quickly becoming the No. 1 way to relax, a title once held by alcohol. I would not be surprised in the least bit if sometime in the not-too-distant future, vape pens were added to the happy hour menu. Can you picture it? The world would be far more mellow, and hugging the toilet bowl puking your guts out would be an embarrassing relic of the past. Like smoking during pregnancy, TV dinners, and your Myspace screen name.