Home / Book

Blog - Book

CHAPTER 3/CANNABIS, BAD HABITS, AND THE “MAGNIFICATION EFFECT”

CHAPTER 3/CANNABIS, BAD HABITS, AND THE “MAGNIFICATION EFFECT”

CANNABIS, BAD HABITS, AND THE “MAGNIFICATION EFFECT”

I’ve spent some time discussing how cannabis use can be involved with things like diet or exercise. There’s other habits or subjects I’ll touch on less thoroughly, but it’s important for me to convey one of the crucial lessons I’ve learned about cannabis use through myself and others: cannabis will enhance whatever you’re doing, whether it’s good or bad.

 On a simple physical level, cannabis use causes one’s perceptions to be enhanced. Sounds are more distinct, food can taste better, and it can enhance physical pleasures like sex. From everything I’ve seen and experienced, with regular use, this starts to happen on a macro level with your entire life. This magnification factor is both a blessing and a curse, as the benefits of the good habits in your life are even greater and bad habits can turn into serious problems.

 If life is good and you’ve got your shit together, cannabis use is obviously not an issue. For those using cannabis who are not doing well, it’s a little more complicated.

 Unlike many in the cannabis community, I’m willing to acknowledge that for a small percentage of people, your body may simply not tolerate cannabis use very well, and it might be hurting you. But it seems unlikely to me that someone whose body and genetics are predisposed to not tolerating cannabis would ever become a regular user. Logically, you’d fall into the large group of people who just don’t like cannabis and don’t want to use it. It’s not like something like heroin where simply trying it a couple times could compel you to keep using. The addictive properties of cannabis are simply not strong enough.

 Regardless, if you’re in this situation, I would immediately do one of two things: Make a radical effort to eliminate bad habits in your life, or stop using cannabis.

 These are the choices I was faced with many years ago, and really, what other choices do you have? The alternative is sinking back into the couch and admitting defeat to every teacher, cop, or parent who said you were just another pothead—and further perpetuating stereotypes that cause all sorts of problems for the rest of us. And don’t forget about throwing your life away as well.

 When your life is bad, cannabis can help you, but you have to work with it. There are a few arguably “bad” habits that I think getting rid of can really help any regular cannabis user feel better and be more productive.

 As a preface, I realize labelling some of these things as “bad” is only my opinion, but cutting them out of my life has really helped me to varying degrees. I’m also aware that many healthy and successful people engage in these habits regularly, cannabis users or otherwise. This is intended for people who are not happy or successful, and just may not be lucky enough to be able to maintain as many “bad” habits as some exceptional people. And, as I mentioned, the magnification effect of cannabis use means that some of these things could be doing more damage to users than non-users.

 These are all things I’ve stopped doing and have seen benefits from, in no particular order. I’ve talked extensively about the impacts of exercise and healthy diet on cannabis use in other chapters, so I’ve tried to avoid them here.

 Video Games

 Video games are fun. I spent most of my life playing them every night. For me, it simply became too time-consuming. I could not justify spending so many hours in a week doing something that isn’t real and adds up to absolutely nothing (except for those crazy pro gamer people).

 As for the interaction of video games with cannabis, I have another concern; the realism and sensory enjoyment of the gaming experience is already intense, and the slow creep of virtual reality is going to take “gaming” to unfathomable levels. Paired with sensory enhancing cannabis, we’re getting dangerously close to video games becoming more fulfilling than real life, if that isn’t already the case.

 I’ve got many criticisms of video games that are well known and shared by many. They’re too time-consuming, have negative effects on one’s social life, and cause physical problems with things like posture. But my main concern for cannabis users with gaming is that it’s too good, if that makes any sense. And the experience is rapidly progressing. This could be a problem for many non-users, but the social, mental, and physical impacts of gaming will likely be even worse for “potheads.”

 Video games are probably not going to help anyone reach goals related to fitness, diet, or even happiness, and this is especially true for most cannabis users.

 Unhealthy Social Media Use

 Obviously, pretty much all of us deal with this issue in 2017. As it relates to cannabis users, I’d again assert that some of the potential negative emotions associated with social media use could be magnified. After deleting my Facebook account, and the 36-hour period of anxiety that followed, I certainly felt better and had more time on my hands. It’s the type of thing where you don’t feel like it’s taking up a lot of your time or thoughts, but once you stop, you realize how often you were checking for notifications or off in space looking at vacation photos of some person you’ve never met. And you realize how fucked it is to sit around waiting to get “likes” from people you don’t even talk to in real life.

 Hell, getting excited about “likes” from people you do know in real life is pretty weird. Many regular cannabis users suffer from low self-esteem from years of being stigmatized by friends, parents, and society in general, and thus are probably even more inclined to have a negative experience.

 Social media can also enforce questionable social norms and ideals that likely aren’t reflective of the values of many cannabis users, emphasizing how “deviant” they are. And like with video games, if you’re trying to pull yourself out of a rut, you just don’t have time for this stuff.

 Porn and Masturbation

 Obviously, I’m speaking from a male perspective on this subject. Based on the habits of most of my male peers, I never gave this one much thought, as I was far from extreme in my consumption of pornography or how often I masturbated.

 At no point in my life did I ever think I had some sort of problem, let alone that it could be causing me harm. There is little to no scientific data to suggest that “normal” masturbation is harmful in any way. But it had a huge impact on my mood and energy levels. I would strongly suggest any male cannabis users struggling with these things to give cutting back a shot.

 Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work for everyone, as some guys report absolutely no results. But it’s worth a try. As always, keep in mind the magnification effect of cannabis and how jacking off can make you dopey and tired even if you’re not using. dopey and tired are the last two things you want to be if you’re a cannabis user struggling with motivation.

 Increased confidence is the biggest tangible impact for most when they stop, which is important as many cannabis users struggle with self-esteem. And in less flowery terms, the idea of lying around surrounded by roaches and soiled tissue paper while looking at some twisted shit on PornHub is fucking gross, and is probably not going to lead to a very productive day.

 As for pornography, it’s obviously a much broader discussion, but my main concern for cannabis users is the same as video games. With the relentless march towards virtual reality and higher quality video, the porn experience is rapidly becoming more engrossing and realistic, even more so if you’re using something like cannabis that enhances your sensory experience. It’s just getting too “good”, and that’s a problem.

 But the most important thing to be aware of in terms of cannabis enhancing things in your life is not really a specific habit, though you could look at it that way…

 Your Attitude

 This was a key realization for me, and something I’ve observed time and time again in people in the cannabis community.

 Cannabis users that are happy are really fucking happy. They seem almost bulletproof, looking younger and slimmer than their non-using counterparts, devoid of the baseline depression and anxiety so many people carry around.

 I’ve spent a lot of time cultivating good habits, but compared to most of the people I meet in my age group, I tend to have way more optimism, energy, and overall peace of mind than they do, including many of those who cultivated the same good habits. I have no doubt it’s my cannabis use that enhances my positive feelings and gives me an edge.

 The other possibility is that cannabis is bad for you, but I’m so exceptional and special that I’ve achieved superior happiness and peace of mind than my non-using peers despite years of chronic cannabis use, which I highly doubt. (No pun intended.)

 And if you have a bad attitude? Could be trouble. Despite cannabis traditionally being associated with feelings of peace and calm, spend enough time in the cannabis subculture and you will meet some seriously angry and crazy potheads.

 Sadly, I spent many years in this demographic, spending 24 hours a day on the verge of a violent meltdown and often boiling over. Cannabis doesn’t really calm you down, except perhaps in the short term; overall, feelings of rage and anger are often intensified or at least pushed down far below to surface at a later date or manifest in a low-level, brooding hatred of just about everything. (Sounds like the comment section on YouTube.)

 This isn’t necessarily true for everyone, but the idea that cannabis will automatically calm you down is overstated. This can also happen with feelings of worthlessness or negative body image. Bad habits with how you think will be enhanced. If you’re constantly beating yourself up, the blows will likely have a greater impact if you’re using all the time.

 You may be thinking this sounds like a paradox or flawed logic. How can cannabis make people’s lives better while also making them worse? If cannabis is enhancing negative feelings and emotions, shouldn’t someone struggling quit using cannabis before anything else?

 These questions are still based on the assumption that cannabis causes these feelings and problems. Yes, cannabis is probably magnifying them, and logically quitting cannabis might provide some semblance of relief. But the underlying issues still need to be addressed, so you’ll still be unhappy. The placebo effect is likely in play, confusing what quitting may or may not be doing for you. All you really need to do is take some responsibility for your actions, show some determination, and quit blaming cannabis for your lack of motivation.

 Once you get over the hump, you’ll start finding out what cannabis can really do for you. I’ll remind you of the choices I presented at the beginning of this chapter: Make a radical effort to eliminate bad habits in your life, or stop using cannabis.

 There’s not a lot of risk to quitting for most people, so if you think I’m full of shit, I encourage you to walk away. My intention is not to try and talk people out of quitting. But, I got to a point of dysfunctionality where those two options became an ultimatum.

 At the time, like many users, I was fairly convinced that cannabis use was at the root of all my issues. But something inside me still suspected that there might be another way. I chose to see how far I could get without quitting, and I cannot tell you how happy I am that I went that route. I ended up getting to heights of mental and physical health I never dreamed of at the time, all while maintaining my cannabis use.

 I love life now, and having cannabis in my life to “magnify” those feelings is a special thing. It breaks my heart that some people will never get to experience how I feel because of misinformation and hateful stigma. And it sucks to think that the cannabis community might lose some wonderful people who were convinced by society that quitting cannabis would solve their problems, when all they needed was themselves.

CHAPTER 4/CANNABIS AND GETTING IN SHAPE

CHAPTER 4/CANNABIS AND GETTING IN SHAPE

CANNABIS AND GETTING IN SHAPE

There was a time when cannabis use and exercise seemed mutually exclusive, at least if you bought into the traditional pothead stereotypes. But here in 2017, there has been an explosion in interest and science surrounding cannabis use and physical fitness and performance.

 Personally, cannabis helped me a great deal. I got to a point where I was more than 50 pounds overweight, bordering on muscle atrophy from lack of exercise, and got winded walking to the store. I had a huge mountain to climb. Cannabis helped me both physically and mentally, and I’m certainly not alone. Both regular folks and world-class athletes are having success integrating cannabis into their exercise routines.

 This is logically the point at which I’d start presenting endless studies surrounding cannabis use and exercise, but I’m not going to bother for reasons I mentioned in the introduction. You can easily support the notion that cannabis is either beneficial or harmful in terms of physical fitness based on contemporary science. So, as you’ll often hear me prefacing before I share my thoughts and experience, it’s problematic to rely on science at this point for hard answers surrounding cannabis use. The community is not even close to a consensus, and there’s no guarantee they will ever reach one. As with everything else, it’s up to you to figure out what works for you.

 Having said all that, I believe there can be some real benefits for some, both out-of-shape people and those already working at a higher level.

 We all know it can be a real struggle to get the ball rolling when you’re unhealthy and have little energy. For myself, there were definitely benefits of cannabis use in the beginning of my mission to get off the couch.

 For one, when I was extremely out of shape, being high before getting started helped take away some anxiety and hesitation. It sounds weird to me now, but it’s easy to forget how intimidating it can be to walk into a gym or pool as a very weak and/or overweight person. It feels like everyone except for you is perfect, like you’re always the weakest guy or fattest girl in the building. You’re uncomfortable doing exercises you haven’t done in years, if you’ve even done them before. It feels like everyone else is secretly snickering at the pathetic amount of weight you’re benching or how you only lasted six minutes on the treadmill. Cannabis helped me zone out and just forget about all the nonsense my mind was creating. (Nobody actually cares what you’re doing in the gym.)

 Cannabis also help deal with the extreme physical demands on your body when you’re first digging your way out. If you haven’t worked out regularly in years, a jog around the block or a game of basketball can leave you limping around the house for days. Just a few sets of squats can cripple you. The workouts suck at first, and the aftermath is even worse. When I was desperate for motivation and had little to draw on, the knowledge that if I got through the workout, I’d be able to kick back afterwards with a few joints and not feel so bad was a great comfort. A lot of people use beer or wine in a similar way; I’d argue cannabis is generally a much healthier and more sustainable alternative.

 Another strange but powerful way it helped me—and I suspect this may be true for other physically fit, chronic users—is how much exercise enhances cannabis. I started noticing that it became so much more enjoyable and satisfying when I had a killer workout under my belt that day.

 When you’re out of shape, your mind is undergoing almost a daily civil war between the “get off your ass” faction of your brain and the endless excuses and rationalizations for why you can’t or don’t need to go work out today. So, in the beginning when I was desperate for any source of motivation, I began appealing to myself on a “pothead” level: think how much better tonight will be if you go do this workout. Ideally, you should cultivate motivation and drive from within. But when you’re out of shape and all fucked up, it’s desperation time.

 For those of us who like cannabis and already have the ball rolling, there’s benefits as well. It’s anecdotal at this point, but many people (including professional athletes) who use cannabis in their routine claim that cannabis helps with “zoning out” and getting through intense training. I would certainly agree based on my experience. As you climb the ladder of fitness, training obviously becomes more intense. And some days, it just plain sucks. I’m usually pretty pumped when it’s time for my daily routine. But some days, the idea of hitting a punching bag until my shoulders melt is not appealing. I cannot even imagine what it’s like for pro athletes, who are often looking at 3–6 hours of training per day for months at a time.

 On the inevitable tough days, a little cannabis added to your pre-workout routine can really help you get through a boring session you’re not looking forward to. It’s also hugely beneficial in shutting out the noise we sometimes have coming out of our brains. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when you’re worrying about your job or your boyfriend or some person who cut you off in traffic on the drive over.

 Improved pain management is also a huge benefit. I’ll be discussing opioids and painkillers at length in a different chapter, but the ability to manage the inevitable bumps and bruises without resorting to highly addictive and harmful painkillers is immense. If you follow the NFL, you already know there’s a huge push amongst players for the league to remove cannabis from its list of banned substances to provide an alternative to the epidemic of opioid usage in the league. And for those who don’t like to get high, there’s been an explosion in interest and usage of CBD through various delivery methods, from edibles to vaporizers.

 One of the few consensus conclusions most studies surrounding cannabis use and physical activity seem to reach is that cannabis use has a negative effect on motor skills and performing complicated tasks, whether that’s athletics or related to things like operating a motor vehicle. It’s hard to argue with the sheer amount of what looks like credible evidence.

 But it gets incredibly confusing when you see someone like Nate Diaz outwit and defeat world-class fighters by executing extremely complicated sets of punches or advanced submission techniques. Facing an opponent who hasn’t used cannabis; shouldn’t he be at some massive disadvantage?

 Fight fans might recall the story of one of Diaz’s pre-fight drug tests in which he tested positive for cannabis; the reading was said to be at such a high level that he must have literally been using right up until he walked to the ring. The result? A dominant first round victory for Diaz. Try out-boxing or forcing a submission out of Takanori Gomi next time you see him, and see if that requires motor skills or quick reflexes.

 And don’t get me started on maybe the greatest “cannathlete” of all time: Ricky Williams, who dominated the NFL before his career was destroyed by an ignorant, hateful, cannabis witch hunt.

 My suspicion is that most studies are primarily using people who aren’t regular users, which makes sense. I’m sure using cannabis does affect the reflexes and fine motor skills of someone who doesn’t regularly use, but for long time cannabis users, it seems the effect is not significant, if a factor at all.

 Although the science can be confusing, as mentioned, in 2017 there’s a great deal of research going on and it hopefully won’t be long before we reach more solid conclusions. For myself and many others, the personal success we’ve had is evidence enough. I’m sure over the next few years we’re going to see many more pro athletes become open with their cannabis use, which should really open up people’s eyes to some of the possibilities.

 For those of who already use cannabis, it can be a great tool to get to whatever level of fitness we want and to make sure we stay there. As I always say, only you can figure out if it’s right for you.

CHAPTER 5/CANNABIS AND EATING RIGHT

CHAPTER 5/CANNABIS AND EATING RIGHT

CANNABIS AND EATING RIGHT

There’s a growing body of research linking cannabis use to lower overall weight or a healthier BMI, which is surprising for many, considering the generally accepted appetite-inducing properties of cannabis.

 The causal link is poorly understood at this point, though I’d be comfortable speculating that it has more to do with cannabis users simply feeling better and being happier, and hence not overeating for emotional reasons, as opposed to some specific change in body chemistry caused by cannabis use that causes you to stay slimmer.

 Regular cannabis users also generally consume less alcohol than a lot of their peers, which I suspect plays a significant role as well.

 I have another pet theory. For myself and most chronic users, after a long enough time, most of the side effects of cannabis use subside and almost slingshot back in the other direction. Our eyes don’t get red anymore, we don’t fall asleep after every joint, and the “munchies” don’t really happen. In fact, a long enough duration of cannabis use causes a suppressed appetite when you haven’t been using.

 Naturally, many of us go through long periods where we can’t use, whether it be work, a social event, or taking a break for any reason. So, for a chronic user, once they’re past the “munchies” stage, they’re actually regularly using an appetite suppressant in a sense. They can turn their hunger on and off at their own convenience, a huge advantage in dieting, explaining the lower BMIs of chronic cannabis users.

 Bottom line, it’s more than possible to integrate cannabis use into a healthy diet. It may even be beneficial for many people.

 I’ve spent years trying to get my eating right as a cannabis user, and I think there are a couple of things to consider, but one general point is this: Listen to your body! I cannot stress that enough. My breakthrough with food was not listening to a single piece of expert advice and creating a diet based purely on how it made me feel. There’s absolutely bizarre diets out there working for people (See- Herschel Walker).

 Most of the chatter and problems people have are basically about the “munchies.” This is certainly a problem for casual and younger users. It’s hard for me to remember now, but I recall craving chocolate when I was first getting high the way you’d crave water after a couple weeks stranded at sea. It’s a real thing, and if you’re baked out of your mind and get presented with a bowl of Doritos, you’re almost certainly waking up with a tummy ache and orange fingers.

 Not much you can do at that point, but you can probably avoid that situation before it happens.

 Eat before you get high. This should be fairly obvious, but if you blaze on an empty stomach within striking range of a McDonald’s or 7-11, that might not work out. And as any good stoner knows, you definitely get “higher” on a full stomach. Make sure you have a solid meal in you before you smoke and you’ll have a fighting chance.

 Eliminate bad options. If you have a problem with this stuff, make sure not to have junk food lying around the house all the time. I’m wading into general dieting advice, but it’s a bad idea to have your cupboard or freezer full of easy-to-make garbage. For the rookie user, nine times out of ten when you’re high, you’ll take the easy way out instead of eating something healthy that might take a minute or two to prepare. Slice up some pineapple or watermelon in advance, or whatever healthy snack you enjoy, and leave that as your only option.

 Keep your meals small. Again, I’m starting to give basic dieting advice, but this is magnified with cannabis use. Anything over 500 calories for the inexperienced or casual user is probably going to cause some drowsiness. This can actually work in your favor if you need to relax and get to sleep at night after a crazy day, but if you’re using in the daytime, eat frequent but very small snacks. Leave anything heavy for the end of the day if possible. For more regular users who are having overeating issues and think cannabis use is to blame, I would suggest that cannabis use is probably involved, but in the sense that it’s being used as an excuse for bad behavior. There’s little to suggest, either anecdotally or scientifically, that it should be a significant issue for anyone who uses regularly.

 My heart goes out to those struggling with weight and body image issues. It’s an extremely difficult hole to climb out of. But when we’re in that state, our ego is desperately searching for things to blame other than ourselves. And the “munchies” are a perfect excuse to overeat. This leads into the age-old debate regarding most perceived negative consequences of cannabis use. Does cannabis cause people to be lazy and make bad decisions, or are people who are naturally inclined toward laziness and bad decisions gravitating to a lifestyle and community that seems to justify such behaviors?

 Based on the high level of functionality some users have, I suspect it’s the latter.

 I can also offer one additional simple point to do with cannabis use and a healthy diet that applies to both new and experienced users: try to get away from the community’s obsession with sugar. Whether it’s the consistent association of cannabis with things like Slurpees and five-cent candies, or the fact that it seems every edible needs to contain at least 50 grams of the stuff, the association with sugar and cannabis culture is undeniable and needs to stop.

 Yes, sugar tastes good, and even more so if you’re really high. But it also makes you fat, lazy, and stupid and generally makes you feel like shit. I truly believe the association is so strong that sugar abuse while high is actually responsible for a large portion of the negative mental and physical effects some people report from cannabis use, and thus most of the commonly accepted stereotypes.

 I used to watch some of my dispensary staff sit around, eating donuts for breakfast and drinking pop all day, and then they’d complain how tired they were and that whatever we smoked that morning must have been a “burnout strain.” Unless your diet is solid, you’ll never actually know what cannabis is and isn’t doing to you.

 In general, I don’t think there’s a specific formula of cannabis use and dieting that people should follow; however, I have heard of such diets and programs, and some people claim success, so who am I to say? Aside from any specific program, there’s a lot of people who report being healthier and losing weight after they started using and whose weight ballooned after they stopped.

 The most beneficial aspect for me is that cannabis use simply makes me feel better, and thus improves my overall quality of life. Though it can be used as a tool by some people, eating right comes down to personal responsibility and discipline, whether or not you use cannabis. Any diet or program, even one centered around cannabis use, is limited in the sense that it still boils down to you making good decisions.

 Don’t tell yourself that you need cannabis or anything else to eat healthy; all you need is determination, hard work, and self-control. If using cannabis helps you with that, great. If you truly believe it doesn’t help, it’s time to quit or suffer the consequences. But it would be a shame for people that love cannabis to quit before they cleaned up their diet, never knowing if they could have kept using while feeling and looking like a million bucks. Regardless of what you may think, the idea that the “munchies” are stronger than you are is laughable.