A slow ride with Mary Jane

It was 4/20 at the time of writing this, the nation’s annual festival for Snoop Dogg, our lord and savior.

Along with recreational pot use, many people self-medicate by using marijuana – but now that we’ve gotten the smoke out of our eyes and the Cheetos out of our hands, let’s take a few steps back.

Toking up may help many people relieve stress and anxiety, but for some, it may have the adverse effect, causing panic attacks and exacerbating the stress they were trying to mellow out in the first place. Smoking weed can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia, according to The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders. An NPR article goes so far as to claim that in some people, marijuana can trigger psychotic symptoms.

Self-medicating works on a person-by-person basis, and there’s no guarantee it will help everyone. I’m not interested in killing your buzz, or telling you what to do with your money – just do a little research and preparation before reading with pink eyes and raspy lungs.

From “Purple Urkle” to “Girl Scout Cookies,” the variety of weed strains can be overwhelming, but it’s subdivided between two main types: sativa and indica. Sativa is usually regarded as a “head high” that leads to energy and euphoria, while indica tends to be a more mellow, couch-potato vibe, according to Leafly, a pot enthusiast site.

Marijuana strains affect everyone differently due to factors including genetics, biochemical makeup, and personal tolerance, according to herb.co. While your friend may bow down in ecstasy to the “Grape Goddess,” another person could find the high overstimulating, frightening, and unpleasant.

That’s why it’s so important to go slow and steady when self-medicating – not because  I want to be a stick in the mud, but because you don’t know how it will affect you at first. A medical professional will be a lot more qualified to give you the proper dose than the white guy with dreads in your dorm.

Build your way up if you’re interested, and don’t try to outdo your friends – people who’ve been smoking since middle school are going to have a much higher tolerance, so a baby dose for them could be a mind-melting experience for the less initiated.

In short: don’t have an entire plate of pot brownies your first go, or you’re going to have a bad time.

Further, check in with yourself to make sure the ganja’s really serving you a purpose. A study in the Journal of Affective Disorders said marijuana can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in the short-term, but did not find long-term symptom reduction.

In other words, it’s not going to make your underlying problems disappear in a puff of smoke – don’t let more long-term treatment fall to the wayside.

Whether you want to smoke, dab, or eat marijuana-infused ice cream is your business – I’m not advocating for or against it. But when the conversation around marijuana legalization is divided into extremes – from being the devil’s cabbage, to God’s gift to the Earth – the middle ground tends to disappear, and with it, the practical advice for people who may otherwise feel they have no one to ask.

You probably don’t need to look far to find someone on campus whose lips are permanently attached to a bong, but it’s still worth stating the obvious – don’t rush through a ride with Puff the Magic Dragon. Wiggin’ out isn’t fun for anyone, and there’s no shame in taking a breather.

Snoop Dogg loves you, and he wants you to enjoy yourself.