There are six distinct stages of being high. Anyone answering the question, “What does being high feel like?” would rightly point out that smoking weed is different for every person, according to every unique situation. For instance, if you’re smoking first thing in the morning before breakfast, it won’t feel the same as when you smoke at 9 o’clock at night after eating dinner. Then, of course, different types of marijuana strains produce different effects.
But even with all of these variables, we can describe six stages of being high accurately. Because of their delayed onset and prolonged release, edibles make these stages even more pronounced, so we will reference the edible high frequently and not just smoking or vaping.
So, without any further ado, let’s describe the answer to “What does being high feel like?” based on the amount of time it’s been since you first consumed marijuana.
Stage 1 – The Build-Up
Smoking/Vaping: 0-90 seconds after consumption
Edibles: 30-60 minutes after consumption
The first stages of high are subtle, especially after you’ve just smoked. You may begin to feel a creeping feeling of joy, excitement, or euphoria. You may also notice that your mental processes are affected, making you suddenly aware of them.
During this period, the amount of highness you feel is almost invisible. That’s because the chemicals have barely entered your bloodstream, and only a small amount are binding to your endocannabinoid receptors. The floodgates inside your mind haven’t been released yet, so to speak.
Instead, what you feel is more like someone putting the key into the lock that opens those floodgates. The feeling is especially pronounced when you consume edibles and first start feeling that “spidey sense” tingling. Part of you wants to write it off as psychosomatic, but you are aware that changes within your mind are taking place.
Stage 2 – The Ascent
Smoking/Vaping: 1-4 minutes after consumption
Edibles: 45-90 minutes after consumption
The second stage of being high marks when you are undeniably feeling the effects of the drug. You aren’t technically “stoned” yet, but you’re on your way there.
You could compare it to the moment on a roller coaster when you’re climbing the hill. The new flood of sensations you’re experiencing is like listening to each “clunk” on the roller coaster while the chain lifts you up. You may start to feel intense anticipation or lingering happiness. You may experience something like hearing a friend make a statement, process it normally, then suddenly have it distorted as the cannabinoids interact with your mind and memory.
On edibles, this period marks the first time you objectively feel like the product you ate had drugs in it. Things may seem mostly normal, albeit a little “fuzzy” around the edges.
Stage 3 – Lift-Off
Smoking/Vaping: 3-6 minutes after consumption
Edibles: 90-180 minutes after consumption
This period is when your mind is feeling the full effects of cannabis, especially the THC. When most people describe “What does being high feel like?” they hone in on their experiences during this stage in particular.
It’s like when the roller coaster finally crests the hill, and your stomach suddenly feels like it’s next to your heart. Or, for sativa strains, it can feel like the rocket you strapped yourself to finally exited the atmosphere. In indica strains, the experience may be like you suddenly have your body wrapped in a warm, comforting cloud.
Because THC has its maximum potency and effects during this period, you will have peak levels for subtle distortion of your reality. Music may sound more intense, colours may be more vivid, and your sense of time slows down to a crawl. Every second can feel like an hour has gone by.
Mental thoughts are particularly fleeting during this stage. You may have a great idea or observation, but mid-mental sentence you start thinking about something else. Mostly, you are going to feel happy during this period and extremely mentally engaged. Many people also feel energized, even on an indica, because the THC is so stimulating. In fact, everything can become so intense that it’s a tad overwhelming. It’s almost like you just finished running a race or lifting weights and need to catch your breath.
While using edibles, this period typically lasts several hours. Sometimes it feels like you have already reached the peak of the stages of high, but then it just gets more intense.
Stage 4 – Getting Oriented
Smoking/Vaping: 10-20 minutes after consumption
Edibles: 3-4 minutes after consumption
This stage marks the point that the volume of THC interacting with your endocannabinoid system has leveled off. At around 30 minutes after smoking, most of the initial flood of THC will be gone from the brain. This THC is absorbed into your bloodstream, where it can continue affecting your brain for a few hours longer.
What’s more, this part of the stages of being high occurs after you have gotten used to your peak sensations. You can regain mental focus, and distortions of your senses and time become far more subtle.
For those who like to be productive while high, this stage is perfect for both brainstorming and falling in the groove of repetitive tasks. You’re still feeling fairly euphoric, stimulated and energized, but you can now push through the cloudiness to get things done. You may find that conversations are easier to hold, and you’ll have much less trouble with losing your train of thought.
On edibles, this period more clearly marks the point when you stop peaking. Your body has begun fully breaking down some of the endocannabinoids in your system, allowing you to return to a more “normal” feeling. You aren’t coming down yet, but the roller coaster is slowing down.
Stage 5 – The Gentle Descent
Smoking/Vaping: 25-90 minutes after consumption
Edibles: 4-6 hours after consumption
With most “hard” drugs, the comedown is an unpleasant experience. That’s because the drugs have used up substantial quantities of chemicals in your brain, like dopamine and serotonin. What you feel during your comedown is the sudden absence of the “good” feelings you were enjoying.
This isn’t the case with weed! While you may feel a tad disappointed that your high is winding to its conclusion, there are no unpleasant physical side effects. At worst, you may feel sleepy or start to have a serious case of the munchies set in.
The effects of your peak high definitely still linger. While each second may not feel like an hour, you may be surprised at how little or how much time has passed since you glanced at the clock. Your sensations of hearing and seeing will still feel altered, like they’re more sensitive. Your sense of taste may be stronger than ever, contributing to the desire to indulge their munchies.
Many people use this period to find something to focus on and wind down. You may put on a movie or album you enjoy, or you may fire up the video game console while you still feel stoned. Some people even start feeling a bit randy at this stage, likely because the THC is binding to the endocannabinoid receptors related to arousal. Also, the mind is no longer so overstimulated that concepts like sex seem abstract.
Relaxation and sleepiness typically kick in at this stage, as well, regardless of how perky the weed initially made you.
Stage 6 – Coasting Along
Smoking/Vaping: 1-3 hours after consumption
Edibles: 6-12 hours after consumption
THC and other cannabinoids have a very long half life, referring to the amount of time it takes for them to break down in your body. It can take up to 19 hours for THC to be broken down completely, and some of it can even be stored in your fat cells.
This fact means that once you’ve come down, you may still feel a tiny bit high for the next few hours. Naturally, this long lingering duration can last many hours after you’ve consumed edibles. You will likely feel relaxed and content. You may even still enjoy some of your favorite art a bit more than usual thanks to the lingering stimulation and the new perspectives you’ve obtained while stoned.
In this way, the stages of being high really are like a journey. It always comes full circle back to where you started. But you’ve changed a little bit along the way, helping you see, feel, and think differently compared to when you first started.
And, of course, you can always start the journey over again once you’re back at square one!