Howard S. Becker (American sociologist) proposed, in a landmark study of case reports, that individuals must realize and interpret cannabis’s psychoactive effects before they can enjoy its long-term benefits. The more one uses cannabis, the better one gets at identifying its subjective effects, which suggests that the “cannabis experience” will be interpreted differently based on one’s intake history.
A seasoned cannabis user may enjoy a pleasant “high” after smoking a triple-barrel-double-percolated 1-gallon bong, but a novice may not. Becker’s argument has little experimental support, but it is clear that a person’s cannabis history affects their response to cannabinoids. For example, frequent cannabis users (for the purposes of this post, those who smoke four to seven days per week) may be more likely to experience tolerance to cannabis-related effects than infrequent pot users (those who smoke less than once a week).
Tolerance simply refers to the fact that the user needs more of a substance to achieve the desired effects and means that he or she has become accustomed to its effects. In addition, frequent users may be able to tolerate doses of concentrated cannabis sufficient to produce negative subjective effects in infrequent users. A study of the subjective effects of cannabis should consider the individual’s cannabis usage history before making any broad conclusions.
Experimental evidence about tolerance in marijuana users has focused on the potential negative effects of moderate to large delta-9-THC concentrations. It is most common to observe these negative subjective effects in infrequent pot smokers in the laboratory. After smoking, researchers report elevated ratings of “Impaired,” “Confused,” and “Sluggish,” as well as decreased ratings of “Clear-headed”. According to Kirk and de Wit, infrequent marijuana users report a decrease in “Drug Liking” following a large dose of THC compared with a placebo. This may indicate that they are finding the effects of a large dose somewhat unpleasant.
Despite these negative effects, studies of marijuana-related effects for infrequent smokers rarely mention them. Kirk and de Wit found that frequent smokers didn’t report a change in “Drug Liking” after taking a large dose. Hart and colleagues (2001) observed a dramatic increase in ratings probing positive subjective effects, such as euphoria. Moreover, after participants had smoked a doobie, negative subjective effects ratings did not show significant changes not significantly altered.
According to The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, tolerance to THC-related effects develops differently for positive and negative effects. Check out our online shop if you want to continue your journey.