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Psychological Effects of Cannabis – Study

In 1970 Dr. Charles Tart published his results from the first federally funded study into the psychological effects of marijuana. This investigation and its findings are available for purchase under the title On Being Stoned. It is also available online here.

The study is rich with details regarding the characteristic and common traits of a marijuana high. It is something every person who has ever ingested marijuana should read and notice if they are nodding their head as they relate. Dr. Tart categorized aspects of human consciousness and developed a questionnaire for people of various levels of marijuana experience. The result is a guidebook of the many psychological changes that can occur when THC and other cannabinoids are in our system. (THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that creates the characteristic high. The human endocannabinoid system was not understood at the time of this study.)

This federally funded study concludes that the benefits of marijuana far outweigh the downside risks physically and psychologically. Specifically Dr. Tart says “the known dangers of marijuana use are very small, while the known social cost of the present legal structure… is tremendously high.” (Introduction)

Dr. Tart also makes a comment about the possibility that marijuana users can become psychologically dependent on the plant. Tart says [psychological dependence] “is a nonsensical use of the English language, for psychological dependence simply means that people tend to repeat enjoyable experiences.” (Chapter 1)

The following is a summary of the “characteristic” and “common” traits that people experience after smoking various amounts of cannabis flowers. Descriptions of a marijuana high’s intensity range from Fairly, Strongly, Very Strongly, and Maximum.

As you read through this list, notice which of the qualities you consider to be worth repeating and which ones are a problem.  Often it’s difficult for us to share how our perception changes with marijuana. Something changes, but what? We’d love to hear your comments and personal experiences.


* Characteristic Traits
A characteristic effect is defined as more than half of the participants in the study responded with “very often” or “usually”.    Response Choices: Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Very Often, Usually


“Fairly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – CHARACTERISTIC

Less noisy at parties than when drunk.
Hear more subtle changes in sounds.
Difficult to play ordinary social games.
Easier to accept whatever happens, less need for control.
Easier to accept contradictions.
Invariably feel good when intoxicated.
New qualities to taste.
Easy to go to sleep at bedtime.
Understand the words of songs better.
Enjoy eating and eat a lot.
Remember less of what is read.



image-fairlystrongly-characteristic-on-being-stoned-001“Fairly to Strongly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – CHARACTERISTIC
See patterns, forms in otherwise ambiguous visual material.
Time passes more slowly.
Distances in walking changed.
Spontaneously have insights about myself.
Feel more childlike and open to experience.
Physically relaxed.
New qualities to touch.
Touch more exciting, sensual.
Greater separation between instruments when listening to stereo.
Deep insights into others.
Visual imagery more vivid.
Appreciate more subtle humor.

More difficult to read.


image-strongly-characteristic-on-being-stoned-001“Strongly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – CHARACTERISTIC

New qualities to sexual orgasm.
Easily sidetracked, forget to finish tasks.
More here-and-now.
Feel emotions more strongly.




Image-Very Strongly-Characteristic-On Being Stoned.001“Very Strongly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – CHARACTERISTIC
Can come down at will if necessary.
Forget start of conversation.


* Common Traits
“Common” is defined as more than half of the participants in the study responding with “sometimes”, “very often” or “usually”.    Response Choices: Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Very Often, Usually



image-fairly-common-on-being-stoned-001“Fairly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – COMMON
Higher people get me higher.
Learn a lot about psychological processes.
Contours get sharper.
Crave sweet things to eat.
Talk a lot more than when straight.
Work at tasks with extra energy and absorption.
Feel the world is in bad shape.
More sociable.




image-fairly-strongly-common-on-being-stoned-001“Fairly/Strongly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – COMMON
Distances seem greater.
Less sociable.
Pictures acquire a third dimension of depth.
Talk a lot less.
Inhibitions lowered.
Smell has new qualities.
Visual images automatically accompany thinking.
Smells richer, more unique.
Think in a more intuitive fashion.
Surfaces seem rougher, form interesting patterns.
Better person to make love with when stoned.
Pleasant, warm tingling inside body.
Dreams more vivid.
More involved in ordinary tasks.
Objects seem heavier.
Closer mental contact with partner when making love.
Play childish games.
Feel the world is in good shape.
Ideas more original, creative than when straight.
Insights about myself if i deliberately try to have them.
Memory for otherwise forgotten events better.
Movements very smooth, coordinated.
Surfaces feel smoother, silkier.
Events and thoughts flow more smoothly.
Need for sex goes up.
Good memory for period of intoxication.
Get physically restless, want to move around.
Empathize strongly with others.
Feels as if mind is working more efficiently.
Vivid taste imagery.
Say more profound things.
Auditory imagery more vivid.
Mood before intoxication amplified by intoxication.
Play very elaborate games.
New colors shades of color.
Marked increase in sexual desire if situation is appropriate.
Group takes on a sense of unity when stoned.
Sleep more refreshing than usual.
More visual imagery while reading.

Work on tasks less accurately, judged by later evaluation.
Pain more intense if concentrated.



image-strongly-common-on-being-stoned-001“Strongly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – COMMON
Body feels light, floaty.
Spaces becomes an auditory space.
Deja Vu
Events and thoughts follow jerkily.
Skip intermediate steps in problem solving.
Very aware of breathing.
Sound of own voice changes.
Focused sights very real, others dim – visual centrality.
Drowsy early in evening.
Distances seem shorter.
Things in periphery look different.
Aware of heart beating.
Spontaneously remember things long forgotten.
New qualities to temperature.
Pain easy to tolerate if attention is diverted.
Feel very powerful, capable.
Giggle a lot.
New meaning to commonplace saying, events.
Excellent control of fantasies.
More aware of bodily components of emotion.

Lose awareness of body unless strong stimulus occurs.
Give less thought to consequences of actions.
Feels as if mind is working less efficiently.
Poor memory for period of intoxication.



image-very-strongly-common-on-being-stoned-001“Very Strongly Stoned” Levels of Cannabis Intoxication – COMMON
Lose sense of separate self, at one with world.
So absorbed in fantasy that attention must be gotten forcibly.
Events become archetypal.
Inner visions as real as nocturnal dreams.

Forget start of sentence.
Can’t think clearly, thoughts slip away before grasped.
Think i’ve said something when i’ve only thought about it.


Don’t take this book’s word for it. Try it for yourself. Start small if you’ve never ingested marijuana before. It’s not for everyone, but considering the plant is non-toxic (no one has ever died from overdose or chronic use) and less addictive than alcohol and tobacco, the biological and mental risks are low. Legal access to the plant is now widely available, so the chances the cops will knock down your door for inconspicuous personal experimentation is non-existent in the United States these days.

Let us know your experiences in the comments here, on Twitter, Facebook or our Forum. We need to help each other out as cannabis awareness washes over the country. The benefits are there, but like everything, takes practice to master.

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