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Cannabis: the facts – Healthy body

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Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:

  • you may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
  • some people get the giggles or become more talkative
  • hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common
  • colours may look more intense and music may sound better
  • time may feel like it’s slowing down

Cannabis can have other effects too:

  • if you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick
  • it can make you sleepy and lethargic
  • it can affect your memory
  • it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
  • it interferes with your ability to drive safely

If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.

Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.

Can you get addicted to cannabis?

Research shows that 10% of regular cannabis users become dependent on it. Your risk of getting addicted is higher if you start using it in your teens or use it every day.

As with other addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means you need more to get the same effect.

If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.

If you smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and risk getting tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.

Cannabis and mental health

Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).

Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:

  • you start using cannabis at a young age
  • you smoke stronger types, such as skunk
  • you smoke it regularly
  • you use it for a long time
  • you smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness

Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.

Other risks of cannabis

Cannabis can be harmful to your lungs

People who smoke cannabis regularly are more likely to have bronchitis (where the lining of your lungs gets irritated and inflamed).

Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s not clear whether this raises your risk of cancer.

If you mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it, you risk getting tobacco-related lung diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

You’re more likely to be injured in a road traffic accident

If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.

Cannabis may affect your fertility

Research in animals suggests that cannabis can interfere with sperm production in males and ovulation in females.

If you’re pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby

Research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect your baby’s brain development.

Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of your baby being born small or premature.

Cannabis increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke

If you smoke it regularly for a long time, cannabis raises your chances of developing these conditions.

Research suggests it’s the cannabis smoke that increases the risk, not the active ingredients in the plant itself.

Does my age affect my risks?

Your risk of harm from cannabis, including the risk of schizophrenia, is higher if you start using it regularly in your teens.

One reason for this is that, during the teenage years, your brain is still growing and forming its connections, and cannabis interferes with this process.

Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.

Trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.

We will not know whether these treatments are effective until the trials have finished.

Trying to give up?

If you need support with giving up cannabis:

  • see your GP
  • visit Frank’s Find support page
  • call Frank’s free drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600
  • see Drugs: where to get help

You’ll find more information about cannabis on the Frank website.

Page last reviewed: 31 October 2017
Next review due: 31 October 2020

How cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, pot) affects you, the risks and where to find help if you're trying to quit.

PSA: Don’t Smoke Those Stems

These are crazy times, so it’s not that weird that you’re looking at your bowl of weed stems and contemplating smoking them. Waste not, want not, right?

As nice as it is to reduce waste and be resourceful, smoking stems isn’t the way to go.

If stems are all you have left, then you’ve already smoked the good stuff.

Stems contain almost no THC. What little may be in there doesn’t even come close to being enough to produce a high.

The negligible amount of THC in stems isn’t worth the unpleasant effects and risk to your lungs that come with smoking.

Inhaling smoke harms your lungs. It doesn’t matter if it’s bud, seed, tobacco, or burning wood. Toxins and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) are released from the combustion of materials, even stems. This damages your lungs and increases your risk for cancer and heart and lung diseases.

Smoke effects aside, smoking stems can cause:

  • a raging headache
  • a sore throat
  • coughing

It’ll also taste like you’re smoking wood chips.

Some people on Reddit and other forums who admit to having smoked weed stems also reported uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea and abdominal pain.

Nope. You shouldn’t smoke those either.

Marijuana seeds aren’t going to get you high no matter how many you crush and smoke. There’s just not enough THC in the seeds to produce any effects.

Lighting them up will create a lot of snap, crackle, and pop. The acrid smoke will irritate your throat and damage your lungs like other smoke. But that’s about it.

Stems and seeds aren’t worth smoking, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely useless. You may be able to use lingering stems and seeds. Exactly what you can do with them depends on how many you have.

If you just have a few seeds kicking around, you could plant them and try growing your own stash (if you live in an area where this is permitted, of course).

Have an abundance of stems and seeds to play with? Consider eating it.

Here are some ways to make it appetizing.

Brew some stem tea

Before getting your brew on, you’ll want to bake the stems on a baking sheet in the oven for around 45 minutes at 225°F (107°C). When done, let the stems cool, and then grind them up.

Put your ground stems in a tea diffuser and let them steep in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t have a diffuser, you can steep your ground stems in a pot of boiling water and then place a coffee filter over your mug and pour so it strains your brew.

Make stem butter

Who doesn’t like butter?

Just like when making tea from weed stems, you’ll want to bake your stems in the oven at 225°F (107°C) for 45 minutes and let them cool before grinding.

Place some butter in a pan and melt over low heat. Once the butter’s completely melted, add the ground stems and let simmer for around 30 minutes, stirring often.

To strain it, cheesecloth works best. Just secure the cheesecloth over a glass jar with a rubber band, and slowly pour the butter over the cloth. Let the butter cool and — voilà — stem butter!

It might be tempting to smoke all those stems that are gathering dust in your jar, but you may want to think twice before lighting up. ]]>