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First time cannabis experience: avoid this mistake!

Who you smoke with could be more important than what you smoke.
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Is the title clickbait? Maybe a little bit, but If I had to boil down all the essential things to know about psychedelics to one singular most important factoid, what would it be? What is the one thing that you should really consider before going on a magic carpet ride through your subconscious? - The answer is a question: "Who are you bringing along ?"

We all know the expression: "You are what you eat." It is a good expression and one that gives you pause when you are on your second "grande, quad, nonfat, one-pump, no-whip, mocha" of the day, with a prospect of some canned tuna and peanut butter later. The munchies truly make you reach for unholy food choices if you are not paying attention. You are what you eat; it undoubtedly applies to drugs as well.

While that is the second most important thing to remember, the most important is who you surround yourself with. As fortune cookie factories worldwide will remind us, "you are only as good as the people around you." This is good general advice regardless of the situation. Your life will be better if you synergize with your friends. Surround yourself with good-hearted and intelligent people, and everything is better. The things you enjoy are more fun, the bad days aren't quite as bad, and opportunities for success will present themselves out of nowhere. I can sense thepineapple crew looking over my shoulder and slowly nodding in agreement. Thepineapple is, after all, a prime example of such unexpected synergy.

Surrounding yourself with people you trust is doubly important when you grant your mind a reprieve from reality and immerse yourself in your psychedelic of choice. Having trustworthy, upstanding people around you is an incredible harm-reduction mechanism. If you have a designated driver, you won't have to worry about whose bed you are waking up in and where your shoes have gone. Also, this might come as a shocker but don't take drugs from strangers, kids. No, really, don't do it. Sometimes it isn't the drugs that are dangerous, but the people that fucked with those drugs before handing them to you.

To illustrate this, let me tell you a story from my "young and dumb" college phase of life. After a particular disruptive break-up, I decided I needed to meet new people and try new things to distract myself from the post-relationship blues. So I went out with a group of people I didn't know, introduced by a person I met the day before. The scientific term is "strangers". I went out with a bunch of strangers. Let's call them “Dave”, “Steve”, and “Brunhilde”. The evening progressed, and someone had the glorious idea to obtain some ganja, dope, grass, pot, weed, chronic, and cheeseburgers. I was down for cheeseburgers, and I had no experience with cannabis at that point, so I went along with it. We ended up at one person's basement apartment in a neighborhood I didn't know.

Well, the apartment is an overstatement. It was a small studio befitting a self-financed college student, half of which was occupied by an enormously obese cat watching an episode of Seinfeld with lazy interest. In retrospect, I feel like the presence of the neglected cat should have clued me to the quality of the company I was in. We get settled in, and Dave calls his weed guy. The weed guy, let's call him “Russian Pete”, shows up in record time. He brings Dave what appears to be his regular supply and informs us that he also has this new blend that is: "extra chill and helps you relax, believe me !" - So I think, boy, with all this grief swirling around in my head, I'd sure love to relax right now. 

I have him hand me a pre-rolled sample. It smelled awful, but I had no point of comparison. We all lit up, and I had that little, manly, coughing fit you get the first time you try something like this. A weird sensation was flooding through my body, and I had to sit down. Everyone was staring at me with mild amusement as they were watching me progressing towards a panic attack. I was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe and had to sit down because I was getting dizzy. Russian Pete cracks a joke about this new thing knocking the air right out of you. But I wasn't amused. I was struggling to breathe. So, I ask him if that was normal for weed, and he laughs and says no, this one is a bit different; it is laced with a "tiny" amount of "Colombian frog juice."

I am fucking freaking out at this point. "Colombian frog juice" is very vague, and I am thinking this weed might be laced with batrachotoxin or something similar. Batrachotoxin is a class of steroidal alkaloid neurotoxins found in Colombian poison dart frogs (Phyllobates). If that is the "juice" they used, then it is inhibiting the action of voltage-gated sodium channels in my nervous system, which wouldn't just be "relaxing" and "calming" but could paralyze me given high enough concentration. 

Struggling to breathe, I am freaking out Russian Pete enough that he decides to leave—asshole. All I can think of at this point is that I need a hospital, like, right now! So, I am asking the group to call me an ambulance. Each breath is a struggle, and dizziness has fully taken over. Meanwhile, Steve, Dave, and Brunhilde are having a heated discussion about whether or not they should call an ambulance. In my mind, that isn't even a question anymore. It is something that must happen. But they decided against it. "Fuck it. We'll chance it," was the consensus. If they called the ambulance, they would have to explain what happened, and they didn't want to get in trouble. Instead, they decided that Brunhilde will just sit down next to me on the sofa and jab me when I forget to breathe. "I don't know that breathing works that way," I remember thinking to myself as I was fading in and out of consciousness. Surprisingly, nothing permanent happened. I have a hazy memory of sudden deep gasps of air now and then, along with some random hugs from Brunhilde. It was a terrifying experience. 

The moment I was able to, I got myself out of there, caught a cab, and headed for the hospital. This certainly was not the best possible experience with weed one can have.

There are some learnings I took with me from that unforgettable day. First, don't do drugs with and from strangers. Yeah, I know; in retrospect, this is an obvious one. But it really is worth spelling it out. When we are young, we feel invulnerable, but man, we are truly not. Second, be educated on what you are participating in. Don't just trust that you'll be fine. Know what it is you are taking and how it affects your body. Lastly, and most importantly, if you decide to try new things like psychedelics, make sure you do it with people who have earned your trust. It is essential to have people around you who can make good decisions when you cannot. This is sensible advice in general, and critical whenever you are playing with new drugs.

A bit about who I am

I have been in the biomedical field for the better part of two decades and published peer-reviewed scientific articles on immunology, cancer, angiogenesis and molecular imaging. Over the years, I have given lectures, trained researchers, reviewed articles for major journals  and did the full stack of hands-on lab work from ideation through to patenting. Currently, I am acting as an executive consultant in the cannabis industry. For thepineapple I am digesting the scientific, evidence-based knowledge on cannabis to provide context for where cannabis fits in with the rest of the biomedical field to highlight opportunities and limitations/risks of medical cannabis.