Fear, anxiety and inhalation

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at ask420@newsreview.com

I’ve heard that marijuana can ease anxiety, but I have also heard that it can cause anxiety. Which is true?


Um, both. According to a 2001 study from Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UC San Francisco, cannabis can increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, which should calm you down and smooth you out. However, anxiety and panic attacks are the biggest reported side effects of cannabis use.

Usually, it comes down to a few factors.

The strain. Sativas tend to get the heart racing a little bit. And while many people like the let’s-get-shit-done buzz of an old-school land race strain like Durban Poison, others find the effects to be overwhelming. Indicas, like Romulan or Hash Plant, tend to have a smoother, less edgy high.

The dosage also matters. It is not necessary to smoke the entire blunt to your head and then do three dabs, eat a pot cookie and then smoke a bowl. Some people seem to think that they need to smoke all of the weed every time they smoke, and that’s when panic attacks and passing out occur. Maybe you could be more like my friend Mike. His nickname is “Two Hits.” He takes two hits, and he’s good. I mean, he takes two hits every hour-and-a-half or so, but you get the point.

Are there people that shouldn’t use cannabis?


Of course there are. Minors shouldn’t use pot, unless they are medicating under the direct supervision of a medical professional. People with a history of schizophrenia should definitely stay away from cannabis, as studies have shown that cannabis use can exacerbate their symptoms. Pregnant women. And that’s about it. Everyone else should smoke weed every day. (I am mostly kidding with that last statement.)

In his book Marijuana Gateway to Health, author Clint Werner has a chapter discussing who shouldn’t use weed. His biggest point is while cannabis is not addictive, people can use it to avoid responsibilities. “If you spend all day doing bong hits and watching reruns of SpongeBob, then you probably have a marijuana problem.”

I think he’s right, although my friend and fellow activist Mikki Norris also has a point when she says, “Don’t blame pot for your problems. If you sit around the house doing nothing all day, it’s not the weed. It’s because you are lazy and irresponsible.”

Do I really need to hold smoke in when I take a hit?

—Lily Little Lungs

Comedian James Wesley Jackson once asked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if it wasn’t the weed that got us high, but holding our breath for so long?” There’s no need to hold the hit in until you start to pass out. You will just irritate your lungs and cough all over the person next to you. All the studies I could find say you should hold a hit in for about 7 to 10 seconds, although you don’t have to. One good inhale and exhale should do the trick.