Oliver dimly gave me a confused look, and turned his head back to the television.
I felt uncomfortably hot. I set my hash brownie down and tugged at my collar. My boyfriend Oliver slowly turned his head to look at me with red, watery eyes. He gave me a weak smile which looked to me like a clown from a nightmare carnival. His skin slowly changed from red to a sickly green, his teeth became jagged and his eyes widened until they were piercing me. I screamed and leaped from the bed.
Oliver dimly gave me a confused look, and turned his head back to the television. My room was mutedly lit, the dull light bulb just barely illuminating my scattered clothes and textbooks strewn on the floor. Frantically I ran to my door to make sure it was locked, pressing my ear to the door. I heard my mom marching down the steps towards my room, about to open the door and smell the weed in the air. I listened again, and there was only silence.
I figured I was old enough to make my own choices, as long as I had my well-informed boyfriend by my side to make sure I stayed safe.
When I was 16, I decided that I was ready to try marijuana for the first time. I was extremely studious and respected my parents, who had drilled into my head that drugs were harmful and I was smart to stay away.
But, perhaps by some twist of fate, Oliver loved smoking pot. I had also seen it at parties and heard many a story about the hilarious things a blunt will prod people to say. I figured I was old enough to make my own choices, as long as I had my well-informed boyfriend by my side to make sure I stayed safe.
I trusted him blindly. I dutifully nodded my head when he suggested we would make hash brownies for his first time. We craned our necks over the WikiHow page, which gave us step by step instructions with brightly colored illustrations. I asked Oliver if he wanted dinner before the movie which he shook his head to, mumbling that he wasn’t hungry. I shrugged and grabbed the pan from the oven, bringing the piping hot brownies to my room.
My stomach grumbled as the movie began. I began to eat the moist brownies, one after another, after another….. after another. When the movie ended I had eaten the whole pan, with Oliver still munching on his first.
My mind entered a turmoil of paranoia, where I thought that every creak of wood was my mom running down the stairs and catching me red-handed.
I began hallucinating halfway through the movie. My dull brown room became a chaos of intense colors shifting in and out of focus. I began to see things that weren’t there—shadows became ghosts and when I looked down at my hands, they weren’t mine. My mind entered a turmoil of paranoia, where I thought that every creak of wood was my mom running down the stairs and catching me red-handed. I began sweating and it was difficult for me to breathe, which terrified me even more. Oliver was staring into a spot on the wall behind me, his eyes glassy. He didn’t respond when I asked him why I was feeling so wrong.
I don’t remember much of that night, just that I was a miserable heap with chocolate residue on my lips. I ended up slouched on my bed, unable to move, waiting for the thick cloud around my head that was making the world look like such a dark place to evaporate. I was high for a week after that night. It took several weeks for me to stop feeling like I was in a dream.
While my week-long high is an amusing anecdote now, it raises serious questions about the information we feed young minds about substances.
It was drilled into my head that drugs were not to be meddled with. My parents, teachers, textbooks all dismissed them as dangerous, and the conversation ended there. I never understood the differences between the different types, their effects, the dangers associated with them. When the time inevitably came for me to experiment, I was thoroughly unprepared
I was forced to do my own research about marijuana based on nothing but a couple 0f misinformed teenagers and a web search. If I had fully realized the effects of the drug, of course I would have eaten something beforehand. I would have vehemently opposed an edible as my first experience. I definitely would have known to stop munching after half a brownie, instead of finishing off the whole pan.
The socially-constructed stigma associated with cannabis made my situation increasingly unsafe. I was too terrified to ask for advice from anyone else beforehand for fear of getting in trouble. I refused to get professional help the week afterwards for the same reason, which would have been useful had the marijuana been laced with something more sinister.
The only way for me to experiment was to place my trust solely in my peers—making me extremely vulnerable. I was lucky my first experience included only cannabis, and I escaped unscathed.
Many teenagers will have a similar first experience to mine, but with drugs that are not so risk-free, such as Ecstasy, LSD and psyilocibin mushrooms. Without proper education, students will continue to get their information from their peers’ misguided assumptions. They won’t know what they’re ingesting and they will be too frightened to seek help if something does go wrong.
Growing up in a “just say no” household did not stop me from wanting to try cannabis, just like other teenagers will continue to try any substance they can get their hands on. The avoidance-based education is futile, and creates a generation of uniformed youth.
What curious teenagers need is reliable information from credible sources, to make informed and safe decisions. If I’d had that, maybe I wouldn’t have spent a week stumbling around, hazily staring at people through red eyes until they uncertainly pulled their children closer and started speed-walking the other way.
Words by Aline Aronsky
You can read more about drugs education here.