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I'm working on a story set in university. I remember from my time at university that it was fairly common for some students to indulge in the wacky baccy, and as that's a standard part of the university experience for a lot of folks I thought it would make sense to write characters who indulge in getting stoned themselves.

Unfortunately I don't have any direct personal experience of using the stuff (Neither I or my friends ever really tried it to any great extent) so I can't really draw from experience.

Of course there are plenty of examples of characters getting stoned in all kinds of popular culture (movies, TV shows, books, etc) but they almost always seem to be played for laughs (unless it's an over-the-top anti-drug film like Reefer Madness). I'm sure a lot of the time stoned people are pretty funny, but I do wonder how much of the typical portrayals you see in mass media are accurate and how much is just playing up stereotypes and jokes about it (I suspect the latter is far more common than the former).

Typical portrayals tend to feature at least one of the following:

  • Talking in a nonsensical way
  • Spouting non-sequiters
  • Fainting (usually immedeately after saying something funny)
  • Laughing and giggling
  • "The munchies"
  • "Deep" conversations that aren't really about anything much.
  • Paranoia and "freak-outs"
  • etc

Are the sort of depictions you see in mass media of using marijuana bear much resemblance to reality? If I were to include a character that uses marijuana then does anybody have any tips or guidelines for creating scenes involving casual drug use that don't resort to just copying the sort of goofy behaviour that is commonly used in portrayals of such characters?

UPDATE: I thought I'd add a couple of examples of the sort of stereotypical behaviour I'm talking about

  • just letting you know I edited the title to be more streamlined to fit our guidelines :) – ggiaquin16 Jul 18 '17 at 22:55
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From my experience of watching friends and neighbors use weed, some of them fit the stereotype to a T, and others... not so much. A lot of how you act when under the influence is also predicated by personality.

I know some people who get high and just sit there calm and collected. I also know a person who got into a fight with a fish.... that was a design pattern in the carpet.... I had a neighbor who smoked before they did anything as if it was almost their cup of coffee. You couldn't even tell they were high unless you saw the red in their eyes. I know of a friend who smoked too much and ended up fainting.

The munchies are definitely real, the laughing, paranoia is iffy. I have mostly only seen that with harder drugs but I do know of people who started freaking out over nothing.

In the end, it's everything you think it is and not at the same time. It really just depends on the role you want it to play (comedy relief or just a recreational thing done at a party) and the person/people who are consuming it. It's a lot like alcohol, everyone reacts differently to the same thing. Vodka makes 1 person angry while it also makes someone else giggly. So there isn't 1 size fits all. You just have general stereotypes.

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I've never seen anyone really hallucinate or become paranoid on cannabis - not that it can't happen, but it's unusual and also connected to larger than normal doses.

Talking nonsense, having pseudo-deep conversations and finding everything funny are real symptoms, but they require you to be relatively high. How much that takes depends on the individual and a lot on built up tolerance.

After just one joint passing around or similar amounts of consumption what you'll see is mostly relaxation and very slight dizziness. It's not actually as different from alcohol in terms of mental effect, you just don't get the physical stuff like how hard alcohol is on the stomach in large doses, how strongly dissociating it is and how it destroys your sense of balance.

ggiaquin is very much correct though when they say that the effect will depend on the individual more than most other factors.

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Cannabis effects so many people so differently. As with many questions, a good strategy to find an answer it is to ask more questions.

Particularly: One way to approach the substance is through the character using it and the setting they are in. So we will ask questions about the character and setting:

Why are they smoking? (Escapism? Enlightenment? Exploration?) Does their reason for smoking change with increase or decreased usage? Are they physically addicted to other substances? Do they become psychologically addicted to cannabis? Are they smoking hydroponically-grown cannabis with a high-THC content, or are they smoking brown "mids?" Would the character know the difference (between high-grade and low-grade stuff)? Do the other characters know the difference? Are they even smoking? Modern options includes a host of "edibles," "vaping," and "dabs" which is a high-THC-content cannabis oil extracted from cannabis through use of butane filtration. Most of the modern options are considered healthier and less likely to result in lung cancer. Is the character scared? Are they health concerned? Are they a hypochondriac? Do they mess up their first hit? Do they cough all over the place and look like a fool? Do they keep their cool? Will the police become involved?
Do you have a didactic point you wish to make to the audience about drug use?

So many questions.

If you want an "out of place" character smoking/whatever with characters who are far more experienced, it might help to do more field research. This can be as simple as watching youtube videos of "the first time someone tries" something. Consider this kid smoking dabs, which have a much higher concentration of THC per hit than regular cannabis. The kid says he is "stuck in time." (Warning: Crude language. Might also be uncomfortable to watch. There is a PTSD-like quality to how the kid reacts to the substance.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuFs7gJ7xWE

By the way, as for the pop-culture examples you provided, I can say that the R2D2 one resonates with me as the most accurate. In terms of behavior, specifically. The stuttering, self-interrupting dialogue (a staple in Coen bros. movies, if you're interested) and the "needing" to be comforted even though there isn't really a problem, leading up to the head back against the wall once C3P0 starts relaxing again... all of that is surprisingly more subtle than the other elements of the scene.

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