Like everything in India, the consumption of bhang is full of contradictions, but we just can’t help loving it. So, why’s it full of contradictions, you ask?
Because bhang is a concoction made from the buds and leaves of the cannabis plant, also known as marijuana, ganja, or weed, which is incidentally banned.
If that comes as a shocker to you, you’ll be even more shocked with a local court ruling that stated, “bhang does not fall under the definition of cannabis” in the law. Of course, this is a shock of more pleasant kind, considering that you’re probably contemplating enjoying some delightful bhang lassi or mithai this Holi.
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What You Should Know Before Having Bhang
Although the experience can be exhilarating, as marijuana induces feelings of euphoria and extreme relaxation, the high can be unpleasant for many. Users may experience similar side effects to those from marijuana. This is because ingested cannabis is absorbed a lot more slowly and so users tend to over indulge.
If you do go overboard, you will start to experience not just a high some hours later, but also these nasty side effects.
Elevated Heart Rate
Studies on the effects of bhang and other cannabis derivatives show that consuming bhang can cause physiological changes such as an increase in heart rate, almost doubling it, and an increase in diastolic blood pressure. This is why the recreational use of bhang, charas, and ganja poses significant risk to patients suffering from heart disease and hypertension.
For many first time users, the high that sets in is sudden and unexpected. The sensation of increased heart rate can be scary, and it isn’t uncommon for this to trigger mild panic attacks. This means that you will experience palpitations and cold sweats, and will probably think you’re dying… don’t worry, you’re not!
This basically refers to a state in which you lose contact with reality, becoming increasingly delusional. A study in the British Journal of Addiction to Alcohol & Other Drugs found that bhang intoxication can trigger psychotic symptoms, with users displaying signs of hostility, disorientation, excitement, and increased paranoia. Cognitive function may also be impaired, with noticeably slurred speech and thought.
There have been no documented cases of fatalities from smoking marijuana, but there is one recorded case of a 25 year old youth passing away following bhaang consumption. This is believed to have occurred because of the man’s preexisting condition of rheumatic heart disease and his having undergone open-heart surgery.
Precautions When Consuming Bhang
Avoid Consuming It In Unfamiliar Places
Because of the risk of paranoia, trying out bhang in an unfamiliar surrounding or with strangers can heighten such feelings. This may lead to severe anxiety and panic attacks, ruining what could be a fun experience.
Avoid Consumption On An Empty Stomach
Like alcohol or any other intoxicant for that matter, the high is much greater when consumed on an empty stomach. This is also why bhang is mixed with ‘thandai’, like lassi, as it helps dilute the effects. If you consume bhang on an empty stomach, you simply increase your risk of having a bad high.
A Strict No No For Heart Patients
As we’ve already established, intoxication with bhang is rarely fatal, but it can be if you suffer from any kind of heart disease. It is also dangerous to patients suffering from hypertension or arrhythmia.
Don’t Mix Alcohol With Bhang
Yes, you may think alcohol may be a good medium to dilute bhang, but it’s not. Not only will this give you a bad high, but it can also prove fatal, as the ill effects are far more powerful than those associated with smoking weed, while drinking.
Consuming drinks and sweets with bhang has long been a part of Indian culture, and it’s also one of the safest ways to enjoy the highs of cannabis, without having to worry about lung damage from inhaling smoke. However, slower intoxication from ingestion increases the risk of over consumption, which is why you need to be careful with how much you consume, and you need to be patient if you’re waiting for the high!
So, stay safe this Holi, avoid mixing bhang with alcohol, don’t overdo it, and avoid any activity like driving, after you’ve enjoyed your bhang lassi!
Mittal S. Arjun Singh vs State of Haryana on 21 August, 2004. Punjab-Haryana High Court, 2004. Available from: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/HaryanaJudgment.pdf. [Last accessed on 2017 Mar 10].
Sharma, Priyamvada, Pratima Murthy, and M.M. Srinivas Bharath. “Chemistry, Metabolism, and Toxicology of Cannabis: Clinical Implications.” Iranian Journal of Psychiatry 7.4 (2012): 149–156. Print.
Chaudry HR, Moss HB, Bashir A, Suliman T. Cannabis psychosis following bhang ingestion. Br J Addict. 1991 Sep;86(9):1075-81. PubMed PMID: 1932878.
Gupta BD, Jani CB, Shah PH. Fatal ‘Bhang’ poisoning. Med Sci Law. 2001 Oct;41(4):349-52. PubMed PMID: 11693232.
March 1, 2018