Smoking Weed Before Getting a Tattoo

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Written by Alex Patsfield on 12/13/2023.
Data Last Updated: 07/22/2024.

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Tattoos involve puncturing your skin with needles hundreds of times per minute, making it an inherently painful process. This leads some to wonder – can I smoke weed before a tattoo to make it hurt less? This article explores the effects of cannabis on tattoo pain and the healing process.

What Happens During a Tattoo

What Happens During a Tattoo

Getting inked involves:

  • Shaving and cleaning the skin
  • A tattoo artist using an electric tattoo machine equipped with fast-moving needles to repeatedly inject tattoo ink into the dermis layer of skin
  • Wiping away excess ink and blood periodically
  • Applying antibiotic ointment or a bandage after

This causes some level of pain and discomfort during and after, along with minor bleeding and potential skin irritation. Let’s look at whether weed helps.

Can Marijuana Ease Tattoo Pain?

Can Marijuana Ease Tattoo Pain?

Weed, or cannabis, is known for its psychoactive properties primarily due to the presence of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). It is commonly used for its relaxing and euphoric effects. However, its impact can vary greatly among individuals.

In recent times, marijuana has become more commonly used for managing pain, thanks to its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities. (1) Smoking or otherwise consuming cannabis before getting a tattoo may help in several ways:

Benefits for Pain Relief

  • Relaxes muscles for less tension or cramping
  • Distracts from and diminishes focus on the sensation of pain
  • Alters pain perception through its effects on the brain
  • Reduces inflammation and sensitivity

While the taboo around getting tattooed under the influence of alcohol is well-established, the use of cannabis in this context presents a different narrative. Circa Suicide, a renowned tattoo model, ink enthusiast for over a decade, and cannabis influencer, offers a unique perspective on this topic. Circa shares her experiences of using weed to enhance her tattooing process. She notes:

“Being high usually makes it less painful for me and really helps get me to sit still and relax. I get excited and tense up a lot when I am getting tattooed, so without being able to smoke I feel like it would hurt waaaay more.”

Circa Suicide. (2023). Here’s the Truth About Getting Tattooed While You’re High. Inked Magazine

This statement underscores the calming and pain-reducing effects that cannabis can have for her during tattoo sessions.

Potential Risks

Potential Risks

There are a few cautions regarding combining weed and tattoo sessions:

  • Being too relaxed – Numbing the area too much through very strong marijuana could cause you to twitch or jump from pain you can’t feel building up. Stay somewhat aware.
  • Bleeding more – THC has blood thinning qualities, which may make bleeding more likely during or after. (2)  This causes issues for the artist and healing.
  • Fidgeting – Being very stoned could also lead to increased fidgeting, making it harder for the artist to properly carry out precise line work.
  • Poor aftercare – Intoxication may make you less vigilant about proper cleaning and care of your new ink, raising infection risks.
  • Fading – Extended cannabinoid exposure is linked to quicker fading compared to tattoos allowed to heal undisturbed. The reasons are still being studied but likely involve cellular interference.

Alternatives to Smoking Weed

Alternatives to Smoking Weed

Rather than lighting up, you may want to consider alternatives like:

  • CBD topicals – Creams infused with CBD applied directly to the skin may ease pain without psychoactivity.
  • Edibles – Ingesting rather than smoking THC avoids smoke exposure at the tattoo site.
  • Just anesthesia – Many shops offer lidocaine injections that numb effectively without other side effects.

When deciding whether to consume cannabis beforehand, carefully consider strain choice, dosage, timing, your pain tolerance, and artist recommendations. Be very transparent with your tattoo artist so they can best advise and adjust accordingly.

Your Artist’s Stance

Your Artist’s Stance

The tattooist wielding the needle for 1-6 hours on your skin should get the final say here. Respect their shop policy and perspective.

Many artists prefer clients don’t intake anything they feel alters pain perception or motor control too severely. From their view, some pain serves an important purpose during a tattoo – signaling issues like going too deep. Numbed clients may request excessively deep difficult work.

If you want their blessing to smoke weed or consume an edible beforehand, have an open conversation. Ask them to outline any concerns so you can thoughtfully self-monitor or adjust dosage.

Healing High

You’ve just spent hundreds of dollars and hours getting your perfect tattoo. Don’t let choices during healing undo all that beautiful work.

THC affects inflammation pathways and skin cell growth. So stay vigilant for any worsened hotness, swelling, itching, or irritation if opting to smoke.

Carefully follow aftercare directions regarding washing, moisturizing, and bandaging the tattoo. Avoid submerging it in baths or pools for 2 weeks. The cleaner it heals, the better it retains vibrancy.

Listen to your body and stop cannabis use if healing seems impaired relative to other tattoos. While rare, some people discover through trial and error that THC and fresh tattoos don’t mix well for them personally.

FAQ:

Should I inform my tattoo artist if I plan to smoke weed before my session?

Absolutely. It’s crucial to have an open conversation with your tattoo artist about any substances that might alter pain perception or motor control. 

Is it better to smoke or ingest cannabis for tattoo sessions?

This depends on personal preference and tolerance. Ingesting THC through edibles might avoid smoke exposure at the tattoo site, but it’s important to be aware of dosage and timing due to the delayed onset of effects compared to smoking.

How can I ensure my tattoo heals well if I choose to use cannabis?

Follow all aftercare instructions closely, avoid submerging the tattoo in water for the recommended period, and monitor the healing process. If you notice any healing issues, consider adjusting your cannabis consumption.

Is it better to smoke weed before or after getting a tattoo?

Smoking weed before a tattoo can help with pain relief and anxiety reduction during the session. Smoking after the session can aid in managing post-tattoo pain and discomfort, but it’s crucial to monitor the healing process and any possible interactions with the ink or skin sensitivity.

What strains of weed are better to smoke for a tattoo, and which should be avoided?

For a tattoo session, strains high in CBD and lower in THC are often recommended to reduce pain without causing significant psychoactive effects or increasing anxiety. Indica strains are generally preferred for their relaxing properties. 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

Cannabis shows promise easing tattoo pain but also comes with some key considerations regarding bleeding, healing, fading, and artist preference. Have an open conversation with your tattoo artist so you both feel informed and comfortable with your choices. Monitor healing closely and avoid excess THC if you notice any issues.

Sources:

  • Mack A, Joy J. Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000. 4, MARIJUANA AND PAIN. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224384/ 
  • Coetzee, C., Levendal, R. A., van de Venter, M., & Frost, C. L. (2007). Anticoagulant effects of a Cannabis extract in an obese rat model. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology14(5), 333–337. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2006.02.004

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