The Many Ways to Get High

There seem to be just about as many ways to "get high" as there are people to indulge in or create them. Let's start with one that many people indulge in on a regular basis. You see them jogging on the sidewalk. This is a more innocent type of high - the runner's high - which happens when chemicals known as endorphins are released into the body due to strenuous exercise. Endorphins are said to cause feelings of euphoria, or well-being and joy.

You could call this the "high-on-life" high, in a sense.

And there are those types of highs that alter your consciousness by introducing a chemical into the body, rather than by producing the chemical from within by running or, ahem, sexual activity. These highs are achieved through any of a wide variety of substances.

Let's take a look at caffeine, codeine, and cannabis.

Each of these three substances, besides all starting with the letter C, alter your consciousness and produce a sort of high, in the broad sense that a high is the result of a change in brain chemistry.


Caffeine, a stimulant, is said to be the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world. But caffeine, according to Wikipedia, is legal and unregulated pretty much everywhere, unlike the other two psychoactive substances, codeine and cannabis. "Psychoactive" is a scary word, isn't it? But it simply means those drugs, like caffeine, that affect brain function and alter consciousness.


Codeine, a narcotic derived from opium, is commonly used as a painkiller. Unlike caffeine, codeine is heavily regulated in the U.S. and in its purer form is a Schedule II controlled substance because of its apparently high potential for addiction. Yet the government has blessed our use of codeine, as long as it comes from a doctor's prescription.


Another substance increasingly coming from a doctor's prescription, or, in Arizona, a doctor's written certification, is cannabis. Cannabis, unlike completely-legal caffeine and highly-regulated but legal codeine, is flat-out illegal in many areas of the U.S. and has been for years, besides the fact that caffeine and codeine are no less psychoactive than cannabis.

Like codeine, cannabis is considered by many to be a medicine. See this beginner's guide to choosing the right strain of medical cannabis, with its repeated references to "medicine," by the Patients Care Collective in Berkeley. And while you can use cannabis if you're a qualifying patient in Arizona, like the use of codeine, cannabis is still treated as though it was worse than codeine.

What's the 'Worst' High?

Every single one of these ways to get high, from running to drinking coffee to smoking marijuana, is an example of what you may choose to do to alter your consciousness. Is it really any of the government's business to continue to criminalize one of these over another?

The Big Questions

Why is mere possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use in Arizona still a felony if you aren't a qualifying patient? Why must you have something like cancer to make using cannabis acceptable? Why, when it's likely that cannabis is likely much less addictive than the narcotic codeine, you can still go to jail for it?

As Phoenix criminal defense lawyers, we can't fully answer these questions ourselves, but we can put the government to its proof in court.

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