Imagine this: Everything’s going well. You feel healthy. Happy. Even high. (Mostly because you’re smoking weed.) Your friends are funny. The music is good. The weather is nice. But as soon as you finish your blunt or clear your bong, your typically inconspicuous contact lenses, intended to gift you with sight, suddenly become dry. This, in turn, transforms your eyes into sandpaper. The agony of your Saharan eyeballs isn’t fatal, but it definitely puts everything in reverse: You feel sorta shitty. Your friends annoy you. The music is too loud. The weather (and your mood) turn dark.
And while “my contacts are bugging me” is an excellent excuse to call any night quits early, I’ve had to go home and lubricate my thirsty little sockets way too many times lately. I’m not alone either:
“Sometimes after smoking weed, the dry-eye thing is so intense I can’t even watch TV,” a friend tells me. “And sometimes I get high and rub my eyes so crazy that I dislodge or tear my contact.”
But while weed is often associated with red eyes, the whole dryness thing is less often explained. And when it comes to conditions like glaucoma, weed is thought of as helpful medicine. So what gives?
“Marijuana can have significant impacts on vision and the eyes — including changing the eye pressure, lowering peripheral vision and creating redness of the eyes,” the Eye Doctor Guide explains. “Its sensory effects can change the way the body perceives things, even if vision levels aren’t actually altered.”
Basically, getting high fucks with more than just your consciousness. It alters how you literally see things. In this case, though, it’s the smoke itself — more than the THC included in that cloud — that causes so many eye problems for 420 fanatics. “Smokers increase their risk three-fold in their chance to suffer from age-related Macular Degeneration,” writes John Lahr, the medical director for EyeMed Vision Care. Macular Degeneration occurs when the retina is eroded at its center, the most common cause of vision loss in Americans 65 and older.
Dry eyes, of course, start much earlier. “Although smoking is harmful to anybody’s eyes, certain risks are increased if you wear contact lenses and smoke,” Contacts Direct warns. “When a person smokes, natural tears can no longer keep up with the smoke and contacts covering the eye. The eyes will quickly turn red, dry and scratchy. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer from dry eyes and dry eyes can lead to corneal ulcerations, which eventually lead to blindness.”
It also can be difficult to remove contact lenses once you’re high, because there’s not enough moisture to comfortably grab them without risking scratches and tears. “I’ve gotten high and tried to put a contact into an eye with a contact,” my same friend tells me. “I’ve had the opposite experience, too — where I try to take one out that I wasn’t wearing in the first place.”
So do yourself a favor this weekend: Pop out your contacts before you smoke and get high while wearing glasses. Everything will become so much clearer.