Tattoos and Cannabis

Tattoos and Cannabis

When I got my first tattoo I was convinced I’d be one of those rare people who found getting tattooed to be a pleasant experience. Someone who actually enjoyed the feeling. When the needle touched my skin for the first time I realized how sorely mistaken I was. Not only did I not “kind of like it”, it hurt so much the guy thought I was joking around. I was not. He had to hold me down with his body weight as he tattooed my back. I still wonder how different the experience would have been if I had used cannabis.

My Story

Using logic, one might assume that I’d stop getting tattooed after such a horribly painful experience. The cool tattoo artist man, who I hoped would want to maybe be my buddy after, was as annoyed and exhausted as I was. The look in his eyes said, “this is gonna be your first and last tattoo”. And maybe it should have been, but I have no room in my life for logic.

Since then I have spent collectively over 24 hours of my life being tattooed with a large portion of my body now covered. Did I get better with the pain over time, as I gained more experience?

No. No, I did not. If it was possible, I got worse.

111435 tattoo pain scale female 1296x1680 body 1296x1533
This chart displays the most painful parts of the body to have tattooed. If the chart was made by me it would just be various shades of red.

I think maybe my body knew what to expect and started sending panic signals the second I walked in because my body would just shut down when it came time to get tattooed. I’d hold tough for like 40 mins (20 mins if were being honest) and then I’d start shaking with pain. On top of that my body would tense up so much that it would begin to cramp. After a five-hour tattoo session my back and other muscles as sore as the rest of my body, just from tensing up so much.

Introducing Cannabis

Throughout my life as a tattooed person, I’ve used cannabis regularly. It was only this year, however, that the thought of using cannabis before my tattoo session crossed my mind.

I found that using cannabis helped in all aspects of the tattoo experience. From the actual tattoo being done, to recovery; cannabis holds a lot of potential in helping with tattoo associated pain and discomfort.

Benefits of Cannabis and Tattooing

  • Pain Relief – Everyone knows that both THC and CBD can help with pain and inflammation, and as it turns out; tattoos come with tons of both. Using cannabis both prior to the tattoo appointment, and in the healing process, can help a great deal. I find that the most painful part of being tattooed is once an area has already been done and then more work is added to that spot in the same session. As soon as the skin is tattooed it begins to get inflamed and irritated, making it incredibly raw and sensitive. Often the artist will have to go back to touch up lines or add shading. The THC and CBD should help reduce inflammation, therefore making this step a bit more tolerable. There are many after tattoo lotions that are infused with CBD to help with pain relief in the recovery process.

  • Anxiety Relief – For a lot of people, the lead up to getting a tattoo can be an can cause some degree of anxiety. If you find that cannabis helps with your anxiety in other aspects of your life, why not try it for your tattoo? Obviously you want to be sure to know your tolerance level and be sure not to push it. The situation can be a bit overwhelming if you are too stoned, but that said, feeling comfortably high can offer a great deal of relief when feeling anxious. Try smoking a nice calming indica like Tom Ford or Pink Death Star.

  • Physical Relaxation – When your body is under stress, your muscles tend to tense up. As you brace for the pain, you’ll notice your body subconsciously tightens up. Hours of this can put a lot of strain on your muscles and you may find that it’s not just your fresh tattoo throbbing with pain that night. Smoking or eating pot prior to getting tattooed can allow your body to loosen up and relax. Furthermore, using something like Feel CBD Calm or Sleep will help your body relax at night, easing aches and pains to allow your body to get a good sleep and recover fully.

Things To Keep In Mind Before You Get Tattooed Stoned

If I have learned one thing after my time being tattooed, it is that there is nothing more important than the respect and trust between the artist and the client. I have several friends who work as tattoo artists, and one common source of frustration is how some people come in and treat the process like any other transaction business transaction. Some people act like they’re buying a burger from McDonald’s, rather than a piece of art from an artist. It is vital to remember that tattoos are the medium these artists have dedicated their lives to mastering and something they are incredibly passionate about. If you approach the relationship as if the artist is nothing more than a middle man, you’ll be in for a horrible start to your relationship.

Think happy thoughts

When a tattoo artist agrees to tattoo you they are placing a huge amount of trust in you to wear their art and show it to the world. Of course, it is your body and your tattoo, so you should be certain, confident and in love with the design before actually being tattooed. Just keep in mind that it is a two-way relationship. You are wearing someone’s art and life’s passion.

With that in mind, if your artist is not comfortable with you using cannabis prior to the appointment, you should respect that. They only want the best results and if they feel more comfortable with you being completely sober than that’s their right. By the same token, if you are not comfortable getting it done without using cannabis, you have the right to say so as well. Work with your artist to come to an understanding. My best tattoos recently have involved me and my artist taking a break half-way through to smoke a joint in the alley.

Artist Under the Influence

Some tattoo artists prefer to use cannabis before the session, as they feel it relaxes them and encourages creativity. Others feel that it distracts them and slows them down. Ultimately, just like it’s up to the artist’s discretion if they want to tattoo someone under the influence of cannabis, it is certainly in your rights to not want to get tattooed by someone who has just smoked.

This is where the previously mentioned trust and mutual respect comes in. Tattoos are a strange bonding experience. It is often at least several hours with just you and your artist. There is something about how the whole experience that allows you to let your social guard down and open up to your artist like an old friend.


Alcohol can cause difficulties in the clotting process, therefore leading to problems with excessive bleeding.

You can also end up with a tattoo that you regret, as alcohol’s decision-making hinderance is no secret.

Do not take ibuprofen before your tattoo. You may thing the anti-inflammatory properties will help with the pain but, like alcohol, it can actually lead to issues with clotting meaning a risk of excessive bleeding. Tylenol is a great alternative. Taking one or two an hour before the session can help a lot.

Do not use cannabis topicals before getting tattooed. You don’t know how they will affect your skin and interact with the ink so it is best to put them on hold for a while, unless they are specifically designed to be used in conjunction with tattoos.

Final Words of Advice

A lot of people like to proclaim how much they enjoy being tattooed and how they ‘like the pain lol”. There is actually a movement dedicated to celebrating and encouraging the pain of tattoos, over the aesthetic. By using heavy hands the artist tattoos thick and bloody lines all over the recipient’s body. It looks like a literal nightmare but to each their own!


Dude is questioning his entire life’s decisions that brought him to this point.

no from me dawg

For everyone else, cannabis may be the secret ingredient to help with discomfort.

Work with your artist to come at the tattoo from a place of trust and mutual respect.

“And when you say it’s on me forever, you mean…’?”

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