Marijuana-Induced Anxiety Is Weed Culture’s Bigfoot
You might not remember your first time smoking weed. But you’ll remember the first time smoking weed made you freak the fuck out.
I was at a friend’s house five years ago, curled into a ball after three hits of unequivocally good weed. My brain loomed in and out of consciousness. I was scared. Every few seconds, the room would turn black. I could feel my heart about to burst, and eventually, I succumbed to a comatose-like sleep. It wasn’t like other times, and it sucked.
Marijuana-induced anxiety is weed culture’s Bigfoot—an urban legend that’s perpetuated by hearsay, rather than fact. Everyone knows someone whose friend’s cousin had a bad trip. (“But like, weed is really good for anxiety, right?”). As a result, the truth of the matter is muddled, and discussing reefer madness can actually make you feel insane.
“I puked some indeterminate number of times. Then I basically just lay down on the tile floor. Some part of me was aware, the whole time, that I was just way too high, and it would eventually pass,” one person told me about their experience. “I woke up on the bathroom floor in the morning. I felt extremely bad.”
“My boyfriend and I had tickets to a Kate Nash concert and smoked a joint before heading out,” said another. “I remember feeling kind of floaty on the cab ride over—almost like I wasn’t fully in my body…Then, during the opener, the room started to go dizzy and I suddenly couldn’t see or hear anything. The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor several minutes later, a crowd of people hovering around me, feeling like I’d died.”
“I wasn’t right for the next three days,” one person who developed a later anxiety disorder told me. “My friends still talk about this event and we laugh, but that experience fucked me up and I never smoked weed again. And never will.”
I spoke to dozens of people whose symptoms were mostly the same: anxiety, distorted vision or hearing, dizziness, and blacking out. These aren’t the nice effects of weed, mind you. And as someone with an anxiety disorder, I can tell you they feel a lot like a panic attack.
Thanks in part to stringent marijuana laws, it’s been difficult for researchers to gather data that isn’t only self-reported.
But it’s not clear whether weed jumpstarts anxiety disorders, and the association is tenuous. When existing studies on this topic were reevaluated, and other anxiety stressors were controlled for, an almost insignificant amount of people showed a link between marijuana use and anxiety development. Research based on longitudinal data from a National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which included interviews with 34,653 participants, also found negligible evidence that weed can catalyze anxiety.
Still, thanks in part to stringent marijuana laws, it’s been difficult for researchers to gather data that isn’t only self-reported. Things like cannabis strain, for instance, which can determine the type of high that someone gets, are impossible to standardize in large studies.
“It’s not just whether or not a person has a genetic risk factor. It’s really looking at the expression of those genes, and that’s brought on by environmental factors that change the way genes are expressed,” April Thames, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, told me.
“It’s conceivable that the use of these substances could impact one’s trajectory to develop anxiety, but need there needs to be more research.”
For people who already have anxiety disorders, it’s a little different. Stress and anxiety are brother and sister—controlling one can help the other. A prominent theory suggests that naturally occurring cannabinoids in our brains can be produced in response to stress hormones. These molecules, in turn, may disrupt the amygdala, a region near the base of our brain that contributes to anxious feelings when overstimulated, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. It should be noted, however, that this was an animal study, which affects its ability to reliably predict these same results in humans.
Another study, published one year earlier in Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, also linked cannabinoids, specifically anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), to stress responses. It stated that certain cannabinoid receptors interact with these molecules to regulate stress. Based on this research, it’s been theorized that when tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—the psychoactive compound in weed that gets you high—binds with specific brain receptors, feelings of anxiety can either be increased or decreased. And for some people, smoking weed with higher levels of THC can induce symptoms common with anxiety.
“If someone has a history of anxiety, panic episodes, or even depression, cannabis can exacerbate those effects, according to some literature,” Thames added. “There’s some thought that cannabis has a connection [with making these receptors more sensitive], bringing on an anxiety-like state.”
Different strains of weed can also play a role. Thoughtful sellers often prescribe indica, rather than sativa, to anxiety-prone people. There are shaky genetic differences between modern Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, but very broadly, certain types of indica can possess higher cannabidiol (CBD) levels. CBD is a cannabinoid like THC, but is non-psychoactive, resulting in a gentler high. (As with all homeopathic medicine, your method may vary.)
If one thing’s for certain, it’s that weed is still drastically under-researched, and we won’t know if and when weed will give us a panic attack until we surpass regulatory hurdles and embrace the science. Hopefully, as marijuana laws become less draconian, psychologists will have more freedom to study its effects—positive and negative.
Until then, don’t feel down if weed makes you feel bad. Experiment with different strains, and at the end of the day, remember that it’s supposed to make you feel good.
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Ever get the fear when you smoke pot? Scientists are still trying to work out why.
8 Helpful Tips for Surviving a Cannabis-Induced Anxiety Attack
Friday January 20, 2017
F rom time to time, cannabis has been known to cause cases of consumer anxiety and paranoia, ultimately leading to an uncomfortable experience. Individuals new to cannabis are especially vulnerable to experiencing the opposite of delightful highs. Regular cannabis users understand that there are certain marijuana strains grown to relieve specific medicinal symptoms. For instance, strains with high CBD and low THC content are known for alleviating symptoms of anxiety, stress and paranoia.
While cannabis can be a wonderful alternative medicine for those looking to reduce their daily anxiety and stress, unfortunately some people experience the opposite. So what does a cannabis-induced anxiety attack feel like and what can a cannabis consumer do while the uncomfortable experience is happening?
There are many articles explaining the precautions and tips to avoid the cannabis-induced anxiety attack, but none seem to cover what to do in the moment. Usual advice in these articles falls along the lines of knowing your limits, eat meals prior to consumption, consume small amounts at a time, etc. However, there is little information or example procedures that one could use while in the middle of a cannabis induced anxiety attack. That’s why we’ve gathered the 8 best tips to try the next time you eat one too many edibles, hit the bong too hard or take too fat of a dab.
Terpenes to the Rescue
Terpenes have what is known as an “entourage effect” when combined with cannabis, meaning they can influence and stimulate your high in unique ways. Depending on which terpenes are being consumed, they can help tremendously with cannabis-induced anxiety. Limonene, pinene, myrcene and beta-caryophyllene have all been found to reduce anxiety by increasing blood flow to the brain and nervous system while providing anti-inflammatory relief.
Terpenes are more common than you think, and can be found in many household items. So next time you experience anxiety after consuming cannabis, try eating some black pepper (full of pinene and beta caryophyllene), drinking some lemon water (high in limonene) or nibbling on some mangos or lemongrass (rich with myrcene).
The cannabinoid CBD is known to temper the effects of THC and reduce many aspects of a negative high. With that being said, trying a strain that is high in CBD might help reduce any feelings of anxiety after your smoke sesh.
Additionally, there are lots of great places to purchase CBD products that contain no THC and up to 99.9% CBD. With options like powder, tinctures, capsules and more, consuming pure CBD mid-anxiety attack is an excellent and effective remedy for most people.
Try Cannabis Overconsumption Products
Several products that combat cannabis overconsumption have recently hit the market. These products, often in the form of tonics or drinks, are quick and easy ways to rid yourself of cannabis-induced anxiety. Perhaps the most popular product is Mary’s Rescue, by Mary’s Medicinals.
They combine clinical grade nutrients and plant-based ingredients in an effort to calm, relax and restore a consumer back to a comfortable state of mind. Sipping on this clinically formulated blend will definitely send your anxiety packing.
Distracting yourself in public.
Going to the store or anywhere in public can be tough if you get just a bit too high prior to leaving. If you are uncomfortably high in public, simply look around for something distracting. There is always something humorous happening in public spaces so just take a quick look around you.
It’s pretty much guaranteed you will find something funny that makes you smile or laugh. Have you ever been to Wal-Mart? Concentrate on the guy with a fanny pack and pony tail who is screaming at someone through his Bluetooth headset. Before you know it, your mind will quickly turn its full attention to something funny rather than your anxiety. When cannabis gets to your nerves it helps to stay busy mentally and physically.
Quite the impressive fanny pack. Photo credit
Take a Deep Breath & Calm Yourself Down
No matter the amount of cannabis you consume, its effects will 100% never, in the history of the universe, last forever. Take a deep breath, focus on your breathing and try to quiet the racing thoughts in your mind. Cannabis-induced anxiety is often a mental challenge, if you can gain control of your thoughts and feelings long enough to calm down, in time you will begin to feel better.
If you have a history of feeling anxious after consuming cannabis talk with your budtender or do a simple google search on the different strains of marijuana and their common effects. Just like music, all cannabis users have favorite strains, it just takes some experimenting to find yours.
Eat or drink.
Grab a sandwich and crack open a refreshing drink. There really is no better way to distract yourself amidst a cannabis induced anxiety attack than shoveling some food in your face. Let us ask a silly question. What goes better with being high and eating food? The answer is obvious, nothing. If you can, jump into the kitchen when you feel uncomfortably baked and cook yourself a meal, or a simple snack.
Why not make a banana bread or your favorite treat even. Focus on the cooking and keep your mind on the prize, some delicious snacks. Be sure to be careful while using knives and power kitchen tools such as blenders, toaster ovens and juicers. Eat and you will feel better. Food makes everyone feel comforted, whether it’s organic or junk, homecooked or store bought.
Fresh fruit is always a good munchie selection. Photo credit
If you’re uncomfortably high at home, it’s a great idea to get something done around the house or take part in some physical activity. Be proactive and clean up a bit instead of sitting around bathing in your anxiety. Maybe consider playing a video game or watching a movie; stimulating your mind is always a good option. Some people find great joy and happiness from getting stoned and cleaning too. Better yet, go outside when you’re too high.
If it is a beautiful day and you are inside feeling anxious and paranoid, try taking a break outside. There is no need to walk for miles. A simple cruise around the block or down to the park will calm your nerves and ease the discomfort you’re feeling. In the moment, you recognize the onset of a cannabis induced anxiety attack, try to quickly combat it with a stroll. March, skip, bike, hike, run or walk it is relatively all the same objective. Nature and cannabis consumption go great together so if at all possible in your state unease, go out for a nice walk and don’t forget to take the dog with you.
Music is never the wrong idea. The all-symptom remedy in life is music. Everyone has their favorite genre of music. Turn on something you enjoy and begin to relax. Again, focus on your breathing and remember your high will not last forever. If you enjoy finding new music try using popular music websites and apps that play random new tracks based off your favorite genres.
Finding a new song is not only heart-warming but also very distracting from your high. Jam out and dance. Play some house beats and bop around because dancing is also great exercise. Whichever type of music makes you happy, turn it up and forget about your worries.
Do you have a favorite cannabis-anxiety remedy? Comment in the discussion below!
Cannabis-induced anxiety affects many marijuana consumers. With legal weed common, people are consuming too much cannabis and experiencing discomfort. From terpenes to CBD to exercise, there is something for everyone. If you're too high in Downtown Denver or the airport, try one of these remedies!