Most people can remember a time they got way too high and experienced a bit of a paranoia. Sometimes very mild, and other times you feel so anxious you feel like you’re going to die.
Almost a third of marijuana users in the U.S. say the main purpose of it is to reduce anxiety or stress. So why does the opposite happens for some people, and how to prevent it?
It’s literally all in your head.
Cannabinoids such as THC bind to receptors throughout the brain, many of which are focused in the amygdala. The amygdala is involved in emotional processing, governing responses such as fear, stress, and paranoia. When THC acts upon the amygdala, it modifies the neural communication for better or for worse.
THC can overexcite the neural pathways and lead to anxiety and paranoia, especially in individuals who are new or unaccustomed to cannabis.
But not just with people that are new to cannabis. If somebody smoked robustly in their 20s and picked it back up in their 30s, their brain’s endocannabinoid system may not be at the same set point. That’s why you may notice getting paranoid when you smoke now, whereas marijuana may have mellowed you out when you were in college.
While anxiety is no doubt unique and nuanced in every individual, researchers noted that regular users tend to see a decrease in anxiety whereas occasional and new users were more likely to experience heightened paranoia. Anxiety was also more likely to occur at high doses of THC. Which explains why beginner users can sometimes get strong anxiety after eating weed edibles that were too high in THC and not properly dosed.
How to Avoid Cannabis-Induced Anxiety and Paranoia
If you’re worried about cannabis-induced paranoia, fear not – there are ways to prevent, even counter, that anxiety. A few tips are:
- Trying a cannabis strain that is lower in THC and high in CBD.
- Look for strains with a piney or citrus scent
- Go easy on the dose when making edibles and don’t smoke or vape to much
- Find a comfortable place where you are most at ease. With people that you are comfortable with, or just by yourself.
- Understand that a paranoia side effect is very common and will reduce greatly over time.
CBD is a non-intoxicating compound that combats anxiety and counteracts THC’s psychoactive effects, resulting in a calmer and a more clear-headed experience. A couple of drops of CBD oil or a high CBD strain to start. Most of the time, this can help a lot by reducing the feeling of paranoia.
For some people, just understanding that the side effect is common and will pass eventually, already greatly reduces it for them. For others, putting on some relaxing music can also help, or going for a walk outside.