Cannabis Got You Paranoid? How to Deal With It
People commonly associate cannabis with relaxation, but it’s also known for causing feelings of paranoia or anxiety in some folks. What gives?
First, it’s important to understand what paranoia involves. It’s similar to anxiety, but a bit more specific.
Paranoia describes an irrational suspicion of other people. You might believe people are watching you, following you, or trying to rob or harm you in some way.
Experts believe your endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a part in cannabis-related paranoia.
When you use cannabis, certain compounds in it, including THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, bind to endocannabinoid receptors in various parts of your brain, including the amygdala.
Your amygdala helps regulate your response to fear and related emotions, like anxiety, stress, and — wait for it — paranoia. When you use cannabis that’s rich in THC, your brain suddenly receives more cannabinoids than usual. Research suggests this excess of cannabinoids may overstimulate the amygdala, making you feel fear and anxiety.
This would also explain why products rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that doesn’t directly bind to endocannabinoid receptors, don’t seem to cause paranoia.
Not everyone experiences paranoia after using cannabis. Plus, most people who do experience it don’t notice it every single time they use cannabis.
So, what makes someone more likely to experience it? There’s no single answer, but there are a few major factors to consider.
According to an animal study from 2019 , cannabis tends to produce positive effects, such as relaxation and decreased anxiety, when it provides more stimulation to the front region of the brain.
Study authors suggest this has to do with the large number of reward-producing opioid receptors in the front of the brain.
If the back portion of your brain has more THC sensitivity than the anterior, however, you could experience an adverse reaction, which often includes paranoia and anxiety.
Using marijuana with higher THC content may also contribute to paranoia and other negative symptoms.
A 2017 study looking at 42 healthy adults found evidence to suggest that consuming 7.5 milligrams (mg) of THC reduced negative feelings associated with a stressful task. A higher dose of 12.5 mg, on the other hand, had the opposite effect and increased those same negative feelings.
While other factors like tolerance, genetics, and brain chemistry can come into play here, you’re generally more likely to experience paranoia or anxiety when you consume a lot of cannabis at once or use high-THC strains.
A 2014 animal study exploring THC tolerance found evidence suggesting higher estrogen levels can increase cannabis sensitivity by as much as 30 percent and lower tolerance for marijuana.
What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re female, you may be more sensitive to cannabis and its effects. This goes for positive effects, like pain relief, as well as negative effects, like paranoia.
If you’re experiencing cannabis-related paranoia, there are a few things you can try for relief.
Do things that relax you, like coloring, putting on restful music, or taking a warm bath.
Some people report that yoga and deep breathing exercises, particularly alternate nostril breathing, can also help.
- Hold one side of your nose closed.
- Slowly breathe in and out several times.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Take a whiff of pepper
Cannabinoids and terpenoids, such as the terpenes in pepper, share some chemical similarities, which may be one reason why they seem to have some benefit for countering the effects of too much THC.
If you have fresh peppercorns, grind them up and take a deep breath. Just don’t get too close — stinging eyes and sneezing might distract you from paranoia temporarily, but not in a fun way.
Got a lemon? Limonene, another terpene, may also help with the effects of too much THC.
Squeeze and zest a lemon or two and add some sugar or honey and water if desired.
Create a relaxing environment
If your environment makes you feel anxious or stressed, that won’t help your paranoia much.
If possible, try to go somewhere you feel more relaxed, like your bedroom or a quiet space outdoors.
If you’re at someone else’s house or unable to easily change your surroundings, try:
- switching on chill or soothing music
- wrapping up in a blanket
- cuddling or stroking a pet
- calling a friend you trust
So, you made it through an episode of paranoia and you never, ever want to experience that again.
One option is to just skip the cannabis, but this might not be ideal if you find some of its other effects beneficial. Fortunately, there are a several things you can do to reduce your chance of having another bout of cannabis-related paranoia.
Try using less at a time
Decreasing the amount of cannabis you consume at a time may lower your chances of experiencing paranoia again.
Start with less than you’d typically use in one sitting, and give it at least 30 minutes to an hour to kick in. If you don’t experience paranoia, you can experiment with different dosages, slowly increasing until you find the sweet spot — a dose that produces the effects you do want without paranoia and other negative symptoms.
Look for marijuana with a higher CBD content
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects. Plus, research suggests that CBD-rich cannabis may have antipsychotic effects. Paranoia is considered a psychotic symptom.
Products with higher ratios of CBD to THC are becoming increasingly common. You can find edibles, tinctures, and even flower that contains anywhere from a 1:1 to a 25:1 ratio of CBD to THC.
Some people also report that strains with a pine, citrus, or peppery scent (remember those terpenes?) can help boost relaxing effects and make paranoia less likely, but this isn’t backed by any scientific evidence.
Get professional support for anxiety and paranoid thoughts
Some evidence suggests people with an existing sensitivity to paranoia and anxious thoughts have a higher chance of experiencing both when using cannabis.
Paranoia can overwhelm you to the point where it becomes difficult to interact with others. You might avoid talking to friends, going to work, or even leaving your house. A therapist can help you explore these feelings and other potential contributing factors.
Since paranoia can happen as a symptom of serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia, anything beyond a few passing, mild paranoid thoughts may be worth bringing up with your healthcare provider.
It’s also wise to consider working with a therapist for anxiety symptoms.
Cannabis can temporarily help relieve anxiety for some people, but it doesn’t address the underlying causes. A therapist can offer more support by helping you identify contributing factors and teaching coping methods to help you manage anxiety symptoms in the moment.
Paranoia is one of the less desirable effects that marijuana has on some people. Learn why it happens, who's more likely to experience it, and how to handle it in the moment.
What weed type makes you paranoid
Even the most laid back members of Lit Nation have been there. You take the hit, hold tight, let loose and, instead basking in hazy sweetness and heightened streams of pleasure, the inside of your skull goes all:
“Who’s that calling my phone? How did they get my number? I know it’s in my pocket, but is that even my phone? Should I toss it out the window? Wait a minute — is my phone actually even ringing? Is anybody’s?”
Paranoia is a well-known, often joked-about, and occasionally (somewhat) serious potential side of effect of consuming cannabis. Irrational fear responses to reefer can range in intensity from full-blown panic attacks to hours of bug-eyed self-consciousness to buzz-killing conundrums in the vein of, “Is my boss going to smell this on me tomorrow morning? What about when I see my parents. next Christmas?”
Related: Weird Weed Shirts From Around the Web
In a real way, such intoxicated anxiety is the flip side to pot’s far more typical impact of good times and mellow vibes. Science even provides an explanation as to why. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. THC is a cannabinoid, which means it’s a chemical that, once introduced to a human system, temporarily affects the areas of the brain that control fear and stress. Under usual circumstances, that change is uplifting and positive. Other times, though, THC can directly trigger worry and distress. Still, as noted, most who indulge have, to some degree, experienced both ups and downs on a doob-by-doob basis.
So why do some folk who toke careen down the freak-out path? Many factors come into play on the order of genetics, personality, and pre-existing dispositions toward concern and nervousness. The amount and frequency with which one celebrates 420 can also play a major part. Then, too, there’s the fact that every strain of green delivers something different to every inhalant’s own mind-and-body chemistry. That stated, online chatter has pointed out a bowlful of bud variations that some users claim deliver joints full of jitters. While scientific evidence that these strains are surefire tickets to Fear City is limited, rumors abound nonetheless. Here are the eight we’ve been hearing about the most.
Cindy99 image via MedicalMarijuanaStrains.com
The Amsterdam-based Mr. Soul developed the sativa-dominant Cinderella 99 — more commonly called Cindy99 — from a beloved plant named Princess.
As a result, Cindy99 has been known to knock some users unconscious and flip others out in pure terror.
Even Mr. Soul himself once decreed: “Two hits of Princess will induce your body to tremble involuntarily and your heart to race and paranoid thoughts.”
Named for the province of Vietnam from whence it arose — and where the country’s communist icon Ho Chi Minh was born — Dalat is described as an “heirloom sativa.”
It’s reportedly become a challenge to track down, perhaps in part to its overwhelming kick in the cranium.
Writing about Dalat on the THC Farmer forum, user N8tive Farmer stated that the strain “will stop your breath and paranoia begins, sweats, can’t drive, almost a paranoid blow high, lol.” Yeah… LOL!
Jack the Ripper image via MedicalJane.com
It seems as though TGA Genetics didn’t name their flagship hybrid Jack the Ripper (JTR) after a world-(in)famous murdered for nothing — this stuff is killer.
The website Leafly’s review acknowledges that JTR may the most fast-acting lemon Haze on the market right now, but adds up front: “The effect is intense, visually stimulating, and can sometimes leave novice consumers disoriented and paranoid.”
TGA’s own website makes sure the “p” words lands prominently in description of JTR’s high.
Sour Diesel image via MedicalMarijuanaStrains.com
The popular daytime strain Sour Diesel comes by its name fragrantly: it’s said to reek like burning fuel.
With THC content often between 19% and 25%, Sour Diesel can run some smokers smack off the highest of highways and into heavy congestion with multiple stressed out thoughts crashing together into a sizable pile-up.
As the review site Herb puts it: “If you are inexperienced with cannabis, you may not enjoy the raciness that can come along with this Sativa.”
Super Silver Haze image via MedicalMarijuanaStrains.com
Deemed “the king of all Sativas in the 1990s” by Wikileaf, Super Silver Haze propels smokers on a rocket ride that sends the mind reeling, followed by a laid-back body high of a landing.
Along the way, though, some smokers report disappearing into their own black holes where they worrying about what’s hurtling toward them before they can smoothly return to terra firma.
In 2015, the pop culture site Complex ranked Trainwreck among its 15 Best Weed Strains Available Right Now.
To be sure, this hybrid hits like a locomotive and it most frequently elevates smokers to states of euphoric bliss. In addition, numerous PTSD patients attest that Trainwreck helps enormously to alleviate their suffering.
Still, that degree of potency can also come with an equal-and-opposite effect.
In response to a positive Trainwreck review on the website Medical Marijuana Strains, a user called Stomp wrote: “They ought to call this weed heaven and hell. Sometimes the high is heavenly exhilarating. Other times nightmarish, [creating] paranoid couch lock… I’m already paranoid, but Trainwreck intensified it x25.”
Like its homegrown neighbor Dalat, Vietnamese Black has been known to carpet-bomb cannabis fans epic with fits of phobia.
Celebrating such sensations on the Roll It Up forum, contributor SSO writes that he flies to Vietnam himself for seeds of Black and other variants. He further states: “4-5 tokes and you were seeing colors in shadows and s–t like that… can induce heavy, heavy paranoia… really nice stuff though, once you get used to it.”
Originating in the 1970s and evolving into its current form in the late ’80s, William’s Wonder is a pure Indica bred for easy indoor cultivation.
With THC levels reaching up to 30%, this Wonder-full stuff packs a wallop that can lay-out novice nug-nuts with deliriums of dread. Wisely, then, the website CannaSOS warns of WW: “Not recommended for first-time smokers.”
Find these strains and others in the GOODS section, and find where to get them by using the MERRY JANE Dispensary Locator.
"They ought to call this weed heaven and hell. Sometimes the high is heavenly exhilarating Other times it's nightmarish…"