Why Do I Get Paranoid When I Smoke Weed?

Where's Weed

Published on 12/8/20

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While smoking cannabis can leave you high and happy, it can also lead to unwanted paranoia. Getting paranoid when you smoke weed can happen for a number of reasons. We're here to help you get through that bad high and give thoughtful tips on how to prevent it from happening next time. 

What is Marijuana Paranoia? 

Paranoia is defined as intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts - like someone is watching you or is acting against you. These concerns aren't often based in reality, so once a mind-altering substance such as cannabis comes into the mix, it can be a hard feeling to suppress. Cannabis-induced paranoia isn't something to overlook or shake off. The real question, however, is what is going on in the brain to cause this weed paranoia? 

The Endocannabinoid System 

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To understand we need to look at paranoia within the framework of the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS, which is working to keep your body at equilibrium. This system is regulating immune function, memory, appetite and mood. The ECS is often trying to cool down brain synapses that release neurotransmitters and make us chill out when we feel wired. Furthermore, the high that you are receiving from the cannabis is mimicking a process that your body has in place to keep anxiety at bay through the ECS. Needless to say, however, this doesn't always go as planned. 

The Downside of THC

THC, the psychoactive compound in weed, binds directly with receptors in the brain, including the amygdala. This area of the brain regulates responses to fear and related emotions such as anxiety, stress and paranoia. It is understood that when your brain gets hit with too much THC there are more cannabinoids than normal, causing an oversaturation that can overstimulate the brain. Even though THC can result in that euphoric high, it is also linked with some other side effects such as increased heart rate and racing thoughts, which are essentially paranoia symptoms. So, if you've ever thought, "weed makes me paranoid and antisocial", there is a reason for this, and you aren't crazy. 

Factors that Contribute to Cannabis-Induced Paranoia 

If you're wondering how to deal with paranoia, being aware of some of these factors that play into it may help you in the long run on how to handle weed, making your time more enjoyable. 

THC Levels

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As stated earlier, THC directly binds with the receptors in your brain. When your cannabis is rich in THC, coupled with the direct binding, this can result in a much more intense reaction within the ECS. A higher THC dosage is often linked with a more anxious reaction, called the biphasic response. A study from the University of Chicago backs up this idea, as they tested how different amounts of THC influenced 42 users. When these consumers were given 7.5 mg, they felt much less stressed in a mock interview than those who were given 12.5 mg of cannabis. Those who consumed more THC reported many more negative emotions. 

Genetics

From a study at Western University in Ontario, Canada they found that certain parts of the brain tend to be more sensitive to cannabis than others. Conducted on rats, they found that if the anterior (front) part of the brain is more sensitive to THC, you would produce the more rewarding results of THC such as euphoria and joy. If the posterior (back) part of the brain is more sensitive, then the user would produce much more negative effects of THC. 

Gender

Some studies have found that higher estrogen levels can increase weed sensitivity by 30% while also lowering the tolerance for weed as well. 

It is also important to note that weed is now being produced to be stronger than ever, and your brain is changing as you age. This means your ECS is changing, causing your receptor density to lower with age, causing a stronger reaction to marijuana. 

How to Stop Paranoia

If you're looking to learn how to stop being paranoid when you consume cannabis, look no further than to the cannabinoid's trusted wingman, the terpene. Remember the entourage effect? When cannabinoids and terpenes come into play together, they typically produce positive results, making the user feel their best. Therefore, when feeling paranoid, make some warm lemon water or inhale some fresh peppercorns. Both of these contain terpenes, which are known to bring about soothing and calming feelings. 

Another key factor is to have a positive environment around you and have either your favorite tv show on in the background or a favorite record playing to bring some familiarity and provide a bit of a distraction. Taking a warm shower, sleeping it off, or getting some fresh air when you're feeling paranoia and anxiety will almost always help as well. 

As we have discussed throughout, as much as THC can cause the good, it can cause the bad as well. CBD, a counterpart to THC, does not directly bind with receptors in the brain, which is likely why it doesn't bring about anxious feelings as often. Looking into low paranoia strains, meaning ones that have a high CBD to THC ratio, is always a good way to go. Some of the best weed strains that don't make you paranoid include Harlequin, Ringo's Gift, Cannatonic, Tangerine Power and Strawberry Diesel to name a few. It's never a bad idea to seek professional help if you already have existing paranoia or anxiety, as you have a higher chance of bringing out these symptoms when smoking weed. 

Can Marijuana Cause Panic Attacks?

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With research still in its infancy, there have not been definitive findings on this topic just yet. It has been said however that weed doesn't cause paranoia and panic attacks outright. However, cannabis can be a catalyst for them. We know that THC has a dark side, and that includes feelings of an increased heart rate, racing thoughts, concentration issues and the feelings of a numb or foggy mind. 

Remember, your mood is something you should consider when consuming cannabis, as how you're feeling can affect your experience. If you're already stressed, you are more susceptible to being stressed while smoking. At the end of the day, your mindset is everything when it comes to consuming any sort of substance. 

Do you suffer from cannabis-induced paranoia? What are your favorite remedies to combat this problem? Help us all out and let us know in the comments below.