Smoking weed is a fun and rewarding activity, but there can be downsides to it. Two of the most common negative side effects of marijuana are feelings of anxiety and paranoia, but isn’t cannabis supposed to be good for anxiety? While many people find anxiety relief from marijuana, some people find that it worsens their anxiety and causes paranoia.
This is unfortunate, especially if you are using cannabis for other reasons. But fear not, there are ways around it! If you are suffering from cannabis paranoia, read this.
Are you suffering from cannabis paranoia?
The Link Between Marijuana and Anxiety
A growing number of people use marijuana to help with anxiety. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2017 reported that of 9000 respondents, 81 percent believed that cannabis had at least one health benefit. About half of the participants said they felt “anxiety, stress, and depression relief” were among the benefits of using medical marijuana. Interestingly enough, there were just as many who reported that cannabis made their anxiety worse.
The anxiety is believed to be due to tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana responsible for making you feel high. Past studies have shown that consuming high THC levels can result in an increased heart rate, leading to increased feelings of anxiety, increased perspiration, racing thoughts, and paranoia.
One factor as to why marijuana increases anxiety is whether or not a person using marijuana is on other medications. Cannabis, in particular THC, can cause negative psychological interactions with various prescription medications, but nothing life threatening. This is why it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before using marijuana if you are taking any kind of prescription medications.
Why Does Cannabis Cause Paranoia?
Paranoia is no fun. Nothing will ruin a good time like a sudden feeling of suspicion and fear of your smoking companions. You might think this heightens your senses, but really you are just an anxious mess. You’re stuck thinking: What is cannabis paranoia, and why is it happening to me?
People used to believe one reason was marijuana’s legal status getting caught with even the smallest quantities in certain states could land you in prison for years, sometimes decades of your life. It was completely understandable that smoking something that could potentially ruin your life in this manner would make you anxious and paranoid. Now that marijuana is legal for recreational use in 11 states and legal for medical use in most of the country, these feelings of paranoia persist for some. Why is that?
While there could be many reasons why marijuana makes some feel paranoid, scientists believe that the Endocannabinoid System or ECS plays the largest role. One of the reasons why cannabis affects us the way it does is because THC binds to the endocannabinoid receptors all over your body, including in your brain. One area of the brain involved with endocannabinoid receptors is your amygdala, which controls how you react to emotions like stress, anxiety, fear, and paranoia. A cannabinoid like THC binding to your endocannabinoid receptors will enhance their effects on the amygdala, leading you to feel heightened anxiety and paranoia.
Interestingly, you do not see this same effect with cannabis that is high in cannabidiol or CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for some of the therapeutic effects of cannabis. The reason for this is because unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive. This is why CBD does not affect you the same way, i.e., getting you high.
Again, this does not happen to everyone. Many who use cannabis report little to no paranoia or barely feel it when they use it.
Causes of Cannabis Paranoia
Smoking cannabis is not always guaranteed to cause paranoia; it affects different people differently for reasons that we do not entirely understand. It does not matter if you are smoking recreationally or medicinally.
Why do some people suffer from paranoia? Why does cannabis affect some so differently than others? Scientists have concluded that there are several reasons, but we cannot pin it to a single cause.
So, how does cannabis cause paranoia? Does anxiety cause paranoia, or is it cannabis?
One such reason could be genetic, according to a study conducted in 2019. The results showed that when THC interacts with receptors in the front of the brain, the effects were more positive such as decreased anxiety and increased relaxation. The researchers posited that this had to do with the larger amount of opioid receptors. They are responsible for releasing endorphins, which are responsible for making you feel pleasure and work as an analgesic. This is why people who smoke weed generally report feelings of euphoria. These opioid receptors are also why marijuana works so well as an analgesic or pain reliever. However, when THC hits the back part of the brain, this results in feelings of paranoia. When people have more sensitivity to THC in that back part, they are more prone to the negative side effects than the positive.
Another reason for cannabis paranoia could be related to your biological sex. One 2014 study showed that increased estrogen levels can also increase THC sensitivity by as much as 30 percent. The same study also showed that estrogen could also lower your tolerance. This is why you should use caution if you are using marijuana while taking hormonal birth control or undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Lastly, feelings of cannabis paranoia can also be attributed to how strong your weed is. Marijuana with a higher THC percentage is more likely to result in negative effects like anxiety and paranoia. A study done in 2017 by the University of Chicago on 42 adults showed that a 7.5 mg dosage of THC led to positive effects such as reduced stress. However, when the dosage was increased to 12.5 mg, participants felt increased stress and anxiety.
Can cannabis cause severe paranoia?
It could cause severe paranoia, though we do not yet know enough about the subject. If you are experiencing cannabis paranoia and continue to smoke heavy amounts of weed, you could develop worse paranoia.
What does cannabis paranoia feel like?
Generally, you will feel a tightness in your chest and perhaps some difficulty breathing. You will feel intense anxiety that will make you feel uncomfortable, regardless of who you happen to be around or what situation you are in. You may feel suspicious of your friends or those around you or suspicious of the world around you. You might think that everyone is coming to get you or thinking bad thoughts about you.
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How to Reduce Cannabis Induced Paranoia
Oh no, it’s happened! You just finished smoking a bowl, and slowly it starts to creep in; the paranoia is back! Don’t let it ruin your day! There are things you can do to help reduce your paranoia until the high wears off. The main thing you need to do is relax!
Try taking a warm bath in some Epsom salts. You’ll be so relaxed you won’t be able to comprehend the concept of paranoia, let alone feel it. Another thing you can do is some yoga, which helps you center your breathing. It’s perfect for relieving that paranoia, and let’s not forget that cannabis and exercise are an excellent match.
Chill music is a perfect way to calm your nerves when that THC hits too hard. Pick out a genre that relaxes you or makes you just feel happy and calm, turn off all the lights, light some candles or incense, and just vibe. Paranoia? What paranoia?
What about when you’re at a party and the paranoia hits? Ask your host if you can use their bathtub. Never underestimate the effectiveness of some simple breathing exercises. Find a quiet room and lock the door if you can, since you probably don’t want someone walking in on you mid panic attack. A quick trick is “alternate nostril breathing,” which is basically holding one nostril closed and slowly inhaling through the other, repeating as necessary until the panic subsides or someone walks in on you thinking you’re picking your nose, whichever happens first.
How To Avoid Cannabis Paranoia
The simplest way to reduce or eliminate your cannabis-induced paranoia is to just stop smoking it. Abstinence is always guaranteed to be 100 percent effective, right? The problem with this option is that it is the least amount of fun, and chances are, if you still want to smoke weed, depriving yourself will cause greater anxiety than your cannabis-induced paranoia was in the first place.
How to enjoy marijuana without paranoia
If you want to completely avoid the paranoia without giving up the plant you love, there are ways to do it! First, consider the fact that you might be getting paranoid because you are smoking too much weed. I know, what a concept. Who knows, you could be one of those people with increased sensitivity to THC in the back of your brain, thus making you more paranoia prone. Perhaps it’s time to cut back a bit. Your wallet will probably thank you.
Try smoking something a little less potent. Just because it’s got a THC percentage in the 30’s does not mean it is the best for you. Try a strain in the lower range or, better yet, one that is high in CBD. There are strains out there that are high in CBD while still containing THC. You’ll still feel great without all that buzz-killing anxiety weighing you down.
You can also try microdosing! Medicinal cannabis users love microdosing because they can more accurately control the amount of THC they take in, thus ensuring they only feel the intended effects. Remember that study about 7.5 grams of THC being a good dosage? This would apply well when microdosing. If you would like to try microdosing, start by purchasing some edibles from a dispensary. All edibles sold at dispensaries are required to label their dosages on the package, so this is the best way to ensure you get the dose that works for you!
While smoking, try your best to create the most relaxing environment possible for your sesh. Play music you find enjoyable, light up some smell goods and make sure you are in comfy clothes. This is what pajama pants and slippers were made for! Curl up with a blanket and your favorite fur baby. Have some fun treats close by, and of course, be sure to stay hydrated!
And it is also useful to know where your stash comes from. The easiest way to know where your weed is from is to grow it yourself! No wondering about how the plant was treated, how many hands touched your bud before it got to you-- you did it all yourself! Weed without anxiety!
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Does cannabis oil cause paranoia?
While we are on the subject of microdosing, you might be wondering about cannabis oil and does cannabis oil still cause paranoia? It can if you take too much of it. If you want to use oil therapeutically, try using CBD oil. Does cannabis oil and paranoia wear off after a while? You feel the effects of oil longer than you do when you smoke it, but yes, your paranoia should wear off around the same time the oil does. Does cannabis oil rubbed onto spot cause paranoia? Usually not, but it could; it depends on what type of oil you are using.
Long Term Effects
So, say that you decided to stop using cannabis, and you find that you are still feeling paranoid. This is nothing to worry about; it’s very common especially if you were a heavy user and smoked primarily high THC weed.
Does cannabis cause long term paranoia?
A study from the National Institutes of Health in 2017 showed that continued paranoia even after quitting cannabis could be caused by cannabis withdrawal syndrome or CWS. Over 100 studies conducted on CWS reviewed by the NIH showed that the effects most often resulted in mood and behavioral issues. Cannabis withdrawal syndrome does not take long to recover from. Most find their symptoms subside after four weeks or so.
That being said, you should seek help from a professional if you think you need it. If your paranoia does not stop or gets worse, this could be a sign of other mental health issues, such as schizophrenia or psychosis. If you find that daily life has become unmanageable and/or you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, you should definitely seek help immediately.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255, and they are available 24 hours. Someone is there for you.
Now that you know there is a reason for your cannabis-induced paranoia and anxiety, you will be able to take the steps you need to stop it. If you cannot quit either because you use marijuana medicinally or you just don’t want to, remember you can always try cutting back or microdosing. Remember to always check with your doctor if you are using other medications before using cannabis - interactions between these medications could lead to paranoid thoughts. Avoid excess cannabis consumption, know your limits, and don’t let anyone pressure you into something you don’t want to do.
Please keep in mind that this is meant to be a friendly guide, not a stand-in for advice from a medical professional. If you feel you need to seek medical attention, you should do so.