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Why Does Weed Make Some People Paranoid? Answers & Solutions

Brie Lowrey

Many cannabis lovers are all-too-familiar with the deep, paralyzing sense of fear that can follow a smoke session. Am I having a heart attack? Am I dying? Can weed cause seizures? You scour the internet for answers, but none of them bring you any comfort. You’re pretty sure the world might be about to end, but you’re the lone soul who realizes it.

Or maybe you’re just super stoned. One of these situations seems far more likely than the other, but you can’t quite shake the feeling that something’s wrong. What’s going on here? 

Why do some people get anxiety from weed, but others seem to only mellow out even further the higher they get? Below, we’ll dive into why weed makes some people paranoid and what you can do to kick those bad feelings to the curb.

Why Weed Paranoia Happens

Put simply, the reason weed anxiety happens is the endocannabinoid system. THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, is also a culprit. But without the endocannabinoid system, THC’s impact on our brains and bodies would likely be minuscule. 

Your body has an endocannabinoid system that acts as a sort of lockboard. When endocannabinoids, which your body produces naturally, are the right “key” for a given receptor, they bind together and produce effects that alter how your body functions. In other words, fitting a lock to a key and giving it a twist opens the door to chemical processes that change how you think, feel, and act. 

And when cannabinoids from other sources, including cannabis, enter the mix, they can do the same thing. THC, in particular, binds to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain that affect your response to fear. By interacting with the amygdala, a part of the brain that plays a huge role in determining your emotional responses, THC affects feelings like stress, anxiety, and paranoia. 

An excess of cannabinoids can even overstimulate the amygdala. When this occurs, your brain sends out panic signals that leave your body feeling on edge, even though there’s no threat present. 

So, while weed does not kill brain cells, it can certainly alter their behavior. Cannabinoids like CBD don’t bind to the same receptors in the brain quite like THC does, so they aren’t as often associated with paranoia. However, as we’ll see below, personal and biological factors can significantly shape how you experience cannabis and its effects. 

What is paranoia? What does it feel like?

Paranoia is generally defined as a strong suspicion or distrust of the people and things around you. This fear is typically not justified by evidence and instead comes from within. It can also manifest as a belief that you’re being harassed, targeted, or betrayed by others. 

Overall, paranoia can make you feel hostile toward others or like someone is out to get you. It might also make you distrust your body or your own conscious mind. You may start to panic or feel like all eyes are on you. 

Many people who experience weed anxiety feel like they’re having a heart attack or dying, even to the point of being unable to believe the reassurance and comfort of others. 

If that’s you right now, know that you aren’t alone. You also are going to be okay. Despite how it may feel in the moment, weed anxiety will pass and does not pose a threat to your safety. It’s likely that your perception during these moments is a far cry from what others see, so try to remind yourself that it’s okay to let your guard down and trust your surroundings. 

Why Some People Are Prone to Anxiety from Weed

Anyone can get the heebie-jeebies from a hit that was a bit too much of a smack to the face, but some people seem to experience weed anxiety more than others. What gives?

Genetics

Studies suggest that some people’s brains may be more sensitive to THC than others, making them more likely to experience an adverse reaction from the same dose. 

The underlying phenomenon is how THC binds to receptors in certain areas of the brain. When THC provides more stimulation to the frontal region of the brain, which controls reward-producing opioid receptors, it’s more likely to offer benefits. 

However, if it stimulates the back more than the front, the risk of adverse effects goes up. Some people might have more THC-loving receptors in the back of their minds than others, which makes them potentially more likely to experience paranoia than THC benefits. 

Biology

Hormonal differences lead some people to experience a higher THC sensitivity than others. That means paranoia levels can be tied to sex and personal biological differences.

In fact, one study on animals suggested that high estrogen levels can increase this sensitivity by as much as 30%. Estrogen may also lower tolerance for marijuana, meaning it can be easy to overwhelm the body while using the same doses as someone else.

So, some people might be more sensitive to cannabis’ effects. This could be a good thing; it makes it easier to reap the benefits of cannabis with less product. However, it might mean that you’re more likely to experience weed paranoia. 

Mental health

People with pre-existing mental health conditions may be more likely to react to overstimulation with anxiety. Those with ongoing anxiety about their health, for instance, may be easily triggered into a panic attack by even small amounts of THC. 

How to Handle Weed Paranoia When It Happens

When weed-induced paranoia hits, your first reaction may be to panic or reach for the phone to dial 911. But slow down, pause, and take a moment to recognize what’s going on. 

You’re feeling the (temporary, non-fatal) effects of a substance you’ve consumed, not a sign that something is amiss. Following the below tips can help you bring yourself back to Earth.

Take some deep breaths

Slow your heart rate and center yourself with some deep, long breaths. 

You can use alternate nostril breathing as a tool to shift your focus away from your anxiety. Pinch one nostril with one hand and inhale, then swap nostrils to exhale. 

Diaphragm breathing, which involves taking your breath deep into your core and stomach, can also help, as can counting your breaths (seven seconds in, seven out). 

Move somewhere relaxing

Do your best to get out of any environment that’s overstimulating you or making it hard to address your anxiety. Go somewhere you feel safe and relaxed, like your bedroom or outdoors. Try putting on some chill music, bundling up in your favorite blanket, or slipping into your pajamas to help yourself settle down.

Try some food and drink

Some foods and drinks, such as peppercorn and lemons, have been shown to potentially help cut the effects of THC short. This is because they contain terpenes that may inhibit enzymes involved in breaking down cannabinoids. These terpenes also offer benefits of their own, including sedation and mental clarity. 

Food and drink, in general, can help you engage your senses and take your mind off of how you feel. Try sipping some water or soda and having a quick snack to see if it helps.

Distract your senses

Do what you can to focus your brain on reality, not your paranoia. Listen to music, crunch away on a snack, watch your favorite TV show, call a friend, or do anything else that helps you stay in the present moment.

Weed anxiety usually peaks within the first 15-30 minutes after smoking. If you took edibles, capsules, or an oil/tincture, it may peak after a few hours. No matter what, take comfort in the fact that the sensation is short-lived and can only get better with time.

How to Prevent Weed Paranoia

Preventing weed anxiety is usually a lot easier than combating it. Keep yourself cool and collected when using cannabis by taking some precautions ahead of time.

Use less cannabis

Try dropping your dose of cannabis and see if that helps. You can choose to smoke less frequently, or try taking some days off. 

Cut back on THC

The more THC you consume, the more likely you are to experience weed anxiety. Opt for strains low in THC and high in other cannabinoids, or try mixing flower to “dilute” your THC. You can also try choosing a new strain as you attempt to find an ideal dose, as terpene profiles can make lower amounts of cannabinoids like THC produce stronger effects.

Consult a professional

Ongoing paranoia and anxiety may be signs of a condition that deserves support and treatment. Always talk to your doctor if your paranoia returns consistently. It’s a good idea to speak to a professional in general before adding cannabis to your routine, but it’s especially crucial if it’s causing problems.

Final Thoughts

In short, weed makes some people paranoid due to differences in THC sensitivity levels. THC is the main culprit behind anxiety because of how it interacts with the mind. By cutting back on THC and introducing CBD, controlling your doses, and monitoring your responses, you can find a cannabis routine that achieves your goals without causing panic.

If you need help navigating these questions or your options, feel free to reach out to us at any time to learn more.

Why Does Weed Make Some People Paranoid? Answers & Solutions
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Why do some people get anxiety from weed but others seem to only mellow out? Click to find out why that is & how to bash the anxiety.
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Why Does Weed Make Some People Paranoid? Answers & Solutions
March 7, 2024
THC Education