With new marijuana laws and weed legalization, it's becoming more and more common to hear about people getting struck with anxiety and panic attacks while consuming cannabis. A panic attack sober is scary enough, so if you're high it can make the experience that much more confusing and harder to handle. So we made this complete guide to help you through it.
Why does marijuana cause anxiety/panic attacks?
This all depends, of course. Your genetics, current emotional state, and what you've been eating and drinking will all play a part in how weed affects you. You might feel anxious because the intensity of the high makes you feel out of control. If you happen to be particularly stressed, consuming weed can exacerbate those feelings, causing you to feel emotionally uneasy and anxious.
"I've never had a panic attack.. How do I know when I'm having one?"
Consider yourself lucky if you've never had to experience the rath of a panic attack, especially one after eating a strong edible. If you do get struck, you'll probably know... because you'll be flipping out.
Anxiety attack symptoms:
Feeling physically weak
Feeling faint and/or dizzy
Cold/clammy/numb hands and feet
Sweating or having chills
A feeling of terror and that things are out of control
"What do I do if I have a panic attack while on weed?"
Panic attacks are hard to deal with because they carry many physical symptoms that can point to serious medical problems making people believe there's actually something wrong with them. Remember when this cop calls 911?
The thing to keep in mind while having a panic attack is that there is no danger. A panic attack CAN NOT hurt you. A panic attack is your body's natural fight or flight response to a perceived threat or trigger. But you cannot fight or run away from a panic attack, you can only diffuse it.
"My heart is racing hard. I think I'm having a heart attack."
Your body thinks there's an immediate danger because of the mental unease, so your heart rate speeds up so it can be ready to deal with said dangers. It's a natural self defense mechanism. Think about how your heart rate jumps up to almost 200 when you're exercising and but you don't perceive that as scary.
"I can't breathe and my chest hurts. I might suffocate."
Many don't realize that your increased breath rate during a panic attack causes most of your symptoms, such as an increased heart rate or stiffness/tightness in your chest. So slow down your breath. Grab a paper lunch bag and cover the opening of your mouth with the opening of the bag and create a seal with your hands. Breathe slowly in and out of the bag; this will help regulate gas exchange and in turn, help relieve your symptoms. Your goal should be less than 20 inhales/exhales a minute.
"I'm getting tunnel vision."
When your stress response is activated, your vision changes so you can focus better and react more quickly. This is expected and should return to normal.
"I think people judge me, and it bothers me to a point where I have anxiety."
It's very common for people to get overly paranoid, especially if they already have a degree of social anxiety. Whatever you think people are saying, just remember, nobody actually notices or cares. So if you're ever in a social situation and you start to feel like people are judging you, remind yourself that you're on a mind altering substance and it's causing you to be overly analytical. You can also smoke in the privacy of your own safe space, or only smoke with people you feel comfortable with.
"I've smoked pot for a long time without a problem, but now it's giving me anxiety—what's the deal?"
Chances are, something is causing you more worry than you're giving credit for. It may seem like marijuana *gives* you anxiety, but in actuality, marijuana is just bringing to surface thoughts and feelings (and anxieties) that have already been there. Reflect on your life, figure out what's bothering you and see what you can do to make some change. You might want to abstain from weed until you're able to sort things out.
"Okay, that's cool.. But how do I prevent anxiety attacks from happening in the first place?"
The best way to prevent a full blown panic attack is to try and not let it get that bad by addressing it when it's still manageable. Anxiety has a snowball effect and you don't want to end up being crushed by an avalanche. Start taking deep slow breaths when you notice any bit of anxiety.
Another way to prevent anxiety from happening is incorporating other herbs into the mix. Kava kava herb is popular with the cannabis crowd because it betters your high by producing all natural xanax-like effects. It alleviates any of that weird paranoia or anxiousness floating around that you sometimes get. Many cannabis users find kava extracts to be quick and a convenient like their vaporizers.
"I thought weed was supposed to help my anxiety?"
Marijuana's effects on the human body are complex and different for everyone so it might take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. If you plan on using marijuana to help with anxiety, get a strain high in CBD and make sure to microdose, starting with small doses and then working your way up if you need to. The effects will come on gradually and be more subtle—you'll feel more in control. People have been using marijuana for anxiety for decades and as cannabis laws loosen nationwide, farmers are growing more complex strains specifically for anxiety.
"What kind of marijuana should I smoke if I have anxiety?"
THC and CBD are active compounds found in weed. THC is mostly known for it's psychoactive effects, the high euphoric feeling, while CBD is known for its medicinal benefits like anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties. Put simply—weed with higher THC levels can make you feel anxious, while weed with higher CBD levels can give you a more calming effect. If you're prone to anxiety, use a weed with higher levels of CBD.
Most cannabis is categorized as an indica or sativa strain, or hybrid of the two. The main difference between indica and sativa is that indica provides more of a body high, which tends to be better for anxiety; and sativa is more of a head high which can sometimes accentuate anxiety.