BY DEANNA DEBARA
Photo: JakeOlimb for Getty Images
There are plenty of experiences people are looking for when they consume cannabis. For example, some people want to unwind after a long day while others seek help with falling asleep or pain management, And then there’s those of us who want to get a little loose and giggly.
But one experience pretty much no one is looking for when they consume cannabis? Paranoia.
Paranoia can be a challenging side effect of cannabis. But what, exactly, causes it? Are there ways you can treat the feelings while you’re still high? And, if you’re prone to paranoid experiences, is there a way to consume cannabis that keeps the feeling at bay?
Why does weed make you paranoid?
First things first—why, exactly, does weed make some people paranoid?
“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is believed to play a part in cannabis-related paranoia,” says Geftman. “When you use cannabis, the intoxicating compounds in cannabis will bind to ECS receptors in various parts of your brain, including the amygdala. The amygdala helps regulate your response to fear, anxiety, stress, and paranoia.”
While there are a variety of compounds that interact with the ECS, the cannabinoid that’s most likely to cause paranoia? THC.
“THC tends to be the culprit when we are talking about cannabis-induced paranoia, and it most often happens because too much THC has been consumed,” says cannabis author and freelance writer Lauren Wilson.
Unfortunately, there’s no set definition for “too much” THC. The amount that can trigger paranoid feelings will vary from person to person.
“Every person's reaction to THC is different because each person's body and physiology is unique,” says Wilson. “Some folks can have a lot of THC with no paranoia, while others will experience it with one puff or one bite [of an edible].”
What to do if you find yourself high and paranoid
Dealing with cannabis-induced paranoia is not fun. But luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact of the paranoia and get back to enjoying your high.
And a great place to start? CBD.
Research shows that CBD can actually mitigate some of the more problematic side effects of THC—including paranoia and anxiety. So, if you’re feeling paranoid after consuming too much THC, consuming CBD can help bring you back to a less anxious state of mind.
“If paranoia has already set in, grab a high CBD pre-roll or tincture for a fast onset, avoiding additional THC all together,” says Ally Schott, founder and CEO of Denver-based EIR Womxn’s Cannabis Club. “Start with a couple of inhales or several drops of quality CBD under your tongue, dosing until you feel better.”
If you don’t have any CBD products on hand, you may be able to find some paranoia relief in your kitchen.
Chewing on peppercorns may help calm you down during a paranoid cannabis experience. “Combining the terpenoids in pepper with the THC in cannabis has a synergistic chemical reaction on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain,” says Laura Geftman, LCSW, founder of The Calm, Cool & Collected, an online community and marketplace of education, products, and services to support the responsible and safe use of cannabis to treat mental health. “They both bind to the same receptors in the brain and, when combined, have a therapeutic, calming effect.”
The same goes for sucking on a lemon. “Lemons contain the terpene limonene, known for its quick absorption and ability to ease the sensation of being too stoned by blocking the body’s THC receptors,” says Schott.
How to consume cannabis if you’re prone to paranoia
CBD, peppercorns, and lemons can help ease your paranoia when you’re already high. But if you want to avoid THC-induced paranoia altogether, the best thing you can do? Keep THC to a minimum—and, instead, focus on high-CBD cannabis products.
“To proactively combat paranoia, go low on THC, choosing strains or products with a higher ratio of CBD to THC, ranging from 2:1 to 25:1,” says Schott.
You’ll also want to go low and slow with your dosing. If you’re inhaling your cannabis, start with a small hit—then wait until that hit takes effect, see how you feel, and continue taking small hits until you get your desired effects. If you prefer edibles, “stick to microdosing, starting with no more than 2.5mg of THC [and] slowly working your way to 5 mg,” says Schott.
You can also look for cannabis products with a terpene profile that will help keep paranoia to a minimum. “Terpenes alone won’t get you high or make you paranoid, but they can work synergistically with cannabinoids to enhance effects through the entourage effect,” says Schott. “Reach for products with terpene profiles containing caryophellene, myrcene and limonene, which are known for anxiety-busting properties.”
Ready to dive back into cannabis? Here are some low dose and CBD-rich products to try:
Kiva Camino Sparkling Pear Prosecco CBD: Featuring 6mg of CBD and 2mg of THC per serving, these gummies taste like fresh pear and are a great intro to low dose edibles.
Kikoko Little Helpers Focus Mints - 40ct: Want to try something even lower in dosage? These mints are 1mg of THC and 3mg of CBD so they’re ideal for those who have had prior negative experiences with THC.
Pure Beauty Babies CBD - 10ct: For those looking for flower, these mini pre-rolls offer the relaxing benefits of CBD.
Papa & Barkley Releaf 30:1 CBD:THC - MCT Oil - 30ml: This tincture has a 30:1 CBD to THC ratio and is meant to be consumed by placing a few drops under the tongue. Onset is around 15 minutes, so you have a better sense of how much you’re consuming.
Toast Emerald CBD - 5ct: Made with full spectrum CBD, these little rolls are ideal if you want to relax and still feel social.
WYLD Strawberry 20:1 CBD Gummies - 10ct: These fan-favorite gummies are not only delicious but also feature a ratio of 20:1 CBD to THC, which is ideal if you want to minimize paranoid feelings.
Dosist Sleep 200 Dose Pen: Beginners love these pens because they buzz when you consume one dose that’s 2.5mg of THC. If you’re seeking help for sleep, this is ideal.