10 Undesirable Side-Effects of Cannabis + Remedies
They may feel intense, but that’s just the paranoia kicking in.
Every veteran consumer has their own story to tell about a time when they consumed too much. That instance where too many hits were taken (or too much of an edible eaten) and the heart began to race as the mind switched into panic mode. It happens to the best of us, when we test out our own tolerance levels or if we’ve forgotten how many times the bong has been passed around while we strike up intriguing conversations.
Whichever instance you find yourself in, don’t freak out. You can’t die from smoking cannabis. Unless you light yourself on fire which isn’t the plant’s fault.
If you’re new to the ganja scene, be aware of these possible side-effects. They’re completely normal when higher doses of cannabis are consumed. Everyone will eventually smoke or eat too much, but that’s okay – it’s almost essential in finding one’s tolerance levels.
The Annoying but Tolerable Side-Effects
These side-effects are normal no matter how much is consumed, and can easily be managed.
1. Appetite – Most strains will increase hunger in the consumer, especially a wide range of indicas. For many, this isn’t a problem and it can help those of us with stomach issues get food in our tummies. But for the rest of us trying to watch what we’re eating, an increase in appetite could be bad if we A) don’t have any snacks handy or B) are trying to watch our weight/health!
Appetite Remedy: Before consuming, grab some healthy snacks from your grocer like pita chips and hummus, fruits, veggies and dip, or yogurt. When you’re high or stoned, everything tastes better, especially the healthy stuff. See also: How to Eat More Vegetables in Your Diet with Cannabis-Infused Ingredients.
2. Cottonmouth – If your method is smoking, then cottonmouth is a no-brainer. This is the most common negative side-effect and is the worst when you’re trying to have an intelligent debate with someone. Luckily, there are easy remedies for this; you just have to be prepared.
Cottonmouth Remedy: Alcohol-free mouthwash – there are brands out there specifically for dry mouth. Any mouthwash with alcohol will dry the mouth out even further, so steer clear of them. Also, you can try bubblegum. Choose any flavor that makes your mouth water – like sour or fruity. There’re even gums made for cottonmouth (located in pharmacy) – or just have a drink loaded with electrolytes by your side.
3. Laziness – Known as the couch-lock effect, this also isn’t an issue for many. But for others that aren’t familiar with this, it mostly occurs when consuming indicas. Cannabis can relax the body, causing the consumer to want to unwind and just feel without thinking or doing anything else. Cannabis can also leave the mind spacey, making it hard to engage and concentrate on doing any one thing, pushing the consumer towards the couch to veg-out.
Laziness Remedy: Once you’ve reached this level, it’s hard to get out of. If you can, take a shower. If it’s cold outside, take a brief walk. I’ve heard of some people forcing themselves to do push-ups. With this one, it’s mind over matter. Just be aware of the type of strain you’re consuming and be prepared beforehand. If you're interested in consuming for energy, check out: Best Consumption Methods & Performance Enhancing Strains for Athletes
4. Memory Impairment – THC impairs almost all aspects of memory, but never fear! It doesn’t affect existing memories or their recall. Short-term memory loss may occur when consuming cannabis, but it only affects memories created while getting high or stoned. They’re also memories that aren’t necessarily important in the long run (so long as you aren’t high at a business meeting).
Memory Impairment Remedy: Have a go-to/specific place for your keys, phone, and any other significant items you may keep on you, and drop them off in this place before consuming so you know they’ll be safe. Usually items like these are the only reason anyone might freak out over this side-effect. If you’re creative while getting high/stoned, and want to remember those brilliant ideas that pop up in your mind, just grab your tablet and create a note or better yet, write them down on paper so you don’t have to deal with figuring out how to unlock the tablet.
5. Red Eyes: Because THC decreases blood pressure by opening up (expanding) the blood vessels within the body, the ocular capillaries in the eyes dilate as well to compensate. This is what causes red eyes, and it’s actually a good thing – it’s why those with glaucoma consume cannabis. Pressure is relieved in their eyes while blood continues to circulate through them without any problems. This theory still needs more testing, with some people noting that smoking anything will ultimately affect the salivary glands and mucous production.
Red Eyes Remedy: Eye drops! A brand such as Clear Eyes works wonders. However, a good face rinse that flushes the eyes, nose, and mouth will also help, along with a big glass of water or drink loaded with electrolytes.
The ‘Scary’ Side-Effects
These side-effects are normal when too much cannabis has been consumed, and it’s probably best to put down the pipe for a while until your heart rate’s down and mind is clear once again.
6. Anxiety: THC can activate the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear and the “fight or flight” effect. When too much THC is in the brain, it increases the chances of the consumer feeling symptoms of anxiety as the amygdala responds. Simultaneously, CBD can counteract the effects of THC – making it the ultimate ingredient in cannabis that relieves consumers of anxiety. A well balanced strain will keep anxiety at bay as well as lower doses of THC.
Anxiety Remedy: Just like the remedy to laziness, calming anxiety is a mind over matter situation. When faced with cannabis-induced anxiety, sit yourself down and focus on breathing. Remind yourself that everything was fine before you began consuming, and everything is fine now. Close your eyes and focus on one (positive) thing that makes you happy or calms your mind. Remember that cannabis can’t kill! The only thing that can push you into a panic attack are your own thoughts, so, simply control them!
7. Dizziness: Dizziness (vertigo) due to cannabis use still needs to be explored further, but there are theories out there that can somewhat explain this phenomenon. THC causes a drop in blood pressure, which can ultimately lower the amount of blood received by the brain which can lead to dizzy spells when changing into a standing/sitting position. Lack of oxygen when inhaling cannabis via a pipe, bong, etc. can also cause dizziness.
Dizziness Remedy: First and foremost, when smoking, take small hits. Move carefully from one position to another, allowing the body to adjust accordingly. If you’re experiencing dizziness and want to rid of it, sit down and bend at the hips with your face resting on your knees. This will keep you from falling and help regulate the amount of oxygenated blood received by the brain.
8. Headache: This side-effect also needs more research done to explain why it occurs – especially because cannabis is often consumed to relieve headaches and migraines. However, some do experience headache after consuming via smoking, and the possible reasons may be linked to either A) stems or seeds were smoked which contain harmful oils not meant to be set aflame or B) the cannabis is contaminated with a pesticide or chemical that doesn’t agree with the consumer.
Headache Remedy: Before consuming, ensure your cannabis is organic and all the stems and seeds are thoroughly picked out. If experiencing a headache and needing to rid of it, there are natural solutions: aromatherapy (lavender or peppermint), scalp massage, consuming omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation (headache)…
9. Increased Heart Rate: As stated above under Red Eyes, THC lowers blood pressure by expanding the blood vessels. It is because of this that the heart must beat faster to compensate and ensure the body receives the oxygen it needs to function.
Increased Heart Rate Remedy: If you’re consuming a strain with THC, this effect can’t be avoided. So, if you’ve any problems with your heart or circulation, consume carefully, responsibly, and slowly. The best way to ensure paranoia or anxiety doesn’t arise once you’ve found your heart rate has increased is by drinking plenty of water (which increases blood pressure by adding to blood supply) and keeping your mind occupied on other, productive thoughts.
10. Paranoia: Again, higher doses of THC activates the amygdala making paranoia (and anxiety) one of the leading side-effects of cannabis – especially if one fixates on increased heart rate too. Whatever paranoid thoughts arise, it’s bound to happen to every consumer. More research must be conducted on this side-effect, but there are active ways to reduce it.
Paranoia Remedy: Just like anxiety and laziness, here’s a mind over matter trick: close your eyes and push all thoughts aside, either by counting or focusing on slow and steady breathing. This is where meditation comes in handy, as it can help to clear the mind and lower heart rate (even while consuming cannabis). If you’re not into meditation, just remember and repeat the mantra: It’s just the cannabis that causes paranoia, all is well!