The first time I took an edible, I wasn’t even slightly prepared for the journey it took me on. I went through every emotion from giggly and euphoric, to confused and terrified. Since you’re here, you’re probably wondering the same thing I was: How do you stop a weed induced panic attack while high?
- Start Low and Go Slow
- Remember You Can’t Overdose on Weed or Die from a Panic Attack
- Change your Scenery
- Engage in a Physical Activity
- Give Yourself a Bigger Problem to Work on
- Do Something Creative
- Get Under the Covers
- Eat Some Snacks
- Watch a Funny Show or Cartoon
- Play a Videogame
- Chew on Some Black Peppercorn or Pine Nuts
- Use Another Supplement to Pull Yourself Out
- Don’t Take it so Seriously
- Learn Some Panic Attack Techniques
Boy, did I have fun “researching” this article. Most people feel more relaxed when high, but is it any surprise that panic attacks and anxiety can manage to ruin even this for us?
Keep reading, and I’ll go over absolutely everything you need to know about weed panic attacks and how to stop a panic attack while high.
Let’s dive right in!
Why Does Weed Give Me Anxiety?
Before I elaborate on each method for how to stop a panic attack while high, I’d like to discuss the difference between a weed panic attack and a regular panic attack. Because they are not the same.
First off, it’s worth mentioning that, for many people, it’s going to be much easier to have a panic attack while high than sober. If you’ve gone a long time without having a panic attack and ever want to remember what they feel like… getting too high on weed will give you the kick in the ass you needed to remember.
Studies have found a relationship does exist between marijuana use and panic attacks and panic disorder.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) likely plays a role in the anxiety we feel from marijuana use. When we use cannabis, THC binds to various endocannabinoid receptors throughout our brain. It’s believed that this surge of cannabinoids may overstimulate the amygdala (the part of our brain responsible for starting the fight-or-flight response). This can cause us to feel stressed, anxious, or paranoid.
So, if you get too high and feel a bit panicky, there’s nothing wrong with you – paranoia is a pretty commonly accepted and normal side effect from the THC in marijuana.
And not only is it easier to have a panic attack while high, it also feels a bit different.
How Does a Weed Panic Attack Feel Different?
When you’re high, your thought patterns can take you to some pretty weird places. I like to describe it as “tunnel vision” thoughts. Whatever you happen to be thinking about, you really seem to hone in on it and follow that thought deeper and deeper. This can be extremely enjoyable if your thoughts are fully committed to something like enjoying a snack or watching a cartoon, but it can be terrifying if your thoughts become negative and you succumb to rabbit hole anxiety.
I made the graph above to demonstrate how a weed panic attack feels to me vs a regular panic attack.
In my experience, weed panic attacks tend to have more extreme peaks if you allow them to. This is because you can become really focused on overthinking the panic attack, and before long your anxiety is spiraling as you overthink every detail. Fortunately, the comedown for panic attacks while high seems to occur just as rapidly.
Possible Symptoms of Marijuana Use
Frankly, weed is just not for everyone. If you find yourself experiencing more of the negative effects than the positive effects, you might want to consider just ditching cannabis altogether.
How to Stop a Panic Attack While High
Start Low and Go Slow
The best way to avoid a weed panic attack is to not overdo it in the first place.
I’ll give you the same advice I gave my little sister when she went away to college: Whenever you decide to try or experiment with a new substance, do it safely. Whatever everyone else is doing, if you absolutely must follow them, just do half.
What I mean by this is, don’t ever allow yourself to be peer-pressured into consuming a greater amount of any substance than what you feel comfortable with. When it comes to weed, if you’re trying it for the first time you should probably use even less than half of what everyone else is; since many people will already have a very high tolerance and be smoking/consuming quite a bit.
The interesting thing about cannabis is that there’s really not the same peer pressure to “have some more,” the way people are with alcohol. I can’t honestly say anyone has ever given me shit for opting out of the rotation while smoking.
If peer pressure is a concern, admitting that you have a low tolerance and have had enough will rarely if ever be met with resistance. I couldn’t tell you why, but stoners tend to be far less pushy than drinkers in my experience.
Personally, I don’t enjoy being overly high, so I absolutely refuse to take dabs or smoke any form of concentrated THC. No one has ever pressed me on it.
How to Find Your Sweet Spot
When smoking weed, take one hit at a time and take 10 minutes in-between tokes.
When ingesting weed edibles, wait 2 hours before deciding to eat more (slow onset).
This is the smartest way to slowly climb to a comfortable high without flying past your comfort zone.
The Biphasic Effect
Marijuana has something called a biphasic effect. This means that there are two phases to the weed high. Marijuana can feel very different at low doses than it does at high doses.
The first phase is often where I find the positive effects; this is the sweet spot where I like to be.
The second phase is where things can get a little bit scarier for some people; this is when we can start to feel anxious, paranoid, or stressed out.
Just stick to the old advice of starting low and going slow. Don’t smoke or ingest too much cannabis and you can probably avoid ever having a panic attack while high in the first place.
Here’s an amazing music video from rapper Lil Dicky, which perfectly depicts how it feels to get “too high.” Warning: Video is definitely NSFW:
Remember You Can’t Overdose on Weed or Die from a Panic Attack
If you’ve ingested or smoked too much weed, things can get scary fast.
Just like with any panic attack, the most important first step is to remember that you can’t die from this. You can’t overdose on weed or die from a panic attack. You’re going to be uncomfortable for a little while, and then it’s going to pass.
The only way you’re going to get hurt from being high is if you go out of your way to do something stupid like driving under the influence.
Just try and take it easy, and remember that your life is not in actual danger here, you’re just having a panic attack that may be a little bit scarier than usual.
Change Your Scenery
The first time I ever got way too high was in my freshman year of college. My friends and I obtained some brownies, and I had never actually tried edibles before. My friends (regular pot smokers, by the way) split a brownie, and I (an inexperienced smoker) ate a whole one by myself.
You can probably guess what happened next.
I was sitting in our common room, enjoying the slight and increasing buzz. At one point, I told some joke, and both of my friends started laughing. Now, obviously there was nothing unusual about this situation, but this is when the brownie decided to really hit me.
I remember looking back and forth at both of my friends, and suddenly took notice of the fact that they were both laughing and looking at me. Suddenly my whole perspective shifted, abruptly, as I went from laughing with my friends, to feeling like my friends were laughing at me. Even then, I immediately knew this was irrational and they weren’t laughing at me, but I couldn’t shake the paranoia in general. I got up and tried to walk outside; I just wanted some fresh air at this point. Going outside wasn’t an option, since this was during hurricane Irene. Pacing back and forth, I tried desperately to reel my racing thoughts in and hide from my friends the fact that I was losing my shit.
Oddly enough, what calmed me down a bit was just transitioning into my own room; being alone for a few minutes, in a new location. A new environment allowed my thoughts to sort of “reset” into the next thought pattern for a bit.
Whenever you’re in the midst of a weed panic attack, consider changing your environment:
If you’re alone, maybe you’ll feel better around people; if you’re around people, maybe you’ll feel better alone. If you’re inside, consider taking a walk outside for a bit; if you’re outside, consider going inside somewhere quiet.
Engage in a Physical Activity
Continuing from my previously mentioned story about my horrible pot brownie panic attack in college…
After transitioning to my room and calming down a bit, I stripped off my clothes, climbed up to my top bunk with some snacks, and prepared to (literally and figuratively) ride out the storm.
My buddy Liam came into my room dressed as a wizard (I may have hallucinated this part) and started talking to me, in a simultaneously soothing and scary voice, about my “journey.”
I was high enough at this point that I was actually having mild visuals of geometric shapes. I was texting my veteran-stoner buddy Chris to ask him how long this was going to last, but I was so high that I had lost all concept of time and the numbers on my phone meant nothing to me.
At this point, Liam tossed a ball to me. I caught it, and tossed it back. I giggled. We continued this for some time, and for whatever reason, it completely pulled me out of my head and ended my panic attack.
Doing something physical, such as tossing a ball around or going for a walk, is one of the easiest ways to pull yourself out of your head. Find a distracting way to do this, and you should be able to end your panic attack and actually switch over to enjoying the high.
Give Yourself a Bigger Problem to Work on
As mentioned before, your mind is inclined to go down rabbit holes when you’re high.
Whatever train of thought you decide to follow, you tend to follow it much further than you would while sober.
Obviously, this is terrible if the subject of your attention is a panic attack, but what if you can shift your attention elsewhere?
If there is a big problem or question you’ve been struggling with for a while, this is the time to think through it.
Got a big decision to make?
Thinking about your next career move?
Pondering the meaning of life?
This is a good opportunity to put your overthinking to use.
If your thoughts want to run 100mph, give them a better direction to run in.
Do Something Creative
Kind of tying into the previous two methods, doing something creative is an excellent way to pull yourself out of your negative thoughts while high.
Whatever your preferred creative outlet, now is a good time to embrace it.
Drawing, coloring, writing, dancing; any of these are fine.
Doing something creative will help to ground you in reality, while putting your overthinking to use and distracting you from your weed panic attack.
Get Under the Covers
For whatever reason, the feeling of being under a blanket is extremely comforting to most people.
This fact is evident in the rising popularity of weighted blankets, especially around the holiday season.
For whatever reason, when I get too high, I often become much more sensitive to temperature, causing me to get the chills.
I remember, as a teenager at my parents’ house, smoking just a little bit too much weed. I started to crave a Fudgsicle, so I took one out of the freezer and brought it to my room. Maybe due to the coldness of the ice pop, I started to feel a bit chilly. I set the Fudgsicle down on my dresser, and laid on my bed under the blanket. This immediately felt amazing. I was so comfortable, I literally laid there and watched my Fudgsicle (about 5 feet away) melt into a puddle, because I was too comfortable to get up and eat it.
If you’re ever trying to remember how to stop a panic attack while high, don’t dismiss the value of a nice, warm blanket.
Eat Some Snacks
While under the influence of marijuana, your senses can feel significantly heightened.
The most notable of these senses is taste. Naturally, everyone is aware of the infamous “weed munchies.”
Having a nice assortment of snacks is always a lifesaver while high. If you’re having a panic attack from marijuana, rotate between a few different snack options (sweet, salty, etc.) and really try to experience each flavor to the fullest. Seriously. Like, close your eyes and try to feel each flavor.
Admittedly, it sounds weird, but it’s probably the best part of being high, and doing it right can definitely put a positive spin on things.
Watch a Funny Show or Cartoon
Another great way to stop a panic attack while high is to watch a funny show.
Stand-up routines, stoner comedies, or nostalgic cartoons are all great options for this method.
Much like enjoying snacks, the ability to appreciate humor is significantly amplified while under the influence of marijuana.
If you don’t have a friend around to talk and laugh with (or even if you do), put on something funny to laugh at and your panic attack may dissipate in seconds.
Play a Videogame
There’s a reason why videogames are such a stereotypical hobby of stoners around the world: Playing videogames while high is just so much more enjoyable.
The right videogame could immerse you in a whole new world, or just require enough concentration to pull you out of your head and into the screen.
Some games might actually become difficult to play while high, but others you’ll find are perfectly suited to this state of mind. Give videogames a shot the next time you’re having a weed panic attack and they should do a pretty good job of getting you to a better place.
Chew on Some Black Peppercorn or Pine Nuts
Studies show that certain plant components can work as incredible antidotes to the intoxicating effects of THC. The short explanation is that some plants contain terpenoids, which share some similarities to cannabinoids and can help to cancel out the negative effects of too much THC.
Several plants contain such terpenes, but the easiest to find around the house are probably going to be:
- Black Peppercorn (pinene)
- Pine Nuts (pinene)
- Lemon (limonene)
Sniffing ground peppercorn, or chewing on a few peppercorn balls is a long-known remedy to weed paranoia. Alternatively, eating some pine nuts or drinking some lemonade (these also contain terpenes) can help to counteract the negative effects of THC and calm you down.
Use Another Supplement to Pull Yourself Out
A quick reminder: I’m not your doctor, so I certainly won’t be advising you on which substances to mix.
With that said, I’ve combined marijuana with most of the anxiety supplements I recommend on the website for panic attacks, and I’ve never personally had a bad interaction.
If you’re having a bad panic attack while high, I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to consider using an anxiety supplement to help calm you down. I often feel that just having an “ace up my sleeve,” as an option, is enough to keep me feeling relaxed and positive.
You can find my list of recommended anxiety supplements here.
Just an idea. Please consider this method at your own discretion.
Don’t Take it so Seriously
Although it can be difficult during a panic attack, sometimes you just need to remember not to take yourself so seriously.
Even when things get bad during a weed panic attack, a gentle reminder that this is what being high is, this is normal and this is what I signed up for, can help to calm you down.
The cannabis high continuously changes. If you don’t like where your head’s at, just change up your activity or environment and the high will change with you.
I can’t tell you how many times I got too high in college and caught myself staring at my phone in the bathroom wondering, how long have I been in here staring at my phone (when in reality it was only 20 seconds)!? (I was also prone to “weed time loops” where I would start to feel like I had repeated an action several times, so I must be stuck in some sci-fi time loop. I wish I were kidding).
From time to time, when your thoughts are going crazy like this, just take a minute to stop, laugh, and appreciate how weird you’re being and how strange your thoughts are acting. I mean, this is literally what you signed up, so just laugh it off and try to enjoy it.
Learn Some Panic Attack Techniques
Realistically, panic attacks are among the worst side effects of getting too high. Just in case things gets a bit too scary and out-of-hand, you may benefit from checking out this book I wrote. These are exactly the kinds of tricks I'd use to calm myself down if I smoked too much cannabis.
THC and CBD are among the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis, and the ones you tend to hear about the most. THC is the one that is actually responsible for the anxiety symptoms of cannabis. You may have better luck with straight CBD oil, which tends to have a more relaxing effect on users. I would not dismiss this as a potential way to supplement against anxiety.
Depending on the amount of THC consumed and method of consumption, a high can last anywhere from 2 to 10 hours. Consuming edibles can result in a much longer high than smoking. Factors such as tolerance, body weight, amount consumed, and THC quantity are all contributing factors to the duration of a marijuana high.
The three major strains of cannabis plants are Indica, Sativa, and Hybrids. Indica strains are better known for their body high and relaxation, while Sativa is better known for delivering an energized head high. Hybrids can combine a bit of both of these elements. In my personal experience, even an Indica strain (known for being more relaxing), can cause bad anxiety and panic attacks. I believe that your mindset plays a larger role in your high than which strain you are smoking.
For those who are susceptible to anxiety, I would personally steer clear of edibles. The reason for this is because it is much harder to “start low and go slow” with edibles. You can rarely tell how much you’ve consumed until you’ve hit the point of no return. If anxiety and weed panic attacks are issues for you, I’d just stick to a more quantity-controlled method of consumption.
Cannabis typically hits you in three “stages.” There’s the buzz, the high, and the stone. The buzz is where I like to be; all of the positives to a mild degree with little to no downside. The high occurs once you’ve consumed a bit more, at which point things might get even better, or they might get worse. Once you’ve hit stoned, you’ve basically had so much cannabis that you just feel tired and want to melt into the couch; anxiety pretty much stops being an issue at this point (kind of like saying stupid things stops being an issue once you go from drunk to “blacked out”).
The short answer is no, you should not dial 911 if you get too high. This is a call that emergency operators get frequently from people suffering through their first panic attack or their first time smoking too much weed. You are not going to die, and you should not be wasting emergency responders’ time on a marijuana call.