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By Ayad Maher.
(Note: at the end of the article, you will find our recommendation of the best strain for anxiety and panic attacks.)
Sometime ago, I randomly started getting paranoid when I smoke weed, later it advanced to a terribly social anxiety when I’m around people, even when I’m around good friends. It was a very irritating time, I do enjoy smoking weed, and I’m not ready to quit, not just yet. So I started researching of ways to find a solution for this problem, if there is any.
As you may now, cannabis triggers certain areas in the brain that connected to the feel of fear and emotion, this may make stoners to perceive a very normal experiences or incidents as dangerous and threatening. A study published by Elsevier Inc found that exogenous cannabinoids could influence your stress responses and emotional learning, in other words, influence your anxiety level and fear, and eventually it may cause paranoia.
Related article: 16 Scientific Benefits of Weed – Health Effects of Cannabis
This sounds contradicting to the norm, right? All stoners smoke weed so they can "chill" and reduce their anxiety - and that what makes the relationship between cannabis and paranoia a bit complicated.
This change in anxiety level can go either way, depends on your comfort level while high, how familiar you are with being stoned, who you're hanging with at that moment and where. It also have a lot to do with the strain you're using. For instance, the marijuana strain you use to treat the anxiety you get when you're chilling by yourself is not the same marijuana strain you should use to treat the anxiety when you're hanging out with friends.
For anxiety sufferers, this revelation of separating these medicinal compounds for certain situations was life altering. And for many of us, especially for those who live in legal states, the process is simply putting different Cannabis strain in the bowl, vape, doob, or drop of oil.
Of course, it's not quite this simple either. I mean, all of the magic in the Cannabis plant is not only due to these two cannabinoids. There's a whole supporting cast, a whole team of back up singers, a band of brass or woodwinds. And, those two cannabinoids do affect you differently when in the company of different ratios of these oftentimes silent partners in the healing.
Most mornings, I choose a CBD only or the Oil made thereof. The terpenes and other cannabinoids in a sativa helps to wake me up and begin to think about things other than barfing. While, late t night, I'd choose an indica dominant strain to sedate the body and induce sleep.
So generally, strains with relatively high CBD are used for anxiety. I don't recommend the high THC strains, if you were that type of person who is normally anxious, especially if you weren't an "expert" stoner, high THC will make your life miserable. So be careful.
A study by the University of Western Ontario, London, found that THC tends to overwhelm those "sensitive" emotional parts of the brain, which consequently causes perceiving a very normal experiences as dangerous or threatening, which may eventually drives paranoia.
Related article: THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect!
This method worked for me like a charm, and it allowed me to start enjoy my high with friends and alone to this day, further more, it helped me to cut on alcohol drastically.
I would recommend doing this once a week, especially when it's nice out. Here is what you need to do:
1. Find a secluded and safe area, preferably in the nature; hiking trail, natural park, somewhere nice.
2. Familiarize yourself with the area. Before you get high, for the first 15-20 minutes familiarize yourself with the area, find a nice spot where you'll chill (don't settle for anything mediocre). Walk around in silence, no music, just look around, take in the environment, and let your mind wander. The reason of doing this is to let any anxious thoughts you may have to come and go, leaving your mind fresh.
3. Get high. Once you've found a spot that satisfies you, take your vaporizers or bowl out, and smoke weed. Don't smoke too much, only enough to get a good buzz going. You can have music on or go for a walk, but nothing to intense, and try to avoid places you're not familiar with yet.
4. Get a bit more high. You can smoke more if you want, but do start challenging yourself and get too high. You're not partying here, it's an exercise to overcome your anxiety.
Once you get comfortable while high when you're by yourself, the feeling will carry over to being comfortable while high around friends, and eventually around strangers. Just take it slowly. It did it for me, and I think it will do it for you.
How to stop a panic attack while high? Remember when you were like "I got high and felt like I was dying" - Haven't all been there? I know I have.
Here are some useful tips for you:
1. Rule of thumb, If your feeling nervous before you smoke, those feeling will only amplify after you smoke.
2. Bring it down. Some substances can bring down the uncomfortable high which sometimes cause anxiety and paranoia. The following substances my decrease the intensity of the high:
If you chose to vape CBD oil, better to take place before your smoking session, allowing more time for the CBD oil to take effect by the time you've smoked your flower. Just remember, CBD acts as an inhibitor to THC, it will also triggers the entourage effect and the body high.
Related article: THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect!
3. Make plans before you get high. Many times I smoke weed, then I found myself bored and thinking "great, now what." If you have no plans, I assure you that you will feel anxious because you already starting off the high on the wrong foot.
When you make an activity and have something planned out after you smoke, your chances of enjoying the high are so much higher. It doesn't have to be hiking and exploring, the good thing, you can't go wrong with weed, it makes any experience is a great one, just just make sure you have plans.
4. Choosing the right strain is a key to avoid paranoia, you always make sure that the strain you're consuming matches the activity you're planing to involve in. There are other methods you can approach to make sure that you're not getting too high to the extent that you're feeling paranoid.
Stick to Sativa, they are known to cause less anxiety. Sativas are also generally opposite of "sleep medicine" a.k.a. Indica. Sativa usually great for social setting or the type of activities where you need energy and not just sitting on a couch and chill.
5. Don't over medicating yourself; if you were passing around a joint, usually you will be hitting that twice every time your turn comes, greed and the fear you won't get "high enough" is part of the reason that you keep doing it. By taking a single hit, however, you’ll have a better ability to gauge your high. Don't worry, you will get high enough.
6. Avoid experimenting with new consumption methods if you weren't comfortable with your surroundings. If you're not used to smoking dab, don't try it unless you're very comfortable with who and where you are, something applies for edibles and oil. Those are a man-made substances, THC might be very high that may fuck you up for hours and give you an unexpected trip, especially if you weren't used to that high of doses.
7. Furthermore, edibles you may want to try, which has a different affect on the body than smoking. Your stomach will be absorbing the THC, rather than your lungs, which will give a heavy body high and hits in a completely different way. Also, keep in mind that high from edibles builds up slowly over a much longer period of time comparing to smoking weed, so be patient and pace out your edible consumption.
8. And this a bonus tip, use a vaporizer. For many people, anxiety and/or paranoia are non existent when they're vaping instead of smoking the herb. On the contrary of smoking weed, vaping gives a less anxious and more clear-headed high compared to smoking. You're also able to gauge & regulate your intake way more (and way more efficiently with your herb); gets you high to your preferred point gradually.
Every puff will get you a little higher so on and so forth. On the other hand, this can vary from a vape to another, but you can definitely pace yourself better on a vaporizer comparing to a bong or even a one hitter.
Related article: How to Choose a Vaporizer: Vaporizer high or Smoking high?
Think about it this way, how to stop overthinking when high, the answer is distraction, distraction, distraction, and here are few tips:
1. Meditation helps. After a few near-freak-out sessions with my buddies, I decided to take few minutes (5-10 minutes) to meditate on my own. Just find a place a way from every one, even if it was the bathroom, close your eyes and try to calm your sense down and not to be high-strung. Try this self-guided mediation.
2. Join a conversation. Instead of sitting quietly drowning in your thoughts, turn into your most trusted friend and talk to him/her. Make a conscious effort to listen and participate in the discussion. This will help you to redirect your focus or attention to something other than your paranoia state of mind. Simply, give your brain something to do.
3. Music and/or TV. Rather allowing yourself to go where your thoughts are taking you, don't be afraid of spacing out when you're hanging out with people and suddenly feel anxious and paranoid. If there was a music playing, listen to the music and enjoy it, music and pot go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Another great way for distraction from your unreasonable paranoia is watching something "interesting" on TV. A funny show is recommended, my to go TV show when I'm high is Family Guy, quick jokes and doesn't need a long attention span. It's up to you though, I guarantee you that will loosen up and laugh the paranoia away.
4. Cooking a meal can be a great way to prevent paranoia. Cooking is therapeutic, it will indeed help you to redirect your thoughts to the meal you’re making. An added bonus, you’ll have something (hopefully) delicious to eat in case you get the munchies!
5. Have a quiet time by yourself, take a break from everyone around you. Go for a walk or even take few minutes in the bathroom if you're stuck in someone's house.
6. Finally, Listen To The Inner Dialogue. Face your paranoia, don't ignore it or run away from it. Take a minute alone, go to the bathroom or even a short walk and allow your thoughts to flow freely. Wait for it, wait for it... and suddenly you will find yourself in a completely different mindset.
The Canna-World is evolving so quickly and mad-scientist/ tree-huggers are seed-breeding their little hearts out creating new ratios of indica/sativa dominance in the Cannabis you can buy. In doing this, they're almost custom making medicine hand-in-hand with Mother Nature. Now, that's a team I'd like to be on!
Stay toasty my friends.
Ayad Maher is a Cannabis Industry Entrepreneur, Blogger & Activist. eCommerce Specialist and Owner of a 420 Life Style Website; Monroe Blvd, an online smoke shop; 421Store, and an online CBD store; GoodyCBD.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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