Marijuana and Anxiety - Overcome Your Paranoia While You're High

November 14, 2017 2 Comments

By Dianna Donnelly and Ayad Maher.

(Note: at the end of the article, you will find our recommendation of the best strain for anxiety and panic attacks.)

A dog barks three blocks away and Sarah suddenly wakes. Like bubbles rising slowly up the side of a glass of pop, her consciousness comes to. Within seconds she remembers that the next day is a work day and the tsunami begins. In a rush it starts below her stomach and up into her heart - it feels like it skips a beat.  She's now wide awake, feels like she's drowning, must breath purposefully and deeply. Soon begins the nausea and that dull, unwavering ache deep in her stomach, pushing on her lungs.

Sarah used to suffer badly and she still suffers, but at least now she's found something that will help her in the moment, whichever moment it happens to be. The pills they prescribe for anxiety are oftentimes overly sedative and addictive.  And one wonders, how can one medication treat all of the many opposing symptoms that come along with an anxiety diagnosis?

As my friend Sarah learned very quickly through this investigation into medicinal Cannabis. The marijuana strain she uses to treat the anxiety she feels at 3 am is not the same marijuana strain she should use to treat her anxiety at 8 am. Sarah's early early morning anxiety requires Tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) to put her thoughts to bed.  While her before work anxiety requires Cannabidiol (CBD) - only because CBD is an anxiolytic, meaning it treats anxiety.


Marijuana and Paranoia, it's a Complicated Relationship!

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.

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 they're using...

For anxiety relief;

High CBD or High THC - Indica or Sativa

For anxiety sufferers, this revelation of separating these medicinal compounds for certain situations was life altering.  And for many of us, the process is simply putting different Cannabis in the bowl, vape, doob, or drop of oil. No big deal!

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.

Going back to my good friend Sarah, most mornings, she chooses a CBD only or the Oil made thereof. The terpenes and other cannabinoids in a sativa helps to wake her up and begin to think about things other than barfing. While at 3 am she'll 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.


How to Avoiding Paranoia While High

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:

Rule of thumb, If your feeling nervous before you smoke, those feeling will only amplify after you smoke.

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.

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.


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.

Furthermore, edibles 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. 

 Now, How to Stop Being Paranoid When High?

Think about it this way, how to stop overthinking when high, the answer is distraction, distraction, distraction, and here are few tips: 

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.

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. 

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!

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!

Best strain for anxiety and panic attacks 


Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.  

2 Responses

Adrian Plant
Adrian Plant

February 09, 2018

It is not the THC responsible for the anxiety associated with the high, the jittery, energy feeling is from the Terpen Lemonline, that is found in higher concentrations in Sativa strains, myrecen is responsible for the couch lock drowsy feeling and is more present in Indica strains.

Terrie Lynn  Lalonde
Terrie Lynn Lalonde

April 13, 2017

Learning how to use this plant has been a process. Thanks for all your guidance and open mindedness

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