One moment everything was perfect. The Goldilocks buzz: I was happy, confident, chatty. Then I wasn’t. The cannabis edible hit like a Conor McGregor elbow and my world cartwheeled. I felt overwhelmed and nervous. A little out of control. And anything but comfortable. The crowded and loud party was the last place I wanted to be, but getting up from my chair and finding my way outside was more than I could muster. I was too high.
Sometimes referred to as ‘greening out’, getting too high is THC’s doing. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that interactswith receptors in the brain. Because edibles take a while to kick in, it can be easy to overdo it if you don’t know exactly how much THC you’re consuming. With homemade goodies, like the cookie I ate that night, there’s the added variable of not knowing the potency. This isn’t a problem with reputable manufactured edibles, which have consistent and labelled dosing.
Getting too high is also more common with new cannabis users, still figuring out how much they can handle. If this applies to you, rest assured you’re in good company. Just about every cannabis consumer has been there too.
You’re too high when…
No matter how it happens, being too high sucks. Over-consuming cannabis can feel like being too drunk: nausea, dizziness, a feeling of out of control. But it can often feel quite different: anxiety, paranoia and just a sense of beingtotally overwhelmed. Things like an empty stomach, dehydration and mixing other drugs and alcohol contribute and intensify the bad feelings. Alcohol, in particular, can increase anxious feelings and multiplies THC concentrations in the blood, according to one study.
The good news
There are two things to remind yourself of if you ever find yourself uncomfortably high. 1. No one has ever overdosed on cannabis. 2. This too will end. Scientists have studied what it would take to fatally overdose on cannabis. It’s impossible to consume enough cannabis in a short enough time to do it. No matter how much you consumed, eventually your body will get rid of it all. The high will end and, while you might not feel great, you will do no permanent damage. Cannabis does not kill brain cells.
The bad news
It may take a while. The body will process inhaled cannabis in a couple hours. The digestion system is slower working, hence the delayed high. It could take six to eight hours for all the THC to leave your system.
More good news
There are things you can do to help yourself or a friend deal with being too high. The first (and least helpful if you’re too high right now) is prevention. The golden rule when consuming edible cannabis is low and slow. Start with a low dose of five to 10 milligrams of THC and wait an hour or more before consuming any more.
Only consume with people you trust and in situations that are comfortable. Don’t mix cannabis with any other drugs, including alcohol and caffeine. As you gain more experience with cannabis feel free to slowly increase your dose and determine what works best for you.
8 ways to deal with an out of control high
Maybe you followed all the rules. Maybe you wish you did. Regardless, things went sideways. Going to the hospital or a clinic is always an option. But know that there is no magic pill that will make you feel better, and hospitals aren’t known as relaxing places. If you want to try and get your high under control on your own here are eight things you can do that might work.
1. Don’t panic
Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. But freaking out is only going to make things worse. Tell a friend what’s going on. Get yourself to a quiet and calm place. If you’re at home or a friend’s house, a dark bedroom or comfortable couch is a good choice. Close your eyes and breath deep. Try inhaling through your nose for five seconds, pause, and exhale for five through your mouth. This mediation technique helps slow the heart and calm the mind.
2. Drink some water
A pasty mouth never feels good, let alone if you’re already on edge. Dehydration contributes to the high. Sipping water or juice will help with both. Plus, the simple and familiar act gives you something other than how high you feel to focus on.
3. Give in to the munchies
A little food might help relax your stomach and, like sipping water, gives you a familiar thing to focus on. Fruit, nuts and cheese are all good, easy on the stomach, options. Food should also help stimulate and energize the digestion system to process edibles a little faster.
4. Try terpenes
Terpenes are the chemical compounds that give cannabis its flavour and smell. They help tame THC’s effect on the body. And they’re found in other plants beyond marijuana. Rocker and cannabis fan Neil Young swears by black pepper, which contains the terpene beta-caryophyllene. Sniff some ground up pepper or chew on a kernel. If the terpene doesn’t set you right the sneezing might. The terpene limonene is also found in some citrus fruit. Try drinking lemon or grapefruit juice. Lavender may work as well: it’s known for its relaxing properties.
If the situation isn’t making the experience better move on. Often crowds, strangers, loud noises and lots of stimulus compound anxious or uncomfortable feelings. Find a friend, a quiet corner, or better, get outside. Fresh air is always good. Going for a walk often helps. Just keep it short and familiar; getting lost is not a good plan right now. But, skip a walk if you’re feeling woozy.
6. Get wet
Run yourself a warm bath. There’s something inherently relaxing about soaking in warm water. Or go for the other extreme and jump into a cold shower. The shock often clears the mind.
7. Distract yourself
Watch TV, play a video game, colour, listen to music. These are all great ways of distracting yourself. Keep it light and fun to help your brain realize you’re safe.
8. Kryptonite time
CBD, the other main component in cannabis, is a natural anxiety fighter and THC modulator. This is a great option if you have a CBD edible on hand. Just make sure it has negligible THC, so it doesn’t also make you more high.
Moral of the story
Back at that party, with my high heading to a bad place, I closed my eyes. When I opened them my wife was sitting next to me. I told her how I was feeling and she led me outside. We lay down in the grass and stared up at the stars. Whether it was holding her hand, the fresh air, cold ground, searching for satellites or just time, the anxiety soon faded. The high dulled. I relaxed. We talked. I swore off eating pot cookies…again. By the time we got home, still holding hands, I was looking back on the night with a smile.
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