We know that cannabis can’t kill us, at least not directly. But when it comes to weed, there can be too much of a good thing. If you’ve consumed more pot than you’re used to, you might already know that for yourself. Greening out, or temporarily overdosing on cannabis, is an uncomfortable state caused by the over-consumption of THC. It can cause the following symptoms:
- Extreme anxiety
- Verbal impairment
- Rapid heartbeat
- Impaired motor skills
- Dilated pupils
Even though cannabis is used to medicate some of these symptoms, the excessive consumption of one of its chemical constituents can also trigger them.
What to Do If You’re Greening Out
- Don’t underestimate the value of CBD.
CBD mitigates the adverse psychological effects of THC. Choosing a CBD-rich strain is a good way to avoid greening out in the first place, but consuming some CBD in response to greening out may help the symptoms dissipate quicker than they would on their own.
- Go low and slow.
There is an enormous research gap in the area of cannabis dosing, but the evidence that does exist points to the value in consuming lower dosages of THC. This is especially true in three situations: when you’re using pot for the first time, when you’re consuming concentrates, and when ingesting cannabis-infused edibles. THC tolerance depends on the individual, so it’s a good idea to take it slowly as you determine what quantity is best for you. Use a vape pen to dose. Cannabis concentrates (oils, waxes, etc.) have a much higher THC content than flower, and THC is the culprit behind greening out. When it comes to edibles, it’s important to wait about an hour before ingesting more. The onset of an edibles high is significantly more delayed than when cannabis is inhaled, but the potency and duration of an edibles high is also greater and longer. If you eat too much THC, you may find yourself greening out in a couple hours even if you felt completely unaffected in the first twenty minutes of consumption.
- Choose a safe environment.
The only legal place to consume pot in most states is in a personal residence. It may be inconvenient for the extrovert, but smoking in the safety of your own or a trusted friend’s home is a great way to reduce the impact of greening out. It’s not fun to have a panic attack while surrounded by strangers. And suddenly becoming extremely uncoordinated while walking on a sidewalk by a busy street is potentially embarrassing and certainly dangerous.
- Keep good company.
The nature of the plant’s effects make cannabis consumption a social activity. If this is your first time or you’re concerned about greening out, capitalize on that characteristic. Having some good friends nearby to comfort and distract you can be a huge help during a panic attack. And if you do feel like you need medical care, you will have someone to help you get it.
- Don’t mix substances.
Both alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate adverse psychological responses to THC. If you really want to avoid greening out, avoid consuming cannabis, alcohol, and/or caffeine at the same time.
- Stay hydrated.
Another side effect of THC is dry mouth. The physical sensation of dry mouth can make any anxiety you may feel worse. Keep water, tea, or juice nearby so that you can reduce the severity of this symptom.
Severe anxiety can cause us to either hold our breath, breathe erratically, or breathe too quickly. In each case, our peace of mind becomes increasingly fractured with every compromised breath. Calming breathwork can help to anchor you in the midst of a panic attack. Take a deep breath, expanding your stomach. Slowly release that breath until your stomach contracts. Repeat until you feel better.
- Remember that this will pass.
A green out is temporary. Enduring such an event may make for an extremely uncomfortable few hours, but the symptoms will go away. Try to remember that so that you don’t become overwhelmed by your discomfort.
Too Much THC Can Put Your ECS in Overdrive
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant cannabinoid in most strains of weed. It is the chemical compound responsible for the psychoactive effects that give cannabis its recreational appeal. These effects are created by the way THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). THC activates cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2, molecular pathways that facilitate appetite, memory, pain, fertility, and mood. When too much THC is consumed, these receptors are overstimulated, causing the user to feel sick, or to “green out.”
The second most abundant cannabinoid in weed is cannabidiol (CBD). Like THC, CBD interacts with certain molecular pathways within the ECS. However, the pathways it adheres to are different and cause different effects. The most notable difference between THC and CBD (and all of the other cannabinoids) is that THC is psychoactive while CBD is not. In fact, CBD reduces the psychoactive potency of THC in a way that allows users to experience a more enjoyable high.
While high-THC flower and concentrates have a greater chance of causing green out, high CBD strains and concentrates may actually reduce the likelihood of this uncomfortable occurrence.
The Worst-Case Scenario
Unlike alcohol, the chemicals in cannabis won’t directly kill you—cannabis just isn’t toxic enough to do that. But some side effects of greening out can indirectly cause serious and even fatal consequences. For example, an accelerated heart rate could aggravate an already weakened heart.
The most dangerous green out situation is a deadly mix between the symptom of nausea and the suppression of the gag reflex, both caused by THC. The result is the inability to successfully throw up. This means that someone who is sleeping through a green out may suffocate on their own vomit. The risk is compounded if that person is also intoxicated from alcohol.
To avoid these worst-case scenarios, opt for low to moderate THC strains if you have a heart condition. Depending on the health of your heart, it might be best to avoid cannabis consumption altogether. If you’re feeling nauseous, try and stay awake until the sensation subsides. If you can’t keep your eyes open, turn on your side to keep your airway clear.