What Are the Side Effects of THC?

Know your limits to avoid these side effects.

man smoking a thc joint iStock / Deagreez

Weed has a myriad of positive uses—combatting insomnia, non-addictive pain relief for cancer patients, alleviating anxiety, boosting creativity, etc. But there’s a reason why we disclose of THC potency as well as adverse effects on each strain’s description page. Though using THC is not life-threatening, consuming too much at a time can produce some really undesirable side effects and cause you to have a not-so-great high. Oaxacan Highland, for instance, has an intense psychoactive effect and regularly comes in at a THC potency of 23%, which is high compared to many other strains so someone who is new to smoking weed might be an unpleasantly overwhelmed if they smoke a whole bowl of it.

That’s why it’s so important to understand your relationship with weed and what side effects you’re most prone to. Wikileaf makes the research easy, with a detailed analysis of virtually every strain out there and their common uses, typical side effects, and average THC levels. We’ve put together a guide of the most common side effects of THC and what strains are best for you if you’re prone to them.

Anxiety and Paranoia

side effects of thc

Portrait of lonely depressed woman, quiet anxiety concept

Anxiety and Paranoia are perhaps the most serious negative side effects of THC, which seems weird because THC is often used to combat anxiety in patients. This is because of the biphasic nature of THC’s effects, meaning that low and high doses of the cannabinoid will yield opposite effects. More specifically, low doses of THC can usually remedy anxiety, but if you cross the threshold of your personal tolerance, you could exacerbate it.

This can be a tricky balance, and it might take a little bit of time to find your sweet spot, especially since regular use of THC builds the users’ tolerance rather quickly. A more surefire way to guarantee a sans-anxiety high is to choose a strain that is low in THC concentration and high in marijuana’s nonpsychoactive component, cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is frequently used for anti-inflammation and anti-anxiety purposes. The way it reacts with your cannabinoid receptors helps to combat anxiety, and it can mute the intensity of the THC you smoke. A strain with balanced CBD and THC concentrations will give you a euphoric buzz without the cognitive cloudiness or intense high that often triggers anxiety and/or paranoia. Be wary, however, as CBD is also biphasic, and will help you feel energetic and content in low doses, but can have sedative effects at higher ones.

No matter what strain you use, being judicious with your intake and knowing your body’s reaction to THC will ensure content and positive highs. Balanced intake and balanced strains are the keys to a sustainably happy high. Here are a few of our favorite strains for those prone to THC-induced anxiety:

  1. Harlequin: This sativa is chock full of CBD and has low THC concentration, allowing for a mild, relaxed high. It’s pretty hard to get completely stoned off this strain, but the effects that it does have are positive and uplifting. It will likely alleviate physical pain or soreness, boost creativity, and stave off anxiety.
  2. CBD Shark: An indica-dominant hybrid, CBD Shark is a mildly sedating strain that’s all about balance. It’s essentially equal parts THC and CBD, creating slight psychoactive effects and high relaxation. While you can complete tasks as normal during this high, physical activity will not be your friend. It’s perfect for staving off anxiety during your evening unwind.
  3. White Widow: If you’re looking for a strain with highly psychoactive effects but still resists anxiety, this powerful sativa is the way to go. Granted, beginners should be careful around this one and even experienced users should be judicious with how much they’re hitting, as the high is rather dreamy, cerebral, and intense. In the appropriate dose, it’s perfect for an active and productive yet euphoric and content high.

The Munchies

Portrait of a man with beard and both arms up trying to catch flying pretzels with his mouth

iStock / CarlosDavid.org

Smoking weed prompts a release of the peptide hormone called ghrelin, which signals to your body that it’s time to eat. Grehlin increase, as well as the THC’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system and hypothalamus, triggers a phenomenon known popularly as “the munchies.” Not only do you often want to dive into the pantry after smoking, but it’s also hard to put down that bag of Cheetos once you start munching.

Cannabis’s hunger-inducing quality is a largely positive one, as it has helped people affected by eating disorders and illness-induced weight loss. Many people, however, want to enjoy the positive results of smoking without getting the insatiable munchies.  

You can stave off green hunger through a few methods. Drinking lots of water, for instance, is a great strategy. The munchies are often just as much about oral fixation as legitimate hunger anyway, and drinking lots of water is widely accepted as a sustainable appetite suppressant. Doing something active is also a good way to wipe hunger from your brain, as couch locking strains are typically most guilty of stimulating the appetite. Going for a walk, playing an instrument, or even getting engrossed in a video game can keep to distracted to go on a fridge raid.

The strain your smoking is likely to blame for intense hunger during your high. Here are some of our most recommended flavors that help you avoid that regretful late-night trip to Taco Bell.

  1. Skywalker: This 50/50 makes for a relaxed and mellow high. It’s lower THC levels make it a little less intense and resistant to the munchies. It’s perfect if you’re looking to unwind or have a pre-bedtime smoke without forcing a pit stop in the kitchen.
  2. Blue Champagne: This potent sativa motivates and inspires the user to spring into action. If you need a kick in the butt to get started on a project or activity, this is it. You won’t have time to distract yourself with the munchies.

Cottonmouth

cotton mouth from smoking weed

iStock / Koldunova_Anna

You’re inhaling smoke, so of course, it’s going to dry out your mouth a bit, but sometimes the cottonmouth is absolutely intolerable. That’s because dry mouth isn’t just a result of the physical smoke in your mouth—it actually inhibits saliva production in your mouth. It’s important during any smoke session that you have access to water to stave of cotton mouth as well as general dehydration.

Dry, Itchy Eyes

Like with dry mouth, cannabis smoke itself will dry out your eyes a little bit. But even edibles and vapes can cause dry, itchy peepers because THC’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system can produce a drying effect on your mucosal membranes. If you’re prone to itchy, dry eyes, keep eye drops handy for quick relief. It’ll also the redness and bloodshot appearance that makes you look completely stoned, even if you only smoked a little.

If you frequently wear contacts, it’s common for them to get uncomfortable during a smoke session. Sometimes making the switch to glasses post-toke is the simplest solution.

What Are the Side Effects of THC? was last modified: by
Samantha Harton
About Samantha Harton
Sam is a freelance writer and JD candidate pursuing a career in Environmental Law and Policy. She enjoys writing about sustainability, agriculture, nature, wellness, and health.