Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.
The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:
- you may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
- some people get the giggles or become more talkative
- hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common
- colours may look more intense and music may sound better
- time may feel like it’s slowing down
Cannabis can have other effects too:
- if you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick
- it can make you sleepy and lethargic
- it can affect your memory
- it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
- it interferes with your ability to drive safely
If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.
Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.
Can you get addicted to cannabis?
Research shows that 10% of regular cannabis users become dependent on it. Your risk of getting addicted is higher if you start using it in your teens or use it every day. As with other addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means you need more to get the same effect. If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.
Brain Science and Cannabis
Any substance that we put into our bodies will have an effect in some way. Whether it’s drinking and becoming off-balance or smoking and becoming paranoid, our brain is wired to respond to these outside stimuli in many different ways.
Dr. Ruben Baler, a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, explains how cannabis can impact a person’s ECS, (the interstitial space between cells in the brain is called the extracellular space (ECS)), leading to anxiety and paranoia that previously did not exist.
What the ECS does is it optimizes our brain between excitation and inhibition.
Fear stimuli that we can normally cope with can become unmanageable under the effects of cannabisbecause our fight-or-flight response gets disrupted. You may not be able to keep those stimuli under control because your ECS is so out of whack because of all the THC (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects in your system).
The strangest thing about the ECS is that cannabis can wreak havoc during one smoke session, then leave the user completely relaxed and calm after another. Just as any slightly different chemicals in the brain can cause vastly different outward reactions, the differing components in any given cannabis strain can cause varying reactions on the inside.
For instance, indica strains are known for their ability to induce a sleepy, relaxing high, while sativa strains often provide an uplifting, clear-headed buzz. Within each group of indica or sativa are dozens and dozens of different strains, each with a different chemical configuration and makeup. What this means is that while one indica or sativa might not cause anxiety or paranoia, another strain very well could.
Outside factors also play a role in how cannabis affects the brain. If a user has been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions lately, cannabis might deliver a different effect than if the same user was experiencing a period of great calmness.
The brain’s fear-processing centre is located in the amygdala and the hippocampus, areas that are extremely sensitive to cannabis and can change the response we have to THC or CBD)
Cannabis and mental health
Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t really true).
Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:
- you start using cannabis at a young age
- you smoke stronger types, such as skunk
- you smoke it regularly
- you use it for a long time
- you smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness
Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.
For many, cannabis provides relief from anxiety better than any prescription drug. However, cannabis can have a powerful effect in the opposite direction for some, leaving users with crippling anxiety and paranoia.
What is paranoia?
Paranoia is an unfounded fear that others want to harm you. It’s characterized by feeling like being under constant threat. When having paranoid thoughts, people are usually overwhelmed with thinking about conspiracies against them.
For example, while most people would think of one incident to be a coincidence, person with paranoid thoughts would think of it as something planned and intentional. These irrational thoughts and beliefs can get so fixated that it becomes extremely hard to convince that person otherwise. For many people, it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
When it comes to paranoia, THC is the molecule that most likely causes it, as it stimulates the receptors in a part of the brain called amygdala. Amygdala regulates emotional processes, such as fear and paranoia.
How to get rid of paranoia when you’re high?
Cannabis-induced paranoia can happen to users of all levels, without exceptions. Feeling paranoid from marijuana usually occurs after smoking too much.
Here are some simple ways that may help to get rid of paranoia\;
When cannabis kicks in and you start feeling paranoid, it’s not the best feeling in the world. If you want it to pass through quickly, it’s important to stay calm. Lay down and close your eyes, try counting if that’s what relaxes you. Take deep breaths and exhale slowly. And remember that it will wear off eventually.
Play relaxing music
While you are laying down in your bed trying to relax, play some smooth music to help you overcome your cannabis paranoia. Play your favourite song on your phone.
Make a pepper lemonade
Lemons have been used for sobering up from alcohol and it looks like this fruit can also help you if you get yourself too high. So when cannabis makes you paranoid, make lemonade… with pepper. Both lemons and pepper have terpenes, some of which diminish the psychoactive effects of THC.
To make pepper lemonade, take one big glass, squeeze one fresh lemon, add a pinch of pepper and lemon zest, some ice and a little bit of fresh mint if you like, and still or sparkling water. Drink it slowly and you should feel the paranoia creeping away.
Take a nice shower
Lukewarm or icy cold – find the right temperature which feels the most pleasant for you.
Take a walk
If you are feeling too high and paranoid, take a nice long walk outside. Some fresh air could be just the thing you need. Also, when you feel the breeze you’ll feel much better and relaxed. Take a few deep breaths of fresh air.
Eat and stay hydrated
Help your body to recover from cannabis paranoia by having a nice, healthy snack. Eat something that you really enjoy. You should also try some fresh fruits, cereals with some honey or a nice warm soup. Also, if you get paranoid from smoking cannabis, try to remember to stay hydrated all the time.