We all know that cannabis is being increasingly legalized in several states across the U.S. and is an attractive solution to treat a wide range of chronic ailments. Cannabis can work great to treat problems like anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, muscle spasms, or even recreationally to just relax and enjoy the high.
However, there is no standard dose when it comes to using cannabis and it can be challenging to know how much to consume. With decriminalization and increased access to cannabis, there’s bound to be some mishaps which lead to risks of overdoing it.
If you’ve been around cannabis long enough, you’ve surely experienced an “Ohh crap, I took too much” moment.
Everyone’s body and brain chemistry interacts differently with cannabis and tolerances can vary, not only by user, but by cannabis type as well. Too much consumption of cannabis or weed can increase your anxiety, cause rapid heart rate, make you feel paranoid, and freak you out to the point that you realize that you’re too high.
No matter how experienced you are as a user, this feeling can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable. Even the most experienced cannabis veterans over do it from time to time. If you’ve been around cannabis long enough, you’ve surely experienced an “Ohh crap, I took too much” moment.
Obviously, the best thing you can do is to avoid getting too high in the first place. However, it may already be too late or you’re doing your homework to be prepared in case there’s a next time. But first, let’s understand what an overdose is and how you can accidentally get too high.
What is a Cannabis Overdose?
Most people would probably associate an overdose with life-threatening emergencies and drug addiction. Fatal overdoses are often related to the misuse of hard drugs and opioid pain pills or serious negative reactions to medication.
Although there is no clear definition of what would be considered a cannabis overdose, in simple terms, it just means you took more than you can handle. While weed overdoses can be scary and extremely uncomfortable, they are not a matter of life and death.
How You Can Accidentally Get too High
There’s two main reasons why people accidentally get too high:
- Cause #1 – Low tolerance with concentrates: Firstly, if you are a first-time cannabis concentrates user, you can easily underestimate the potency. Vape oils, wax, dabs and other cannabis extracts are much stronger than regular flower. Also, your tolerance level will be considerably lower than a veteran consumer.
- Cause #2 – Ingesting too much & slow onset effect: Secondly, it is an easy mistake to overdo it when eating cannabis. Edible cannabis can be extremely potent and ingesting cannabis is known to have slow onset effects. Your body also processes cannabis differently when inhaled versus ingested. You may have a high tolerance for vaping cannabis, but not necessarily for ingesting it. Edible forms of cannabis like brownies, marijuana gummies, cookies, gummy bears, etc. can have a wide-range in potency from just a few milligrams of THC up to several hundred. Typically, it takes between 2-3 hours to feel the effects of an edible. Therefore, if you try to compensate for the time lag by having another edible, you may come to realize later that you’ve overdosed.
After an overdose of weed, how long you stay high depends on several factors like consumption method, dosage, and tolerance. Generally, the high lasts longer if the weed or THC potency is higher. Cannabis concentrates like wax and shatter for dabbing can have high concentrations of THC exceeding 80%+ while an edible could have as little as 5mg or exceed 500mg THC – that’s quite a difference – which can induce surprisingly strong effects.
The most significant relief here is that there is no chance of you dying from a marijuana overdose.
It is also apparent that an experienced user with a higher tolerance level will sober up much faster than a first-timer. A veteran smoker can also learn to better handle dealing with an intense high. Compared to other methods of consuming cannabis, the high from ingesting THC will last the longest (up to several hours). The high from smoking or vaping THC will come down much faster.
The most significant relief here is that there is no chance of you dying from a marijuana overdose. Unlike opioids and other pain meds which directly affect critical bodily functions, cannabis does not interact with the body in the same way. According to a summary published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while cannabis is not completely harmless, a cannabis overdose is not lethal.
“Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not present in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from cannabinoids and cannabis do not occur.”National Institutes of Health (NIH)
While overdosing on cannabis can lead to temporary heart palpitations and increased heart rate, racing thoughts, and make you feel overly nervous, the experience will pass with time. When compared to the risk factors of prescribed medications, cannabis is considered a lot safer.
Common Signs that You are too High
These are the most common side effects of an overdose on cannabis:
- Feeling paranoid and anxious are the most common indicators that you are too high.
- Weed can affect your blood sugar levels leading to feelings of weakness and temporary declines in cognitive ability or consciousness.
- Other signs include excessive sweating, panic attacks out of confusion, or sometimes hallucinations or delusions.
In addition to the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also shows very little concern regarding cannabis and fatal doses. However, cannabis is known to cause temporary negative side effects that can range in severity:
“A fatal overdose is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean marijuana is harmless. The signs of using too much marijuana are similar to the typical effects of using marijuana but more severe. These signs may include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting. In some cases, these reactions can lead to unintentional injury such as a motor vehicle crash, fall, or poisoning.”Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC)
How to Sober Up When You Get Too High
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re too high, there’s several methods you can try to get back to normal.
Here are just a few tips to sober up when you realize you’ve gone too far:
Prevention is the best policy
Although this advice might be too late and won’t help someone who’s already too high, it is worth keeping in mind for future reference. If you know your tolerance level or are still trying to figure it out, keep in mind it is always better to start slow and with smaller doses.
In case of an edible, you should always know the amount of THC in it ahead of time. Start off with a small piece and wait for a few hours (about 2-3 hours is usually fine) to see how you react before taking more. This way, you can enjoy the product at a safe rate and stop the moment you start to feel anything unpleasant.
If you’re smoking, vaping or dabbing, take a few minutes in between puffs and start off at low volt settings or vape temperatures. Quality vaporizers with precise temperature controls will allow you to fine-tune your experience.
Relax and calm down
One of the most common reactions to an overdose is freaking out and feeling stressed which quickly leads to panic. Therefore, it is advisable to sit down and breathe slowly and deeply. While this may seem like common sense, it is an easily overlooked technique. If you have experience with meditation, you know how powerful of an effect this can have on the mind and body.
As we have already established, you won’t die from getting too high. With this in mind, you should try to focus on relaxing, remind yourself that this is all in your head, and that this will pass with time. This feeling is only temporary and you’ll feel better in a few hours.
Lie down in a Safe Space
Try to find a peaceful and safe space and lie down for some time. It might seem challenging as you already feel uncomfortable and might be surrounded by a crowd or in a public place. However, chilling in a quieter area can help you relax.
Walking is another great distraction if you find a place outside or in nature where you can walk and put your mind at ease. Being with a close friend, loved one or someone familiar can help you stay on the right track and ease tensions.
Take some water and citrus fruits
Water can solve almost all non-serious medical issues such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, and is also helpful if you get too high. It improves your hydration and comforts you to ease up. You also can try citrus fruits to decrease the effects of cannabis.
Lemon contains beneficial compounds, like the terpene limonene, which is a known anxiolytic that induces a calming effect. A few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice in your water may help counteract some of the negative psychoactive effects of THC and bring you down a notch.
Have some Black Pepper
A simple household ingredient, like black pepper, is another easy option to reduce feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Black pepper contains reasonable amounts of beta-caryophyllene and myrcene, which are terpenes with sedative effects that can counteract THC. Just chew a few peppercorns and you may start to find some relief.
Take some CBD oil
CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is commonly taken to combat anxiety and stress. It can also be useful in counteracting the effects of THC by decreasing paranoia and balancing your buzz. Take one or two doses of CBD oil or any other CBD-based product to reduce the psychoactive effects. Sublingual CBD tinctures are easy to dispense and are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly for immediate effects.
Don’t let one bad experience hold you back from using cannabis. Anyone who’s experimented with cannabis long enough will have at least one story of overdoing it. As long as you use cannabis responsibly, you will maximize its benefits and enjoy it for years to come. Keeping track of your consumption levels, building a reasonable tolerance, and using the above tips can help you to continue having pleasant experiences with cannabis.