Are you even a real stoner if you've never had to battle your way through some vicious weed-infused anxiety and paranoia? If you've never been there yourself, chances are, you've seen one of your homies trip out after smoking a joint or eating an edible that seems to be affecting only them. The reasons for this are varied, and the explanation for why the same strains of weed or the same batch of edibles can affect two people so differently is well...complicated.
It turns out there are a few different factors that determine how we feel after we smoke - whether that's laughing at everything around you or being paralyzed with anxiety and paranoia.
But before we get too far into it, let's have a little refresher on how cannabis even gets us high in the first place.
HOW WEED WORKS IN OUR BODY
When we inhale cannabis smoke or vapor, the THC and other cannabinoids found in weed flood our respiratory system and quickly make their way into our brain, where it is absorbed by the endocannabinoid system. It turns out, our bodies are already designed to absorb and use the cannabinoids found in weed via our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS takes in the cannabinoids, breaks them down and that gives us the different sensations of being high: relaxation, chill state of mind, wandering thoughts, euphoria, and unfortunately, the random bursts of anxiety and/or paranoia.
This brings us to the question of why some of us get high and feel happy and why others get high and start freaking out. Experts believe that we experience weed-induced paranoia when we overstimulate our endocannabinoid system, but it turns out there are quite a few factors at play. It's important to remember that cannabis is a psychoactive, mind-altering substance; and with that there are inherent risk factors associated to its use. Weed,, like nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and some pain medications change the way our bodies function and depending on the state your body is in, your experience may vary.
FACTOR #1: GENETIC CODING
The first and most obvious factor that can ultimately affect how well your body metabolizes cannabis is your genetic make-up. Your genetic make-up is, well, the various characteristics that define you! Just like how we can be coded be tall or have blonde hair and green eyes, some of us can also be genetically coded to process THC and other cannabinoids much more efficiently than other. This is at least part of the reason why people experience such radically different highs from the same cannabis product. Do you have any homies who just straight-up do not mess with bud?
These are the types of people that would generally find themselves feeling paranoid or anxious, start trippin', of thinking they're going to die. More than likely, however, their body simply isn't genetically coded to handle cannabis in a way that is beneficial (or fun) for them.
FACTOR #2: CONSUMPTION LEVELS
How much and how often you consume cannabis plays a key role in how you feel afterwards. Earlier, we mentioned that we get high when THC binds to our endocannabinoid system receptors. Many of these receptors are found in the amygdala, the part of our brain that controls our response of fear-based emotions like stress, anxiety, and paranoia. When we take too much, too fast, we can overwhelm and overstimulate our amygdala and accidentally trigger a fear-based response like paranoia or an anxiety attack. What makes matters worse is that is almost impossible to figure out how much THC you're actually consuming unless you have done so on a regular basis. In other words: how would you know you've taken too much until you realize you've taken too much?
FACTOR #3: CANNABIS CONSUMPTION METHOD
Another important factor that will have a huge impact on how you feel is what kind of cannabis you are consuming. Are you smoking it? Eating it? Rubbing it on your skin? And if you're inhaling it, is it a vape cartridge? Is it a THC diamond that you are dabbing onto a red-hot nail after torching it for 15 minutes? How you take that cannabis and what the actual, finished product consists of can mean the world of a difference in how you'd feel once that high sets in.
We don't about you but when it's one of those days where we're testing new Weedsy products, edibles don't agree with me and I don't agree with edibles. If I eat even half a dose - that's 5MG of THC, I turn into a vegetable and just laze on the couch. I'm totally unreachable through normal ways of communication and you ultimately need to treat me like a small child. Our regional sales director on the other hand can eat 1000MG worth of THC gummies and do so every night to help him avoid the dreaded insomnia.
FACTOR #4: strain classification still means something
Another important factor that plays a large role in how the overall experience cannabis gives you is the type of weed you are consuming. You can classify into one of three categories: indica, sativa, and hybrid. Indica strains tend to have a more sedative effect and are what many people use to relax or to sleep. Sativa strains, on the other hand, possess a more uplifting and heady high. The intense stimulation can sometimes cause people to experience feelings of anxiety or worse, a panic attack.
Hybrid strains are created by cross breeding indica and sativa strains and are especially popular for a combination of those effects. As hybrids continue to dominate the market, botanists, growers, farmers, and strain connoisseurs alike have created a category of super strains that boast insanely highly THC levels. These super strong strains sound great, but the reality is that they can contibute to over indulging or greening out, which can overwhelm your ECS and gives you intense bouts of paranoia.
FACTOR #5: WHAT YOU'VE EATEN
Let's talk about edibles. A lot of people may not know that cannabis is lipophilic, or fat-soluble. This means that when THC mixes with fats from other foods you've eaten, your body can metabolize and absorb more THC than it could without said fat. Basically, what this means is that if you eat an edible after eating and burger and fries, you're more than likely to experience a more-intense high than you would if you skipped the meal. This is also the reason that most edibles are made by infusing oil or butter, both of which contain fats to help your body absorb more of the THC. The additional absorption is why so many of us find that edibles get us higher; and with that, a higher likelihood of freaking out.
FACTOR #6: HOW ARE YOU FEELING, HOMIE?
The mood you're in when you smoke can also have a large impact on how you feel after. Depending on the type of weed you're smoking, your emotions can either become dulled or they can become over-active. So what this can look like is a scenario where a person who's already feeling stressed out or anxious smokes a blunt of a sativa-dominant strain by themselves to try and calm down. Instead, what's more likely is that the intense head high from the sativa they smoked, combined with how much they smoke, intensifies their emotions and pulls them deeper into anxiety. In this scenario, there are multiple factors contributing to the bad experience, as is always the case.
It's always important to remember that cannabis is a complex substance that has several benefits and important uses. But it's also a potent and psychoactive compound that should always be used responsibly. Remember with weed it's always best to "Start Low and Go Slow," whether you're dabbing, eating edibles, vaping, or smoking flower. Happy blazing, Weedsy fam!