5 Ways to Avoid Freaking Out on Pot

Being too high is no fun. Getting stoned on weed is supposed to be a chill, relaxing thing, but even experienced cannabis consumers can get to the point where their dreamy buzz takes on some nightmarish aspect, whether it's couch-locked immobility, fear of impending overdose death (the Maureen Dowd syndrome), or just plain old panic and anxiety.


It's not hard to overindulge. A big honking hit of some demon dabs could get you much higher than you ever imagined possible on pot, especially if you're not used to it, or maybe you ate an edible, waited awhile, ate another one because you weren't getting off, then—blammo!—the combined effects hit you like a donkey-kick to the gut. Or maybe you were upset or worried about something before you got high, and you find yourself spiraling down into a cycle of paranoia and anxiety fueled by cannabis consciousness run amok.

Being overwhelmed by weed is not pleasant, but it's not the end of the world either. And there are some handy things you can do to avoid it in the first place and mitigate it if you do find yourself in over your head.

Be smart on dosing. The easiest way to avoid getting way too high is—duh—not consuming too much THC. A good rule of thumb for new users is only to consume about 10 milligrams of THC and waiting awhile to see how it affects you. If you're smoking or vaping it, you will know within a few minutes how high you're going to get; if you're using edibles, wait at least an hour and better yet, two, to judge whether you're sufficiently high.

So, what's 10 milligrams of THC? If you're using high-grade buds, they probably have a THC content of between 20% and 30%, so that means that one-gram bud you have in your hand contains between 200 and 300 mg of THC. For your test run, you don't want to smoke any more than a couple of tokes of that gram, then wait and see how you feel.

If you're doing dabs, beware! That's the cannabis equivalent of doing shots of Everclear. One gram of dabs is going to be 900 mg of THC or higher, so a single, restrained toke may be enough, or more than enough for a novice user.

And if you're doing edibles or concentrates, you are going to have to rely on dosing information on the packaging (if it's coming from a legal state). If a pot brownie is labeled as containing 100 mg of THC, you better start by just nibbling one-tenth of it.

Don't Panic! You're Not Going to Die. Okay, so you ignored the advice above and find yourself in a bad way. Your thought processes are funny, you feel like you can't breathe, you're frightened you're losing your mind or even your life. It happens, and it happens with increasingly frequency as new users make their way into the world of weed. Hospital ERs are reporting increased marijuana-related visits, what they are reporting is anxiety reactions and panic attacks, not overdoses—because you can't OD and die on weed. No one is losing their lives because they ingested too much pot, nor are they suffering systemic organ failures, or any other life-threatening issues.

So, if you do find yourself starting to freak out, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are just reacting to the drug, that it's not going to kill you, and that it is going to wear off in a little while. In a few hours, you're going to be back to normal. Maybe that can take the edge off the anxiety.

Drink plenty of water.  Water—it does a body good. Keep plenty of cold liquids on hand to ensure that you stay hydrated. This will also fight off the dreaded cotton mouth, and with your heightened cannabis consciousness, you can concentrate on the cool, soothing liquid sliding down your throat instead of picking at that nagging fear that you're going to die or get busted or get yelled at or whatever other terrifying notion is eating at you.

Fight back with black pepper! Say what? Yep, black pepper. Canadian rocker Neil Young is hip to this tip, advising shock jock Howard Stern, who said he hadn't touched weed in years because it makes him paranoid, to just "Try black pepper balls if you get paranoid. Just chew two or three pieces."

It's true. As cannabis researcher Ethan Russo reported in the British Journal of Pharmacology, both pot and pepper impact the body's endocannabinoid system, and peppercorns have a "phytocannabinoid-terpenoid effect," which is known to help with anxiety (as well as pain, depression, and addiction).

Combining the terpenoids in peppercorns with the THC in marijuana creates a synergistic effect on cannabinoid receptors in the brain, with the double-binding to the receptors creating a calming, anti-anxiety effect.

Fight back with CBD! If that big, bad THC is beating you up, consider hanging out with its more gentle-natured little sister. Cannabidiol (CBD) is highly-touted anxiety-fighting compound  that many patients find desirable not only for its medicinal effects,  but because it doesn't get them high. Keeping some low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil or edibles around can come in handy for fighting the pot jitters. It works by modulating the cannabinoid receptor signaling associated with THC, and if you're too high, modulated is the state you're seeking.

You can get too high for you own comfort on marijuana, but it's not going to kill you or seriously injure you, it's a temporary state, and you can take actions to make it go away without freaking out and showing up at a hospital with a "marijuana overdose emergency."

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