Marijuana Anxiety? How to Stop a Panic Attack While High

Last Updated on May 24, 2022 by Mark Conklin, RN, MHA

How to stop a panic attack while high? Marijuana-induced anxiety can be frightening. But what if we told you there are ways to reduce your anxiety and lessen the severity of your panic attack while high?

Here, we will discuss why panic attacks happen, give you steps to remedy them quickly, and help you to prevent them in the future. If you’re having one now, you can jump right to the panic attack remedies.

Let’s start with the basics and learn what anxiety truly is.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the mind and body’s natural reaction to external stimuli and stress. Excessive amounts of anxiety may be accompanied by a constant sense of worry and distress, which can be debilitating.

Studies have shown that having an anxiety disorder can even increase paranoia, a side-effect that is also associated with marijuana use. Anxiety and paranoia tend to have reciprocal effects on each other – in other words, anxiety can cause paranoia, and paranoia can cause anxiety.

Since marijuana also contains properties that may cause paranoia-induced anxiety, it can add fuel to the existing condition’s fire.

Why Does Marijuana Make Me Anxious?

Anxiety, coupled with paranoia, can be a symptom of marijuana use because of how your brain’s receptors react. These receptors are part of a complex endocannabinoid system that affects many of your body’s processes.

Your endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a cell-signaling system within your body. Research suggests that it plays a role in regulating sleep, anxiety, depression, general mood, energy balance, memory, appetite, and even reproduction and fertility. 

The ECS creates its own endogenous molecules similar to the cannabinoids contained in marijuana – so it is a part of your system even if you don’t use cannabis.

The receptors in the ECS are found everywhere in your body. There are two main types: CB1 and CB2 receptors. Endocannabinoids bind to either receptor and the receptors’ location determines their effect on your body.

When you consume or smoke medical marijuana, the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is one of the main cannabinoids in cannabis (and the source of the “high”), binds to receptors just like endocannabinoids do. The THC attaches to CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout your body, which can help to reduce pain. 

However, the THC that binds to the receptors in your brain can lead to paranoia and anxiety. The amygdala, the part of your brain these receptors focus on, is responsible for processing emotions and controlling fear, stress, and anxiety. Introducing THC into your system tends to overexcite the neural pathways and lead to increased anxiety and paranoia.

So while you can actually treat anxiety disorders with medical marijuana, it is generally having too much THC that causes some to have a panic attack.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks From Marijuana

Panic attacks are not generally life-threatening, though they may seem to be while you’re having one (of course, if you are unsure if it’s what it is, always consult a doctor). 

People experience panic attacks when they suddenly have an overwhelming level of anxiety, which, in marijuana use, can be attributed to the increase in paranoia. Having a pre-existing anxiety disorder can increase the likelihood of having a panic attack if not appropriately managed by a medical marijuana doctor.

The symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • Rapid heart rate or arrhythmias
  • Dry mouth
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Dizziness and weakness
  • Sweating or chills
  • Chest pain (sometimes confused with a heart attack)
  • Nausea
  • Intense worry

How To Stop A Panic Attack While High

If you’ve never had a panic attack, it can be incredibly scary. It’s highly recommended to visit a doctor as soon as possible if it is your first one, as you should be sure to rule out any other major health events, like a heart attack or stroke.

If you’re prone to panic attacks and have experience with their symptoms, you may find these remedies can quickly ease your attack while high:

  • Remember your last panic attacks. Reassure yourself that they aren’t harmful, you are fine, and you will get through it. Accepting what is happening and understanding the symptoms you’re feeling are only related to a temporary surge in anxiety can help calm you.
  • Breathe deeply. This may seem like a given, but many people forget to stop and think about taking breaths. Breathing quickly with short breaths can increase tension. Try to breathe from your stomach, rather than your chest, and fill your lungs with long, slow breaths.
  • Inhale lavender. Lavender has been long-believed to relieve anxiety and give you a sense of serene calmness. While once believed to be folk medicine, new research suggests that one compound in lavender, linalool, actually lessens anxiety by passing signals to the brain.
  • Take CBD. This is the non-psychotropic compound found in cannabis, and it’s known to counteract some of THC’s effects.
  • Relax your body. When you have a panic attack, you may not realize how tense you are. Focus on one part of your body at a time, starting with your feet. Consciously think about relaxing your feet. Then move up to your calves and do the same, and continue moving up, releasing your muscles, until you’ve reached your shoulders.
  • Distract yourself. The trigger of a panic attack is truly in your head, and you should think of something other than what’s happening. Try opening a game on your phone to play, especially one that makes you think.
  • Turn on soothing music. Alleviate the stress happening in your body by turning on something quiet, slow, and relaxing. When your mind listens to something with a slower tempo, it tends to calm. Try this playlist on Spotify.

How to Prevent Future Panic Attacks While High

Marijuana affects everyone differently. Most will never experience a panic attack while using marijuana. 

For those that have had marijuana anxiety and wish to prevent panic attacks in the future, here are a few steps you can take to make sure you get the full benefit of your medicinal choice without any of the undesirable effects: 

  1. Check your dosage. Marijuana anxiety and panic attacks while high are often induced by having too much THC. The biphasic effect of cannabinoids suggests that having just enough and having too much can mean the difference between euphoria and panic.

If you ingest it, remember that your liver turns it into 11-Hydroxy-THC, an active metabolite that is more psychoactive and longer-lasting than smoking. Always wait two hours between edible doses to know the effect and make sure you don’t consume too much.

  1. Keep CBD around. Again, the counteractive effects on THC make this something to keep handy. Be sure you’re getting a good quality CBD oil from a reputable source.
  2. Take low paranoia strains. Some strains of marijuana offer a more relaxing high and less of the anxiety and paranoia. These include ACDC, Jack Herer, Canna-Tsu, Jillybean, and Remedy.

Most importantly, always consult with your marijuana physician. Doctors who specialize in medical marijuana help patients to battle anxiety every day, and possess a great deal of knowledge and experience in its effects.

Medicinal marijuana is an excellent treatment option for anxiety when taken in the proper, doctor-recommended dosage. Always be sure to follow the plan advised to you by an experienced medical marijuana physician.

THC physicians are here to help people in New York and Florida receive the medical treatment they need. If you have any questions about getting a marijuana card, please browse our how-to page for more information or contact us if there is anything we can answer for you!

Howard Seth Meiselman, DO

Medically reviewed by Howard Seth Meiselman, DO — Written by Mark Conklin 

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Mark Conklin, RN, MHA

Mark Conklin is the founder and CEO of Tierra Healthcare Concepts and is also part of the medical team. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field working at the executive management level and as a medical professional. Education RN, BS Biology, and Master of Health Administration course curriculum.

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