How to Deal With Panic Attacks After Smoking Weed
A weed panic attack can be scary—especially when you experience one for the first time—but the most important thing to know is that it will eventually pass. If your heart starts racing and you start to feel dizzy, nauseated, or frightened, go somewhere you feel safe, breathe deeply, drink water, and ask a friend to accompany you until the panic attack passes.
Why Does Cannabis Cause Panic Attacks?
Weed-induced panic attacks are a well-established phenomenon, but why do they occur? There are several possible reasons why you might experience panic attacks when smoking weed:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that gets you “high” can heighten your senses and cause you to see and hear things that aren’t there. This experience—known as a hallucination—can be enough to cause you to hyperventilate and panic.
The effects of THC on the central nervous system can cause bodily sensations that are similar to those of a panic attack, including dry mouth, an elevated heart rate, racing thoughts, nausea, and dizziness. Experiencing these symptoms can be enough to bring on an actual panic attack.
When you smoke weed, you often experience intensified feelings compared to when you’re sober. If you’re already in an anxious mental state, consuming cannabis puts you at an increased risk of a panic attack.
If you’ve developed a tolerance for marijuana and started cutting back, panic attacks when you don’t consume marijuana could be among the withdrawal symptoms you experience.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, cannabis-induced anxiety disorder is listed as a mental illness. If you regularly suffer from panic attacks when smoking weed or when reducing your marijuana consumption, it’s important to seek help.
Who Is at the Greatest Risk of Weed Panic Attacks?
Marijuana panic attacks are more common when:
It’s your first time smoking weed
You consume large amounts of marijuana
You’ve been consuming marijuana long-term
You get panic attacks or have panic disorder
You smoke stimulating rather than sedative strains
A 2010 study published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology examined the association between marijuana consumption and panic psychopathology. The researchers found that there was an association between cannabis consumption and panic behaviors once they controlled for other factors.
However, as seen in the same study, the relationship between marijuana consumption and panic behaviors (both lifelong and in the past year) isn’t as clear or consistent as the relationship between panic attacks and smoking tobacco. Moreover, the severity of weed panic attacks may have been exacerbated by tobacco use or elevated ambient carbon dioxide.
Can You Die From a Weed Panic Attack?
When you’re in the middle of a weed panic attack and your heart is racing, it’s normal to feel like you’ll faint or die. However, the reality is that no one died from a weed-induced panic attack, and even if you call 9-1-1, the dispatcher will probably advise you to take a deep breath, drink some water, and ride it out.
It can help to know that marijuana-induced panic attacks typically last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes in total—so you don’t need to worry that you’ll be locked in the panic attack for hours. Once you’ve gotten through one panic attack, you’ll realize that it’s not life-threatening and will be able to relax a bit more if it ever happens again.
Important note: While a cannabis panic attack is generally benign, there are real risks to consuming marijuana in excessive amounts if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, or if you mix marijuana with alcohol, medications, or hard drugs. Never mix substances and always consult with a doctor before consuming marijuana if you have a heart condition or take medications.
How to Stop a Panic Attack After Smoking Weed
If you do find yourself going into a panic attack while or after you smoke marijuana, there are several things you can do:
Breathe slowly and deeply from the stomach.
Drink some water.
Tell yourself “I’m not going to die.”
Go for a walk to work off any excess energy.
Sit in a corner or quiet place where you feel safe.
Inhale lavender scents (unless you have recently taken benzodiazepine).
Ask a friend to keep you company until the panic attack passes.
Tips for Preventing Weed Panic Attacks
Once the attack passes and you come down from the high, it could be helpful to work out which strain and dosage brought on the attack and come up with strategies to prevent weed panic attacks in the future.
For many first-timers, a panic attack can be enough to put them off smoking marijuana for good, but if they simply cut back on the dose or changed strains, they could still have a long and enjoyable relationship with cannabis.
Strains to Try (and Avoid)
If a strong sativa strain caused a panic attack, try a strong indica strain next time. Indicas, or sedative strains, tend to produce a much more body-focused high that doesn’t send you spinning into panic attacks or paranoia.
If the strain that caused problems was especially high in THC, try a strain with a higher percentage of CBD. Cannabidiol (CBD) prevents THC from binding as tightly to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, reducing its central nervous system and mind-altering effects.
Other Strategies for Preventing Panic Attacks
Aside from the strain selection, these strategies could help:
Get regular exercise for improved physical and mental health.
Eat a healthy diet to keep your blood sugar balanced.
Consume lower doses of marijuana.
Address any specific problems or relationships in your life that produce anxiety.
Practice breathing exercises to help you gain more control over your central nervous system and “flight or fight” response.
When you’re feeling anxious, don’t consume alcohol, caffeine, or marijuana.
If you have general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues, seek medical advice before consuming cannabis as you may be at a higher risk of substance abuse.
See a Therapist to Deal with Anxiety Issues
If you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness but often turn to marijuana to calm feelings of stress or anxiety, it could be helpful to see a therapist to help you find other ways to deal with your emotions. As we’ve mentioned, smoking weed when you’re anxious is a recipe for a panic attack, and making a habit of smoking when you’re anxious or stressed could lead to psychological dependence.
When you see a professional, he or she can teach you tools like visualization, breathing techniques, mantras, and changes in thought patterns to help you deal with anxiety. The therapist can also give you tools to improve your interpersonal relationships (if these are sources of anxiety) and improve your mental health.
Marijuana Is There for Having a Good Time
Marijuana consumption can be a great addition to your lifestyle if you’re happy, healthy, and simply looking to boost your creativity, take the edge off physical discomfort, or drift off into a peaceful sleep. These benefits are easy to achieve with our top-notch Seattle pre-rolls, a hand-rolled joint, or a cannabis concentrate.
Once you’re calm, in a positive frame of mind, and in the company of family or friends, you can go ahead and smoke weed. As long as you choose a non-panic-attack-inducing strain and go “low and slow,” you should have a great time.