Marijuana and panic attacks sometimes go hand-in-hand, where consumption of cannabis leads to anxiety or panic. Whether or not smoking marijuana will lead to a panic attack or intense anxiety all depends on the strain of cannabis, your dose, your current state of mental health, and how high the levels of THC are in what you’re consuming.
The higher the THC levels and the higher the dose, the more likely a panic attack will occur. When it comes to strain, it’s typically the amygdala-stimulating sativa strains that tend to cause more anxiety and panic.
If you’ve experienced issues with marijuana and panic attacks, you may want to switch to CBD oil, which contains very small, trace amounts of THC and tends to have a more calming effect. It’s also possible that switching to a different strain of cannabis will do the trick; perhaps a strain that is not sativa.
Those who already suffer with anxiety or panic disorder should certainly be seriously considering using CBD oil instead of marijuana.
Anxious people are typically already very sensitive to their bodily sensations, and marijuana (especially strains high in THC) can amplify everything and overstimulate their amygdala. Marijuana consumption could cause a racing heart, shallow breathing, paranoia, overstimulated thoughts, and more anxiety symptoms that could even cause a panic attack to occur.
The overstimulation from consuming the wrong strain of marijuana (or too high of a dose) could trigger your “flight-or-fight” response, which is triggered by the brain’s hypothalamus when you detect a real or imagined threat. The flight-or-fight response can cause intense anxiety, a dysregulated nervous system, or a panic attack.
Signs You Might Be Having a Panic Attack
Few things can ‘kill’ your high more than a sense that you’re having (or are about to have) a panic attack. Severe anxiety and feelings of doom or dread can be very difficult to deal with.
Below are some signs you might be having a panic attack:
- Racing heartbeat
- Trouble breathing or shallow breathing
- Intense feelings of doom, dread, or fear that seemingly come out of nowhere
- Chest pain or tightness in the chest
- Tense or tight muscles
- Trembling or shaking
- Sweating or chills
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Dry mouth
- Sudden nausea
- Dissociation (feeling detached from your body)
Marijuana and Panic Attacks: How to Get Through a Panic Attack While You’re High
When you’re having a panic attack, especially when it comes to the link between marijuana and panic attacks, you’re likely not in any sort of real danger. However, that doesn’t change how uncomfortable and scary it feels to have intense anxiety or a panic attack. If you’re experiencing panic, you can regulate your nervous system by trying some of the following self-regulating or grounding exercises:
- Do some deep breathing exercises while staring at the flame of a candle or fireplace. Watching the flames can help regulate your nervous system, as can taking deep breaths and slowing down your heart rate. (Deep belly breathing can help a panic attack pass quickly.)
- Try grounding exercises such as looking around and naming out loud 5 things you can hear, 5 things you can see, 5 things you smell, and 5 things you can feel or touch. If you’re dissociating, this could help ground you.
- Call a supportive family member or friend. Explain that you’re experiencing anxiety or panic, and that you need to be reminded that you’re safe and that everything’s okay. A loved one can help talk you down.
- Take a warm shower or run your hands under warm water.
- Drink some lemon water and eat something.
- Play your favorite songs and sing along.
- Use a weighted blanket.
- Take a walk in nature. (Nature can help ground you, and exercise can help rid your body of anxious energy.)
- Remind yourself that this feeling of panic is only temporary, and it will pass.
- Calm yourself down by repeating a mantra out loud such as repeating “I am safe” over and over.
How to Best Consume Cannabis if You’re Prone to Anxiety or Panic
Below are some tips on the best ways to consume cannabis if you’re a person who is prone to feelings of anxiety or panic:
- Stick to low microdoses of cannabis. (A microdose of THC is much less likely to induce anxiety or panic. Try a microdose of 5mg, 3mg, or 2mg. Many edibles such as gummies only contain 5mg of THC or less per serving, such as Wunderkind Extracts Blueberry Kush Terpenes X Blueberry Cheesecake CBD / THC White Chocolate Edibles. These contain 25mg of CBD which is great for relaxation, and only 5mg of THC, which is considered a microdose. It’s even safer to consume half of one piece, which is only 2.5mg of THC.
- Try CBD instead of marijuana. CBD oil only contains a very small amount of THC. Furthermore, CBD has more calming and anxiety-reducing benefits compared to THC-heavy strains of marijuana.
- Try indica instead of sativa. Whether you’re purchasing CBD oil or marijuana, the strain matters. If you want to help prevent feelings of anxiety, you’re better off with indica, as sativa is the more stimulating strain that activates your mind.
Remember that just because you experienced a panic attack from marijuana consumption in the past, doesn’t mean it has to happen again. By lowering your dose, switching to a different strain, or trying CBD instead of marijuana, you can likely still consume cannabis without it causing panic.