Marijuana is not completely understood, which is why some people have adverse reactions to the drug and others don’t.
People tend to have two reactions when it comes to using marijuana: they either find it very relaxing or they don’t. Those who belong to the latter group accuse the plant of causing them tons of paranoia and anxiety, making them feel like they are too “in their heads.”
Bad highs are almost like meltdowns, where your body’s reactions become stressful and scary. These episodes are temporary, but they still feel terrible and the only relief is either waiting them out or trying to sleep off the effects. Bad highs are a big reason why some people choose to avoid marijuana altogether.
These anecdotes leave cannabis in an interesting spot. The same plant can produce exact opposite effects in different people, all because of genetics, experience and predisposition to the drug.
Marijuana produces effects by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies, located in different areas, like our brain and skin. Cannabinoids, such as THC, bind to the receptors in the brain, causing either relaxing or stressful effects. Some of these receptors are located in spots governed by the amygdala, a section of tissue that’s responsible for managing emotions like fear, stress and paranoia.
THC is also known for increasing heart rates and producing an influx of thoughts — both behaviors that can cause anxiety for people that are naturally anxious or who haven’t experienced these feelings before.
Studies show that the positive and therapeutic effects of cannabis are due to the influence of cannabinoids on our endocannabinoid systems. These positive results appear even more markedly on patients that have experienced trauma and PTSD, who usually have low levels of chemicals like anandamide.
The most clear link between freak outs and cannabis occurs when people are new to the plant or they’ve had a negative experience with it — both of which create a predisposition towards certain behaviors. What people can do in order to prevent these reactions is to stick to low and manageable doses (avoiding oils and edibles since they’re harder to manage) and smoke somewhere that’s comfortable and private, surrounded by people they trust.
For newbies and people who’ve had bad experiences with weed but are willing to give it another shot, the type of weed you smoke, your location and companions are pivotal factors. Ask your budtender for a relaxing strain, something that’s focused on the body and not the brain. By trying to manage these factors you can try to curb freak outs and reintroduce yourself to fun experiences with cannabis.