Five Scientific Reasons Why Weed Gives You Paranoia

Lydia K. RN September 14, 2018 0 comments

They say ‘knowledge is power’ and if you can come to know why you get paranoid when you contact THC, then you can overcome it and make great use of this important medicine.

In a recent study by Oxford University, it was shown that as much as cannabis is known to relax you and reduce anxiety, taking high amounts of weed can lead to paranoia. This is not always understood by first time consumers and new patients; when they get stoned and sink into paranoia, they quickly rush to dial 911 in panic.


Firstly, paranoia means a state of being unrealistically afraid of impending danger. As one patient said, “Your fears get the better of you and you may find yourself curled up in fetal position afraid to even get out of your house.” When you are in a state of paranoia, you may viscerally feel that the police are coming to get you. NOW.  And this feeling of paranoia may come as a shock, but it is not totally uncommon.

Paranoid Guy in Bed at NIght

Image Credit: The Visuals You Need

How Cannabis Affects Your Brain

Cannabis contains plant-based cannabinoids that act on the body’s endocannabinoid system. The cannabinoids act on receptors to regulate a number of physiologic and cognitive processes in the body, such as: the perception of pain, appetite, mood, homeostasis, and memory among others. Some of these receptors are located in higher levels of the brain including the amygdala which controls the perception of emotions. Ideally, weed acting on this centre should have a chilling out effect, but this does not always happen. Let’s look at some of the reasons why weed may get you paranoid.

small person standing in front of a large brain

Image Credit: Orla

ONE: Your Brain on Weed

Just like with alcohol and drugs, brain tolerance to cannabis may vary from one individual to the other simply because we are all genetically unqiue. For newbies, a small amount may get you over the top, so it is advisable to go slow as you get comfortable with a dosage that works best for you. Other factors, such as genetics, method of ingestion and style of vaping will determine how much THC actually gets into your system at once.  When you start taking cannabis medicine, you should experience a relaxing effect, but as you get to higher dosages, you may experience a myriad of confusing symptoms. This is referred to as a biphasic response – where a therapeutic response takes the opposite tangent.

Cannabis joints rolled and ready to go

Image Credit: Roxana Gonzalez

TWO: High THC levels in your strain

Some cannabis consumers say indica gets them relaxed while sativa jacks them up and can lead to paranoia. It’s not as simple as this, however. What has the greatest impact on psychoactive intensity is the percentage of THC in the strain, but also the THC:CBD ratio AND the terpene content. Some studies have linked THC use to feelings of paranoia, especially in higher doses. To further complicate things, the amount of THC you get can vary depending on which buds were in your batch (top or bottom) as well as the curing process. Dosing can also be tricky for edibles – parts of the batch can be more potent than others.

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Confused Middle Aged Woman

Image Credit: Doglikehorse

THREE: Changes in Age

As you age, your brain and endocannabinoid system experiences significant changes. You may be smoking the same joint you used to smoke 10 years ago, but find that the effect it has on you is completely different. Tolerance increases with time, but beyond a certain age you may actually see a decline in your tolerance such that a lower dose may get you completely stoned. This works in a similar mechanism to how tolerance of drugs declines in old age. So, when your usual dose of cannabis throws you into paranoia, perhaps there are some changes in your metabolism and you need to taper down your intake.

Abandoned Living Room Run Down

Image Credit: Julie Marshall

FOUR: Setting

Needless to say, cannabis use is still illegal in many states, especially for recreational purposes. Perhaps you started smoking pot in your parents’ basement or in school dorms in hiding back in the day. So the fear of getting caught is always hovering around you every time you indulge. You always imagine SWAT bursting through the door or your parents walking in on you. If you have always experienced paranoia around similar settings, then this is why. All you need to do is getting rid of the fear of getting busted…and maybe change your setting. Take a walk in the forest, for example…work through the psychology of your past experiences.

Anxious woman

Image Credit: ESB Professional

FIVE: Pre-Existing Anxiety Affects Your Cannabis Experience

A review, conducted in 2009, revealed that chronic cannabis users experienced higher levels of anxiety than non frequent users. The researchers concluded that this could be as a result of pre existing anxiety that led to them seeking relief from cannabis. Also, anxiety and paranoia are dependent on factors such as gender, basal anxiety levels, personality and genetics. For chronic users, moderate consumption of cannabis may produce the desirable chilling out effect, but newbies may takes some time before the medicine has this effect on them. All the same, paranoia may be a pre-existing condition in most cannabis users and this feeling may be heightened when one gets too high on cannabis.

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So what can you do about it? Here are Five DIY Tips for Coming Down.




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Lydia K. RN

RN, Expert medical writer who is passionate about cannabis!

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