While most of us know that cannabis is not lethal, even in large quantities, that doesn’t mean that every experience is a pleasant and positive one. In fact many people, seasoned users and newbies alike, experience the discomfort of becoming too high, or what’s often referred to as greening out.
While your cannabis mantra, especially if you’re starting out, should be “start low, go slow,” sometimes an uncomfortable high happens. This is especially true in regard to edibles which tend to have a stronger effect, but take much longer to kick in than smoking or vaping cannabis. We spoke to Nick Pateras, vice president of strategy for Lift & Co., for additional information about why this high happens, how to prevent it and what to do if you find yourself in it.
The Dangers of Getting Too High
“It’s a popular adage that no one has ever died from consuming cannabis,” says Pateras. “However, overconsumption could result in overwhelming effects and more serious risks of THC consumption include increased heart rate or trigger tachycardia, which can be a real health concern.”
Although most people just experience some general discomfort when they get too high, in some cases there can be some real health concerns, namely in relation to your heart rate. “Cannabis potency and proper dosing is an important part of responsible consumption,” says Pateras, which is why easing into it and understanding your own limits is key whenever you choose to use.
Why Does Greening out Happen?
Getting too high can be the result of a few different things, but it usually has to do with potency (usually refers to the amount of THC) and quantity (how much you’re consuming). The reason why it’s difficult to determine dosing in cannabis is because we all have our own unique endocannabinoid system which interacts with the cannabinoids in cannabis and produces the effects we often feel when we use cannabis. THC and CBD are the most commonly referred to cannabinoids, but there are over 100 in cannabis and they all affect us in different ways.
What Does Getting Too High Feel like?
“The mental and
physical effects of cannabis can include enhanced sensory
experiences, relaxation and euphoria,” says Pateras.
“Over-consuming can intensify those feelings to a point where they
are no longer pleasant and that could cause confusion or anxiety, a
heightened heart rate or decreased blood pressure, dizziness or
nausea.” Anecdotally, most people feel nauseous, anxious, weak or
dizzy when they are “greening out.”
What to Do If You Get Too High
The only cure that
works for sure is time. Your cannabis high is going to last as long
as it’s going to last—but it will dissipate over time. The key is
finding ways to calm any anxious feelings or side effects in the
Try a positive distraction. “Unless a more serious health issue arises, some of the over-stimulating effects of cannabis can be countered by positive distraction—listen to music, play a video game, try something creative like drawing, read or watch a movie.”
Try keeping fed and hydrated. “Remember to stay calm, drink water, have a snack and be patient and wait,” says Pateras. Keeping hydrated and fed will make you feel better overall, will help metabolize the cannabis faster and will give you an opportunity to focus on very basic, but necessary, self-care.
Try a home remedy that others swear by. Some people swear by smelling or chewing black pepper (which has the terpene beta-coryophyelle which is said to calm) or suck on a lemon (which has the also-calming terpene limonene). You can also counteract some of the effects of THC with CBD, which also has calming properties.
Try to get your blood pumping. Increasing blood flow will help move the THC out of your system, so opt for a workout. This has the added benefit of releasing endorphins which can help reduce pain and anxiety.
Try to get some sleep. When I asked around for what people do when they feel too high, overwhelmingly the answer was sleep. Even a quick thirty-minute nap can help you deal with the effects of greening out—you may even miss them entirely.