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Why Does Weed Make Some People Paranoid?

And, perhaps more importantly, how do you make those feelings stop?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the unpleasant side effects of using cannabis is the feeling of paranoia or anxiety. While these feelings only impact a small percentage of users (and often comes as a result of consuming highly potent product), for anyone who has ever experienced them, the question remains: Why do I feel this way, and how do I make it stop?

Brian Caissie | Getty Images

It’s an issue intriguing enough to interest scientists. A typical study doesn’t have a very sexy title. An often-cited study from U.S. and European researchers is called “Multiple Mechanistically Distinct Modes of Endocannabinoid Mobilization at Central Amygdala Glutamatergic Synapses.” Still, they make for interesting reading and help explain why cannabis affects some people differently.

RELATED: This Is What to Do If You Get Too High


Why do some people get paranoid when they use cannabis?

It’s all about the firing of synapses in the brain, which is where the THC in cannabis makes its impact (and why it can offer relief from PTSD or possibly even slow the onset of dementia). It also interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a nerve-signaling system throughout the body that maintains physiological, emotional, and cognitive stability.

Compounds within cannabis, including THC, bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, including those in the brain. One of the areas in the brain where this binding occurs is the amygdala.

A lot goes on in the amygdala, which is considered a center in the brain for integrating emotions. It regulates your response to fearful and threatening stimuli, anxiety, and stress. It also helps regulate paranoia. The research mentioned above found that cannabis rich in THC may overstimulate receptors in the amygdala, causing excess feelings of fear, anxiety, and paranoia

People who use CBD products do not experience this issue because CBD does not bind to the endocannabinoid receptors in the same way as THC.

RELATED: Cannabis Use Associated With Increased Decision Making Skills


Reasons you might be more prone to feeling paranoia

Certain people feel paranoia and fear stronger than others while many may not have those feelings at all. Researchers have developed some theories as to why.

A 2019 study on animals found that those who experience the impact of cannabis on the front region of the brain experience positive effects such as reduced anxiety and relaxation. Those who experience the effects on the back portion of the brain are more prone to increased anxiety and fear. That leads researchers to believe that how people experience marijuana depends to a certain extent on genetics that governs what part of the brain cannabis impacts the most.

Other research shows the potency of marijuana plays a role. Those with higher concentrations of THC can cause feelings of paranoia in those more susceptible to those feelings. This study involved Delta-9 THC, not the less potent Delta-8 that is gaining in popularity.

Gender may also play a role, as higher estrogen levels have shown higher sensitivity to cannabis.

What you can do to reduce paranoia

The top tip for those who want to reduce the chance of feeling paranoid is to experiment with your own tolerance level. Experts (such as a good budtender) will likely recommend either a low-THC strain or small doses of a more potent strain.  

It’s also important to create a relaxing environment and do things you enjoy, such as listening to music or taking a warm bath. People who are still new to using cannabis may also benefit from having a trusted friend with them. 

Some also suggest trying a whiff of pepper, which contains terpenes that share some similarities to those found in cannabis. Deep breathing helps relax the body. Most people feeling anxiety and fear start to take very shallow breaths, often without realizing it.

Most importantly, if you experience paranoia, just stay calm. Try some of the ideas above. And keep in mind that the feeling eventually will pass.

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