Can Weed Cause Paranoia?
One of the many paradoxes of cannabis is its ability to exert both calming and excitatory effects. Medical marijuana is safely approved for the treatment of anxiety in some states, and its role in relieving stress and worry is already well documented. However, some users report that the drug is capable of stressing them out; sometimes to the point where they temporarily lose touch with reality. So, what is the deal about cannabis and paranoia?
What is Paranoia?
According to Mental Health America, ‘Paranoia involves intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy.’ Research also shows that about half the population experience mild forms of paranoia, although the more intense versions are mostly experienced by people suffering from psychotic disorders.
What does Research have to Say About Cannabis and Paranoia?
Like most other cannabis-related puzzles, there seems to be a dearth of studies examining the relationship between cannabis and paranoia. The Schedule I status of the drug means researchers have to negotiate numerous barriers before they can have access to the drug and before obtaining the necessary ethical approvals. Consequently, many researchers conclude that potential discovery not worth the stress. However, there are some works worthy of reference.
In a study of more than 7000 volunteers in England, it was discovered that cannabis users are three times more likely to think that people are trying to harm them when compared with the general population. The study also concluded that cannabis users are five times more likely to think that people are trying to cause them serious injury. This study postulates that there might be a strong link between cannabis use and paranoia. However, it does not present enough evidence to claim that cannabis can cause paranoia. It could be that people suffering from paranoia are more likely to indulge in cannabis use. Or it could be that an entirely different factor is responsible for the association between cannabis use and paranoia.
The 2014 Oxford Study
To investigate the association between cannabis use and paranoia, a large-scale study (the largest of its kind) was conducted at Oxford University in 2014. The study recruited researchers from the University of Manchester and the Institute of Psychiatry t King’s College. A total of 121 volunteers were used in the study. All the participants must have taken cannabis at least once in their lifetime, and all of them reported experiencing mild forms of paranoia in the past month, an experience that is typical of half the population.
The study group was invited into two; the test group and the control group. The test group was injected with 1.5mg THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The concentration injected is the average concentration found in a strong joint, and the intravenous route was chosen to eliminate variations in the rate and extent of absorption. The control group was injected with saline as a placebo.
The results showed that THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis caused paranoia. 50% of the volunteers injected with THC showed signs of paranoia, while only 30% of those injected with the placebo displayed the same signs. Asides paranoia, the test group also displayed significant alteration in sensory perception, lowered mood, and anxiety, among other psychological effects. The respondents also experienced a decrease in short-term memory.
How does Medical Cannabis Cause Paranoia?
Asides providing conclusive evidence that cannabis causes paranoia, the research provides an insight as to why cannabis causes paranoia. It appears that cannabis, in itself, does not alter the brain to induce paranoid thoughts. Rather, the resultant paranoia is a result of the altered sensory perception and other psychological effects caused by cannabis.
People using cannabis are bound to experience heightened levels of anxiety, worry, negative emotions, etc. They also have an altered sensory perception; sounds may be louder than usual, colors and textures may be brighter than normal, and even taste may be changed. In a bid to rationalize these experiences, the world around may appear different and hostile and paranoia sets in.
As the concentration of THC in the test subjects’ bloodstream reduced, the distrust for the world around also reduced. This further confirmed that THC injected is responsible for the observations.
Can Marijuana Worsen Paranoia?
Since we now have a better understanding of how marijuana causes paranoia, it’s much easier to conclude that weed can worsen paranoia. Individuals that are prone to paranoia would have triggered, such as anxiety, worry, negative mood, etc. When they get high, these triggers would be worsened, and consequently, the experience of paranoia could be heightened.
For individuals that enjoy being ‘high,’ however, marijuana could be the key to alleviating paranoia. This is because they would feel even more relaxed when they are high, and the triggers would be completely absent.
How do you Handle Marijuana-induced Paranoia?
If you have a medical marijuana prescription for an approved condition, there is a high chance you may experience paranoia at some point. The first thing is to note that there is a dose-dependent relationship between weed and paranoia. The more marijuana you take, the higher the chance that you may feel paranoid. The best way to avoid weed paranoia is to take small doses of the drug. While trying to determine a suitable dose for your condition, the golden rule is to start low and go slow. Once you get the dose that elicits the desired effects, there is no need to go higher.
If you are hit by marijuana-induced paranoia, here are some tips to help you overcome it.
- Try as much as you can to relax, safe in the knowledge that there is next to zero possibility of dying from a marijuana overdose.
- Drink some lemon tea and crush some peppercorns. The terpenes in pepper could have soothing effects.
- Try getting some sleep. Everything feels better after a good nap.
- If you’re still not feeling good, you should try taking some CBD. CBD counteracts the effect of THC.
Preventing Marijuana-induced Paranoia
Prevention is always better than cure. Abiding by how to and how not to smoke CBD flower is one way to lessen the risk. Asides reducing the dose of medical marijuana you’re taking, you should also pay attention to the strain. THC is the psychoactive compound in medical cannabis. It follows that the low THC strains have a lower chance of causing paranoia. Your general state of mind also affects your chances of developing paranoia. Try getting yourself in a relaxed mood before using medical marijuana and avoid other stressors. Vaping is also known to cause short-lived psychoactive effects when compared with eating edibles. You are at a lesser risk of marijuana-induced paranoia if you vape cannabis.
Even if you try all these and you’re still not getting the right results, CBD-only strains might be the best for you. However, you should talk to your doctor before making that decision. Many of the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana involved the synergy of both CBD and THC. Completely removing one of the compounds may not produce the desired effect.
It is safe to say that all cannabis users are at greater risk of developing paranoid thoughts, although it is equally important to note that cannabis doesn’t trigger paranoia in everyone. All drugs have their side effects, and it doesn’t mean every individual that takes a drug would experience the side effects. Paranoia is one of the side effects of cannabis, and it is not enough reason to deny yourself the amazing therapeutic benefits of the drug. Read here for more about the side effects of smoking weed.