August 9, 2023 08:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 11 Minutes
Have you ever consumed cannabis and gotten a little too high for your liking? Have you ever needed to calm down a friend who consumed too much for their tolerance level? If so, we’ve got you covered. Although an overdose (taking more than what is medically recommended) of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) isnot lethal and probably won’t require medical attention, it can lead to severe intoxicating effects and discomfort—particularly if the person affected is new to the cannabis plant or not a regular consumer. Knowing the ins-and-outs of counteracting THC effects is a helpful tool in optimizing your cannabis consumption.
Although no life-threatening cannabis overdoses or lasting harm from the plant itself have been reported, the sensation known as “greening out” can occur. Similar to alcohol-induced “blacking out,” it arises when an excessive amount of cannabis is consumed.
While some sources claim that eating high-carb foods or drinking water may help a person come down from greening out, there haven’t been any in-depth studies proving either. The truth is that just like cannabis use affects everyone differently, what works to counteract cannabis’ psychoactive effects is different for everyone.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some general consumption limits for different cannabis products, signs of overconsumption, and some tips for coming down from your high fast if you overconsume.
Counteracting THC Effects: How Long Does Greening Out Last?
For most people, counteracting THC means simply waiting it out. But how long does it take our bodies to stop feeling high? This question’s answer really depends on the method you used to consume your cannabis, althoughresearchers have discovered that a THC high generally lasts between 3 and 10 hours.
If you smoke or vape, the effects come on pretty quickly—within minutes—and are known to last anywhere from 1-3 hours on average. If you ate a cannabis edible, however, and find yourself on a wild ride 3 hours in, you are likely just at your peak and may have another 3-5 hours of effects before they dwindle (typically around 6-10 hours post-consumption depending on the amount). Individual biological factors like age, metabolism, sex at birth, weight, fat and water distribution, medications, recent diet, andtolerance all play a role in how long a THC high lasts.
A typical THC high will produce feelings of euphoria, introspection, relaxation, and often hunger. While a high will often feel strong and sense-altering, some consumers find themselves feeling scared, overwhelmed, or physically ill if they consume too much THC. Uncomfortable or mentally taxing effects—even if they’re short-term—are often signs of overconsumption and can include:
Fast heart rate
Increased blood pressure
If you want to learn more about the various factors that go into how long a cannabis high lasts, check outthis article.
Know Your Limits Before Consumption
As with anything you consume, it is important to know your limits before you dive in! Just like you need to know your drinking limits before consuming alcohol at the bar or how much pie you should be eating before heading to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, it’s important to have a clear idea of how much cannabis you can handle to help you avoid overconsumption and unpleasant impairment.
When it comes to inhalation, or smoking cannabis flower, a couple of puffs is a good start. If you don’t experience unwanted effects from this amount of cannabis consumption, you can work your way up from there. Most consumers who are new or first-time cannabis users can tolerate a few hits and, after consuming more regularly, are able to smoke a bowl or joint without the fear of overconsuming.
Consumingcannabis concentrates requires a bit more caution, as concentrates hold much higher amounts of THC than flower. As a concentrate newbie, look for products with low THC content (less than 70%). When using a vape pen, one of the mildest concentrate products, start with a puff and work your way up.Dab rigs or pens, on the other hand, produce a much more intense high and should be approached more carefully. When using a dab rig, start with the smallest amount of wax your dab tool will hold and allow your body time to process it (5-15 minutes) before continuing.
While edibles are the easiest of the cannabis products to consume, many new to cannabis worry about taking them due to their stronger and longer-lasting effects. Edibles tend to create very powerful highs because the THC within them is converted by our bodies to11-hydroxy-THC—a chemical thought to be 2-4 times more potent than THC—during digestion. It’s also very easy to overconsume edibles due to their slow-onset effects. To avoid this, start with a 10-milligram dose and wait a full 2 hours for your body to process it before consuming any more.
Different Ways for Counteracting THC Effects
Now that you understand what a typical high looks like and the importance of knowing your tolerance before consumption, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways you can counteract the effects of THC and sober up. Nothing will be quite as effective as simply waiting for the THC to run its course, but there are many things you can do to calm the nerves and discomfort that come with overconsumption.
First and foremost, it’s important to take a deep breath and perform some mental techniques to prevent yourself from freaking out—natural cannabis is not harmful to the human body, and most of what you’re experiencing is in your head. It’s also a good idea to keep some CBD on hand, as this non-intoxicating cannabinoid can actuallydiminish the negative psychological effects of THC. Finally, some basic self-care like hydrating, eating, and showering can make a world of difference.
Here are 12 common methods cannabis consumers everywhere use to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC in the event of overconsumption:
1. Try to Relax
Don’t panic—it’s organic! Cannabis is an all-natural substance that carries absolutelyno risk of fatality unless an absolutely colossal amount is consumed in a very short period of time (we’re talkingclose to a hundred thousand milligrams of THC). Still, this is less likely than salt or sugar killing you in a smaller amount. That being said, anxiety and paranoia caused by THC can feel very real and scary. Try some relaxation practices such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises to relax and remind yourself that you’re safe.
2. Focus on Something Else
Maybe yoga isn’t your thing, and that’s okay—any kind of recreational activity that takes your mind off of your current experience will do. For some, this might be painting, playing video games, or reading. For others, it might be sitting outside in nature or scrolling through memes. As long as you’re not driving or using dangerous tools and machinery, doing something you love is an effective and easy way to soothe your mind and make the high go by faster.
3. Drink Water to Hydrate
While there’s no scientific evidence that hydrating reduces the effects of THC, it’s never a bad idea to drink a glass of water. It is generally known that drinking more water increases our metabolism and can help flush toxins from our system. Our bodies are primarily made up of water, and hydrating will help with the undesirable dry eyes and dry mouth that can come with THC ingestion. Be careful not to drink too much water, though. It is also essential to reach for non-alcoholic beverages while you’re high, as increased blood alcohol content (BAC) has been shown to actually increase THC levels andenhance the effects of THC.
4. Eat a Snack
Many internet sources reference eating high-carb foods in order to weaken the effects of THC, but no evidence exists to support this. However, eating a snack like nuts, crackers, or a sandwich will raise your blood sugar levels and help you feel more level-headed. Avoid consuming any snacks that contain caffeine or sugar, as these are both known to amplify the unpleasant side effects of THC and contribute to negative bodily symptoms like anxiety, increased heart rate, and vomiting.
5. Try Black Pepper or Black Peppercorns
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it! Black pepper containsterpenes—aromatic compounds found in cannabis and other plants—that can balance out the effects of THC. Specifically, pepper is full of the terpenespinene and beta-caryophyllene, which work tocalm the anxiety caused by THC’s psychoactive properties. Simply chew on or breathe in the aroma of whole peppercorns or ground pepper to experience instant sedating effects.
6. Take a Shower
Have you ever woken up so tired that you had to splash yourself in the face with cold water to snap out of it? The same principle applies to taking a cold shower, which will take your attention away from the intoxicating feelings. Conversely, a warm bath can help relax your body and mind. Although taking a shower won’t reduce the amount of THC in your blood, it will definitely divert your senses away from the THC’s effects and help clear your head.
7. Go for a Walk
Who doesn’t love a good walk? As long as the weather is decent, a short walk can be very enjoyable and therapeutic. While a walk won’t necessarily have any effect on your high, it’s an easily accessible way to soothe your nerves, get some fresh air, stretch your legs, and adjust your mindset. After all, movement is medicine.
8. Talk to a Friend
Another great way to keep your mind off of things is to chat with loved ones. Being alone can amplify the feelings of paranoia that often arise with overconsumption, so give a trusted friend or family member a call. They’ll be able to give you some much-needed reassurance, and chances are you’ll both be giggling about the incident together years down the road.
9. Utilize CBD Products
You might be wondering how ingesting more cannabis could possibly counteract the effects of cannabis. What many don’t know is thatcannabidiol (CBD) has very different properties and interacts with different receptors than its cousin THC, so it holds the potential to balance out some of THC’s effects. When CBD and THC are ingested together,they work synergistically within our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems to reduce feelings of anxiety and fear that some users experience from THC alone. Simply take some CBD oil, capsules, or gummies and give your system time to settle.
10. Drink Some Caffeine
You’re not crazy—in tip #4 we direct you away from consuming caffeine during a bad high. That’s becauseresearch on combining cannabis and caffeine is still limited, and the practice has been found to enhance highs for some while reducing them for others. While caffeine intake shouldn’t be your first step in battling a heavy high, its stimulating properties are a good option if you find yourself fatigued from the THC and in need of an energy boost. Just make sure to start with small amounts.
11. Take Ibuprofen
Astudy published in the journal Cell suggests that common anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen have the ability to suppress the negative effects of cannabis on cognition as well as counteract the effects of THC. When taken as directed on the packaging, ibuprofen is safe for most people. If other techniques aren’t working to lessen your high, try a small dose of this pain-relieving drug.
If all else fails, take a nap! We mentioned earlier that time is the only guaranteed way to end your high, so sleeping will allow you to pass the time without experiencing your high full force. Research has found that thecannabinoids in cannabis help promote sleep, so you’ll likely have no problem hitting the hay in the middle of your high. Sleep will also help reset your system and leave you feeling better all around when you wake up. For an extra dose of relaxation, open your window and turn on the fan to promote fresh air in the room.
Final Takeaway on Counteracting THC Effects
As you can see, there are many different ways that cannabis consumers can counteract the effects of overconsuming THC. What works effectively will be different for everyone, so some experimentation will help you nail down the best method. The #1 way to counteract the negative effects of THC, however, is to know your limits and avoid consuming too much in the first place.
What are your methods for bringing yourself back to Earth during an overwhelming THC high? Let us know in the comments!
This blog post was originally written by Kat Helgeson and published on 10/21/19. Updated 08/08/23.
Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur, and activist that fights to end prohibition globally for a better future for all. Ashley has a passion for sharing education pertaining to the goddess plant known as cannabis. She believes that a single seed can tip the scales and that together through education we can end the stigma that is preventing cannabis from flowering to its full potential globally.
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