March 14, 2023 08:30 am ETEstimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
We’ve all been there. You take too many hits from a joint or too much of a potent edible, possibly not knowing your limits, and before you know it, an overwhelming sense of sickness creeps up on you.
While there have never been cases of life-threatening cannabis overdose or long-term harm associated with the plant alone, this unsettling feeling is commonly called “greening out.” The term is similar to “blacking out” with too much alcohol, except too much cannabis is consumed.
Despite being an unfortunately common side effect of overdoing it, you can avoid it with a few simple steps and some awareness. Read on for our in-depth guide that demystifies this phenomenon—from defining what “greening out” means in the first place to offering helpful strategies for getting through this challenging (but ultimately minor) blip in your cannabis journey.
What Is Greening Out?
Greening out describes the unpleasant feeling caused by the adverse effects of too much cannabis consumption. Since everyone’s endocannabinoid system is unique, greening out can be hard to predict.
Unfortunately, overindulging in unsuspectingly potent cannabis is a common experience for many cannabis consumers. Overall, greening out is just another reminder that, as with most activities in life, boundaries still exist…and moderation can often save the day.
What Does It Feel Like?
Greening out from cannabis can be a bit of a buzz kill—literally. While it is generally much less severe than alcohol-induced blackouts, greening out from cannabis can still cause some real damage to your well-being. In short, if you overdo it, you could find yourself green in the face and wishing you hadn’t indulged so much.
A green out can happen regardless of how you consume cannabis, whether smoked, ingested as an edible, vaped, or taken in tincture form. Ultimately, it comes down to how much THC the user consumes and their tolerance to cannabis, as well as their previous experience with it.
Compared to eating cannabis, smoking results in faster absorption of THC, resulting in a quicker green out. Nevertheless, ingested cannabis can cause prolonged symptoms of green out because cannabis that travels the length of the digestive tract stays in the bloodstream for a longer period of time.
There are several hallmark symptoms of green out, including:
Anxiety and paranoia
Heaviness or immobility of the limbs
Increased heart rate
Lack of focus or dizziness
Sweating or chills
As with the effects of a regular cannabis high, symptoms vary in intensity and can last from a few minutes to several hours. You should be able to recover without getting medical attention if cannabis is the only substance you used. However, if you’re feeling particularly “off” after combining cannabis with drinking or other illicit substances—also called crossfading—it may be a good idea to seek medical assistance. Luckily, these feelings usually subside without medical intervention after several hours. However, always start low and slow to avoid a lousy cannabis trip.
What Are Some Ways to Prevent Greening Out?
An unwanted green out may be more likely to happen to new cannabis users or consumers who don’t use cannabis often. Cannabis consumers may also experience this if they lack proper sleep, nutrition, or hydration and when consuming specific cannabis preparations, especially edibles or dabs, containing high concentrations of THC.
Green outs are more common among some individuals than others because marijuana affects people differently. In general, marijuana users who have previously consumed cannabis know how much is too much for them, so they tend to avoid consuming more than they can handle.
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If you’re someone who needs only a tiny amount of cannabis to enjoy its effects, take it easy when using by microdosing to make sure you know what you can handle.
Like alcohol, cannabis can have a more substantial effect if consumed on an empty stomach. A green out can also occur if edible doses are not carefully measured or when taking cannabis along with alcohol or prescription drugs.
What Can I Do to Minimize the Impact of a Green Out?
In the event that you are caught in the midst of a green out, you can take a few steps to manage symptoms.
Find a comfortable place to ride out the episode, stay hydrated, and stabilize blood sugar levels with a small snack like fruit or fruit juices. Additionally, it is helpful to breathe deeply and listen to music or watch a TV show to distract yourself. Try to create an environment where you can relax while you wait for things to settle down.
According to 2013 research published in Frontiers Psychiatry, CBD oil may be able to reduce the anxiety and paranoia associated with excessive cannabis ingestion, besides providing other well-documented health benefits. There is also evidence that terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene (primarily produced in black peppercorns) and limonene (naturally present in lemons) may help reduce over-stimulating psychoactive symptoms.
Beta-caryophyllene reduces anxiety symptoms by blocking THC’s ability to bind to CB1 receptors in the brain. Limonene also demonstrated anti-anxiety effects in animal models in a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013. Thus, chewing lemon rind or black pepper may be beneficial in reducing green out symptoms.
Want more tips for recovering from an uncomfortable cannabis high? Check out these articles:
Don’t worry–a green out doesn’t last forever. However, the length of your green out depends on a lot of factors, from the size of your dose to the pace of your metabolism. While some people come down in as little as 30-60 minutes, others’ green outs can last several hours. Still, some people may feel hazy effects for up to two days after greening out.
In a Nutshell
Greening out from consuming too much cannabis is thankfully not a long-lasting experience, though it can be pretty unpleasant while it lasts. The best way to avoid a green out altogether is by starting with small doses and working your way up until you find the perfect amount to get you where you need to be.
However, if you end up experiencing a green out, don’t worry—it’ll subside within a few hours, and you’ll be back to normal in no time. Just make sure to have some snacks on hand for when the effects subside.
Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.
Lemetria Whitehurst is a cannabis nurse educator and writer specializing in cannabis science and culture. Her career in the medical industry spans more than two decades where she began her career as a pharmacy technician before becoming a registered nurse. As an avid reader
and researcher, she is passionate about educating others about cannabis’ medicinal properties.
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