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Ask a Pharmacist: What Can You Do If You Consume Too Much Cannabis?

It’s entirely possible to get “too high” if you consume too much cannabis or more cannabis than you’re used to. The feeling can be unpleasant — you may feel anxious, uncomfortable, or “out of it.” What can you do if you feel this coming on? We asked an Ethos Cannabis pharmacist to find out.

What causes cannabis intoxication?

Before we dive into what to do if you’ve medicated too much, it’s important to understand how cannabis makes you “feel high” in the first place.

The phytocannabinoid that causes feelings of intoxication is delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC contained in cannabis varies depending on the product or cultivar in question. You may have heard to look out for high THC levels when visiting the dispensary, and while high THC being a better product is a myth, it’s still a common reason why some folks choose a certain cannabis product over another. In truth, the entourage effect is what shapes your cannabis experience. The entourage effect describes the fact that all phytocannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis work together to influence how you feel, making the overall compound profile of your chosen product way more important than THC amounts alone.

Still, you may find yourself trying concentrates for the first time, changing your regular cannabis consumption routine, or trying a new cultivar. If these products have more THC than you’re used to, a different phytocannabinoid and terpene profile than your regular go-to, or it’s simply been a while since you’ve consumed cannabis, you may end up feeling like you’ve consumed too much.

What does it feel like to be “too high?”

The first thing to recognize is that when you get too high there is typically no need to worry or panic, nor is there typically a need to seek medical attention. Understandably, you may feel anxious, but that’s often an indirect result of the effects of cannabis intoxication, which may cause:

  • Impaired attention
  • Concentration
  • Short term memory loss
  • Time distortion
  • Postural hypertension (light-headed blood pressure drop when standing)
  • Delirium
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate

What makes things more challenging is how these feelings may compound when you’ve consumed too much cannabis. Anxiety may cause physical symptoms that play into this worry and can cause that familiar panic associated with consuming too much cannabis. However, studies have shown that these reactions typically lead to self-induced panic. One 2006 study noted that this can be managed simply by reassurance or “talking down” until the effects wear off1.

“Generally I recommend to patients to remain calm, breathe, and relax,” said Ethos pharmacist Sarah Hassinger, PharmD, advising that the best thing to do is breathe through it unless symptoms become severe or escalate. “Music, TV, and video games are some things that help people calm down.”


In addition, she pointed to a study that suggests inhaling CBD may mitigate the intoxicating effects of THC3 because inhalation is a fast-acting consumption method and CBD can help dampen the effects of THC.

“If you do consume too much, consider taking CBD,” Hassinger said. “CBD modulates the psychoactivity of THC. It could be helpful for faster relief. But you have to be careful you’re not using a CBD product that also has more THC in it!”

Will the “too high” feeling ever end?

In the moment, it may feel like the uncomfortable “too high” feeling lasts forever. However, rest assured: this does come to an end.

The onset and duration of the effects of cannabis are influenced by several factors, including product type, method of consumption, and your body’s own unique tolerance of and reactions to cannabis. However, when inhaling cannabis, maximum intoxication is typically felt between 15 and 30 minutes after consumption, waning entirely within 2 to 3 hours2. Oral ingestion generally does not lead to an onset of effects for 30 to 90 minutes, reaching maximum effect within 2 to 3 hours and then waning anywhere between 4 and 12 hours after consumption.

It’s worth noting that tolerance plays a role here as well. If you frequently consume infused products, you may feel less intense intoxication at higher doses, and the duration of effects may seem reduced compared to those who rarely, if ever, reach for an edible.

Debunking “tips” for managing a cannabis high

If you find yourself feeling too high, you may come across some advice that is dubious at best. Hassinger shared some of these common tips for what to do when you get too high and debunked what actually works and what doesn’t have the effect the lore says it does.

Black peppercorns

You may have heard that chewing on black peppercorns can calm an intense high. That’s because they contain beta Caryophyllene, a terpene that interacts with the CB2 receptor of the ECS. While beta Caryophyllene may have anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful for pain, it’s unlikely to mitigate an intense THC intoxication, Hassinger said. 

“From a scientific standpoint, it doesn’t make sense,” she said. 

Pine nuts

Similar logic suggests that pine nuts can have a calming effect, since they contain the terpene pinene that may mitigate the effects of THC. Pinene shows some promise in improving short term memory issues associated with THC, Hassinger said, but it might also contribute to anxiety responses that excessive consumption of THC triggers.

“I’m not sure it really adds up,” Hassinger said. “The idea behind pine nuts is that they contain pinene, but there are thoughts that [pinene] increases anxiety, too.”

Showers

Taking a shower is an oft-repeated way to help counteract the effects of too much THC. Since one of the symptoms of excessive consumption of THC is lightheadedness, Hassinger recommends avoiding the shower. This is especially true for older patients who may have more issues with balance, leading to a potentially dangerous situation.

“Showering or bathing could be problematic due to lightheadedness, causing people to fall,” she said. She added that showering may be helpful for some symptoms of excessive consumption, but strongly cautioned people to mind how cannabis could affect their equilibrium.

Exercise

Another common recommendation is to exercise through the high. While you may find the endorphins and adrenaline distracting, Hassinger said the symptoms of heightened heart rate, as well as balance impairment, combined with intense physical activity, could be cause for concern.

“I don’t advise people to exercise,” she said.

Prevention: The best medicine for overconsumption

While overconsumption can happen to anyone, Hassinger says that it can be easily prevented by following common-sense guidelines regarding cannabis consumption. Starting with a low amount and slowly increasing over time is one of the best ways to regulate consumption and avoid discomfort altogether. Consuming cannabis products with a more balanced THC:CBD ratio may reduce the chances that you’ll feel too high as well, as CBD content can help counteract the effects of too much THC. If you do consume too much, understand that time is the best remedy. The more hours between your last session and the current time, the better off you’ll be.


Since everyone is different, your best line of defense from over-medicating is knowing yourself and how you react to cannabis products. If you’re not sure what the best product is for you and are concerned about getting too high, ask an Ethos associate for guidance in choosing the right cannabis product.

Sources:

  1. https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x#b247
  2. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cannabis-marijuana-acute-intoxication/abstract/15-17
  3. https://internal-journal.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00130/full

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