The first time I had a weed brownie, I ate way too much. Someone told me to just have half, and, like the idiot novice I was, I stuffed the entire thing in my mouth. It kicked in an hour or so later, when I found myself running through a Brooklyn park thinking I was being chased by evil fairies. Then, I went home, considered calling 911, made my roommate babysit me instead, spilled water in my bed and spent the whole night dreaming I was on a boat. I was fine in the morning.
Weed is wonderful in the right doses, but too much can amplify your anxiety, make you feel paranoid, and all-around freak you out. The good news is, it’s mostly in your head: no one’s ever died of a cannabis overdose, and medically, you can’t. As the National Cancer Institute points out, “Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.” Cannabis won’t permanently damage your liver, kidneys, or even your brain, and though taking too much can temporarily kick up your heart rate, the most that will do to you is make you feel extra nervous.
That being said, your head can be a scary place. And the bad news is, once THC gets into your system, there’s not much you can do but ride it out, which often makes for an uncomfortable experience. So what do you do when you’ve accidentally smoked or ingested too much? And how do you steel yourself from making the same mistake in the future? Here are some tips.
Preparation is the best policy
Obviously, the best way to deal with being too high is to avoid getting there in the first place. If you’ve got a low tolerance level or are new to edibles, for instance, try a small dose (Leafly recommends 10 mg, though if you’re really new, you’ll probably want to ingest even less, something closer to 5mg or 2.5mg). If you don’t know how much weed is in what you’re eating, either skip the edible or take a small piece (half a gummy bear, a quarter of a brownie, half a firecracker, etc.) and wait an hour or two before taking more, if you think it’s not enough. Don’t be Maureen Dowd.
It’s also a good idea to set up a safe, comfortable space for yourself before getting high. Be with people you like and trust, and maybe avoid big crowds if you think they will stress you out. “By being stimulated or in an active environment, if you’re someone with the tendency to feel paranoid or anxious, those feelings will worsen,” Dr. James Lathrop, a doctor of nursing practice who runs Seattle pot shop Cannabis City, tells us. He suggests making sure you have a quiet place to rest in case the high is too much for you. “The best thing to do if it gets too intense is to lay down, and hopefully to lay down in a familiar situation,” he says. “If you’re going to take high doses of marijuana, don’t plan to be at a club or a movie or out.”
And the best thing to have on hand before experimenting with edibles is cannabidiol, or CBD. “The best reversal for the unpleasant side effects of too much THC is CBD,” Dr. Joe Cohen, a holistic doctor of cannabis medicine who runs Holos Health in Denver, Colorado, tells us in an email. “We always recommend our patients keep on hand a very fast acting CBD product like our Holos Hemp CBD tincture which will hit the bloodstream in about 3 minutes and start lessening the effects of intoxication from THC. You will still have all the benefits of the THC you consumed but less impairment.”
Lathrop concurs. “If you were planning to take a large dose of THC, you’ll have a more enjoyable experience with CBD,” he says. “That CBD will calm down some of that anxiety and paranoia.”
Of course, if you’ve eaten a whole weed brownie, you don’t have any CBD on you, and suddenly your heart rate’s sped up and you can’t feel your face, all of the above advice is out the window. In that case:
Don’t freak out
The single most important thing to remember when you’re too high is that You. Will. Not. Die. “People think they’re going to die, and there are cases documented online where people think they have died and they call 911 and say, I’m dead,” Lathrop says. But they are not. “No one has died of a marijuana overdose. You’re not going to be the first one,” he says.
Sometimes, people get especially stressed right before they have peaked, because they have no idea how much they have ingested or how high they’re going to get eventually. But even if you’ve got a real blast of THC working its way through your bloodstream, it will find its way out, usually within 24 hours. You might feel like you’ll never be normal again, like you’ve screwed something up within your very unique body chemistry and now you’ll have to spend the rest of your time on earth with a permanently broken mind, but you will not.
“The reality is, it’s happened to a million people a million times. It’s not the end of the world,” Todd Statzer, the director of Integrated Pest Management at Colorado-based Urban-Gro, tells us. “Physically, it’s not going to hurt you. It may make you feel paranoid, but if you sit back, relax, within a couple hours it goes away.”
Do not Google, “Help I got too high”
Though there’s a good chance you’ve gotten to this article doing just that, and while I am a calm voice of reason, the Internet is full of fear-mongering forums featuring brutal tales about people who got so high they tried to pluck their eyes out. These stories are not helpful and they will not make you feel better in the moment, though you will enjoy laughing at them later when you are sober.
Ask your friends to talk you through it, but do not listen to them if they egg you on
When the voice in your head is too high to tell you to chill, it is useful to have a friend or two confirm that you will be just fine in the near future. But if the people you turn to are the kind who think it’s funny to harsh your mellow, ignore them. “What I’ve noticed is, a lot of times [freaking out] is that peer pressure, like, ‘Oh, you’re in big trouble now,’ Statzer says. “People around you need to remind you to let it ride the wave.”
Try to lessen the high
Though CBD oil is the best home remedy for an intense high, there are some other methods you can try to bring yourself back to earth a little faster. “For some reason, taking a shower will help decrease the effect,” Statzer says. “The other thing you can do is take a couple teaspoons of sugar and put in a glass of water. The sugar actually helps counteract the THC.”
Statzer also thinks it’s helpful to eat some food. “As you eat things, especially with an edible, that’s going to put more things through your liver and kidneys, and then that helps process that THC through your system,” he says.
Some other suggestions sourced from friends and strangers on the Internet include: 1) exercising, 2) drinking lots of water, and 3) taking a whiff of black pepper, whose properties bind to the same receptors in your brain as cannabis and when ingested/inhaled together, can create a calming effect.
I’ve found, from personal experience, that the more time I spend alone with my weed brain thoughts, the more anxious I get. This is apparently fairly common, and if you too find your own stoned head too stressful, it’s a good idea to find a distraction to carry you through the worst of the high. “It’s about making yourself relax, either through putting on music, or something you find either soothing or that fully engages your mind,” Statzer says. “It is going to take a while to go through your system.”
The things that chill you out might not be the same things that chill me out, but I’ve found it very calming to watch gentle comedies, like Arrested Development and Family Guy, especially if I’ve seen the episodes a bunch of times and won’t get stressed over the ending. My friend and I also once watched nearly an entire season of Kid Nation, a rather misguided 2007 CBS reality show that dropped a bunch of kids in a ghost town in New Mexico and forced them to create a viable society. We found it very enjoyable.
Go to bed
When all else fails, the number one way to ride out an intense high is in your sleep. “The best thing to do, and what people should be prepared to do, is to go to bed,” Lathrop says. “Turn the lights down, maybe put on some mellow music and go to sleep.” This is, of course, why it’s best to take edibles or smoke heavily in a place where your bed is easily accessible, but really, any couch, bed, or hard wooden floor will do. “You really just want to sleep it off,” Lathrop says. Then, when you wake up, you’ll be nice and mellow, and ready to fuck that up all over again.