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Pot and Paranoia – Just Don’t Worry

Apr 28, 2021 3:00:00 PM

There is a lot of expectation with the use of marijuana. Some people are after that “Wizard of Oz” feeling when the screen changes from black and white to color. Some just want to wind down and relax at the end of a hard day. Others wish to locate new sources of creativity within themselves.

trippy picture of the gates of oz from wizard of oz

Some want to giggle with friends while others are seeking inner peace. Escape or solace, respite or rejuvenation -- there are as many specific hopes for positive feelings as there are people. The desire for these feelings is valid. You might not even realize what you had expected until after the experience is over.

You may encounter all kinds of unexpected feelings: euphoria, gratitude, joy, creativity. Some have been surprised by the feeling that time has been altered. Some feel pretty hungry. It is normal to think that your sensations of touch, taste, and smell are heightened.

That one feeling though ...

But there's that one well-known feeling that you would definitely like to avoid: paranoia.

Curious or paranoid person looking out the window
Paranoia is the feeling of irrational suspicion of other people. You may think that others are watching you, following you, or intending to rob or harm you. You could imagine sinister hidden motives or worry that people are laughing at you behind your back.

For each person, feelings of paranoia will be located inside something particular to their own heart, dreams, and sensitivities.

It might have to do with memories of the uncomfortable events of long ago. Or it could stem from the way someone just glanced at you across the room. Paranoia has a way of magnifying insecurities or negative feelings that are already there.

Paranoia is a feeling that you would like to end as soon as possible. This is an unfortunate flip side to the way marijuana heightens awareness. When it happens, it can feel like the worst kind of surprise.

Do Not Worry

The first thing to keep in mind if you are experiencing paranoia while ingesting cannabis: do not worry. Or try not to. This feeling is totally normal.

You will get through it. Rather than looking outside yourself, trying to explain yourself to your companions, or using a search engine for validation -- look inward. You could find your own internal mechanism and help yourself get through it. Consider how strong your mind is. Counter those negative messages.

Young male friends smoking marijuana joint while relaxing at home
Patience is your best option. Do not put pressure on yourself. Before you know it, you will feel better.

Your next step: prepare yourself for your next experience with cannabis.

Information Is Power

Knowing why paranoia can take hold is an essential step to getting to more positive feelings.

Our bodies already have a way to keep anxiety in check – the endocannabinoid system. This system releases cannabinoids, which send calming signals to our brains.

The process of getting high copies the mechanism of the endocannabinoid system. Marijuana contains plant-based cannabinoids. They lead to good feelings of release and relaxation – or they should, rather.

A beautiful sheet of cannabis marijuana in the defocus with image of the formula THC
Higher THC levels (short for tetrahydrocannabinol) can lead to the opposite effect – and cause those extremely uncomfortable feelings of paranoia. THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis, and lower doses of THC are relaxing. Scientists do not know yet why higher THC levels, which it seems would cause more profound relaxation, instead flip in the opposite direction.

Reasons You May Be More Susceptible to a Paranoid Reaction

  • Genetics

A recent study found that some brains have more positive opioid receptors at the front of the brain. Those people with more THC sensitivity at the back of the brain are more likely to experience adverse reactions such as paranoia and anxiety. We inherit these brain traits. You certainly cannot change your brain’s structure. We all need to work with what we have got!

  • Existing Conditions

Those who think negatively about themselves, worry excessively or experience issues with perception are more likely to experience paranoia when high. Stress can also exacerbate these negative feelings.

  • Are You New Here?

Those who have no experience with cannabis are more likely to experience paranoia. For some, just having more practice and assurance about what to expect can alleviate paranoid sensations.

A Little Advice

What NOT to do if you would like to avoid paranoia during your marijuana experience: watch an intense movie, i.e., anything directed by Tarantino. Films like “Hereditary” are a NO. No overly scary shows such as “Birdbox” on Netflix. Do not expose yourself to anything that is stressful or makes you feel vulnerable or insecure.

a picture of dvds and their covers for all tarantino films
Instead, do calm things. Listen to soft music, watch nature documentaries, meditate, lay down, take a walk in nature. Explore gently tactile or visual activities, such as coloring or knitting. Find a place that helps you calm down.

Work to focus inward. Shepherd your thoughts. Give yourself positive messages.

Easy Does It

While paranoia is a normal part of the array of marijuana experiences, it is ideal to avoid it whenever possible. The best advice, especially for newbies, is to take things slowly. Micro-dosing is a good option.

Microdosing - word from wooden blocks with letters, microdosing concept, top view gray background
Your intake method can have a marked impact as well. The effects of vaping and edibles are slow and subtle and negative feelings could sneak up on you before you know it.

Armed with the knowledge of the science of cannabis, and your own sensitivities, you should be able to get back on the road with a more enjoyable trip!

MK Thom
Written by MK Thom

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