Cannabis is a popular drug that has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. It has a reputation for causing a sense of relaxation, happiness, and euphoria in its users.
However, not everyone who uses cannabis experiences these effects. In fact, for some people, cannabis can actually induce feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and even panic. If you’re someone who has experienced these negative side effects of cannabis, you’re not alone. Many people report feeling paranoid or anxious after using the drug, but why does this happen?
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind why cannabis can make some people feel paranoid, the factors that influence how cannabis affects each individual differently, and the steps you can take to minimize the risk of experiencing these negative side effects.
What is paranoia?
Paranoia is a type of thought pattern characterized by excessive or irrational mistrust or suspicion of others or the world around oneself. It is often associated with feelings of fear, anxiety, and a sense of being threatened or persecuted, even in the absence of actual danger. People who experience paranoia may have a heightened sense of vigilance, feel like they are being watched, or perceive innocent situations or actions as being threatening or malicious.
Paranoia is a symptom that can occur as a part of various mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or drugs, including cannabis. In the context of cannabis use, paranoia is often described as an intense and unpleasant feeling of suspicion and fear that can occur after using the drug.
How does using cannabis cause paranoia?
The exact mechanisms by which cannabis can cause paranoia are not fully understood, but research suggests that several factors may play a role.
One of the key cannabinoids that is believed to cause paranoia is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the primary psychoactive ingredient in the drug. THC acts on the endocannabinoid system in the brain, which is responsible for regulating mood, appetite, pain, and other physiological processes. When THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, it can alter the way information is processed and perceived, which can lead to changes in mood, perception, and behaviour.
Research has shown that strains with THC can increase activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is involved in the processing of emotional responses, including fear and anxiety. This increased activity in the amygdala may contribute to the feelings of paranoia that some people experience when using cannabis.
Another possible factor that can contribute to paranoia from cannabis use is the dose and method of administration. Cannabis that is high in THC content and consumed in large quantities, such as through edibles, may increase the likelihood of experiencing paranoia. Additionally, smoking cannabis can also cause rapid changes in THC levels in the blood, which may lead to a more intense and unpredictable experience.
It’s also worth noting that individual factors such as a person’s genetics, personality, and past experiences with drugs or trauma may also influence whether or not they experience paranoia from cannabis use. Ultimately, the exact causes of cannabis-induced paranoia are complex and multifaceted, so more research is needed to fully understand how and why it occurs.
Do CBD strains decrease paranoia?
While research in this area is still limited, some studies have suggested that strains of cannabis that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in THC may have the potential to reduce or even prevent the feelings of paranoia that some people experience when using cannabis.
One study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2015 found that participants who received a combination of THC and CBD experienced fewer paranoid thoughts compared to those who received THC alone. The study suggests that CBD may have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects that can help counteract the paranoia-inducing effects of THC.
Another study published in 2018 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that strains with high-CBD content were associated with lower anxiety levels and fewer negative side effects compared to a high-THC strain.
While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of CBD on paranoia and anxiety, these studies suggest that strains of cannabis that are high in CBD and low in THC may have therapeutic potential for individuals who are particularly prone to experiencing paranoia or anxiety when using cannabis. It’s important to note, however, that individual factors such as genetics, personality, and past experiences can also influence how a person responds to different strains of cannabis.
Are some more vulnerable to paranoia than others?
There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of experiencing paranoia, including:
- Genetic predisposition: Some studies have suggested that genetic factors may play a role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to paranoia induced by cannabis use.
- Past experiences: Individuals who have had negative experiences with cannabis in the past or who have a history of anxiety or other mental health disorders may be more likely to experience paranoia.
- Dosage and potency: Higher doses of THC or more potent strains of cannabis have been associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing paranoia.
- Setting and context: Social and environmental factors, such as using cannabis in a stressful or unfamiliar setting, can also increase the likelihood of experiencing paranoia.
Tips for stopping cannabis paranoia
If you are experiencing cannabis-induced paranoia, there are several strategies you can use to help alleviate the symptoms. Here are a few tips:
- Take a break: The most effective way to stop cannabis-induced paranoia is to stop using cannabis. If you are experiencing paranoia, it may be a sign that cannabis is not the best substance for you, at least at this time.
- Stay calm and grounded: If you are experiencing paranoia, it can be helpful to take a few deep breaths, find a quiet and safe space, and focus on staying calm and grounded. Remind yourself that the paranoia will pass and that you are safe.
- Distract yourself: Engaging in a distracting activity, such as listening to music, watching a movie, or talking to a friend, can help take your mind off the paranoia and reduce its intensity.
- Use CBD: As I mentioned earlier, CBD has been shown to have anxiolytic effects that can counteract the paranoia-inducing effects of THC. If you are experiencing paranoia, using a cannabis strain that is high in CBD and low in THC may help reduce the symptoms.
- Seek professional help: If you are experiencing severe or persistent paranoia, it may be helpful to speak with a healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can provide you with additional support and resources to help you manage your symptoms.
Cannabis can induce paranoia in some individuals, likely due to the effects of THC on the brain. Paranoia can be distressing and may be more likely to occur in people with certain risk factors, such as genetic predisposition, past negative experiences, or use of higher doses or more potent strains. Strategies for managing cannabis-induced paranoia include taking a break from cannabis, staying calm, distracting yourself, using strains high in CBD and low in THC, and seeking professional help if necessary. It’s important to use cannabis responsibly and to be aware of the potential risks and benefits.
References and further reading
- Morgan, C. J., Freeman, T. P., Schafer, G. L., & Curran, H. V. (2010). Cannabidiol attenuates the appetitive effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans smoking their chosen cannabis. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(11), 1462-1469.
This study investigated the effects of combining THC and CBD in cannabis and found that CBD attenuated the subjective and behavioral effects of THC, including reducing anxiety and paranoid ideation.
- Englund, A., Morrison, P. D., Nottage, J., Hague, D., Kane, F., Bonaccorso, S., & Curran, H. V. (2013). Cannabidiol inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(1), 19-27.
This study investigated the effects of combining THC and CBD on paranoia and memory in healthy volunteers. The researchers found that CBD reduced the incidence of paranoid symptoms elicited by THC and mitigated the negative effects of THC on memory.
- Bhattacharyya, S., Morrison, P. D., Fusar-Poli, P., Martin-Santos, R., Borgwardt, S., Winton-Brown, T., … & Mehta, M. A. (2010). Opposite effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on human brain function and psychopathology. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35(3), 764-774.
This study compared the effects of THC and CBD on brain function and psychopathology in healthy volunteers. The researchers found that while THC was associated with increased anxiety, paranoia, and negative symptoms, CBD had the opposite effects and reduced anxiety and paranoia.