September 4


Why Weed Gives You Panic Attacks: The Surprising Truth

By Joshua Turner

September 4, 2023

You’re not alone if you’ve ever experienced a panic attack after smoking weed. Many people report feeling anxious, paranoid, and overwhelmed after using marijuana.

While some individuals can enjoy the relaxing effects of cannabis without any adverse reactions, others may find that it triggers intense feelings of fear and distress. So why does it give some people panic attacks?

Understanding the effects on the body can help shed some light on this phenomenon. THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis, interacts with the brain’s endocannabinoid system to produce various effects, including altered perception, mood changes, and sensory processing.

However, these effects can vary widely depending on a person’s biology, the potency and strain of the cannabis, and the method of consumption. For some, these factors may create a perfect storm of anxiety and panic.

Genetics, past trauma, and underlying mental health conditions may also explain why some people experience them after using marijuana. Certain strains of cannabis may be more likely to trigger anxiety and paranoia than others. Understanding the factors that contribute to weed-induced panic attacks can help individuals take steps to manage and prevent these experiences in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Marijuana can trigger panic attacks in some individuals due to a range of factors, including individual biology, potency and strain, and method of consumption.
  • Genetics, past trauma, and underlying mental health conditions may also contribute to weed-induced anxiety and panic.
  • By understanding the causes of weed-induced panic attacks, individuals can take steps to manage and prevent these experiences in the future.

Understanding Weed and Its Effects

The Role of THC and CBD

Cannabis contains two primary active compounds: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of weed, while CBD is not. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system, leading to euphoria, relaxation, and altered perception.

Conversely, CBD does not bind strongly to these receptors and does not produce the same psychoactive effects as THC. Instead, CBD may have a calming effect and can potentially counteract some of the adverse effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia.

Weed and the Brain

When THC enters the brain, it can affect various functions, including memory, attention, and perception. It can also alter the way the brain processes information, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or paranoia in some individuals.

Research suggests that THC can increase activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing. This increased activity can lead to heightened anxiety or fear, especially in individuals predisposed to anxiety disorders.

Physical Reactions to Weed

In addition to its effects on the brain, it can produce physical symptoms. These can include increased heart rate, dry mouth, and bloodshot eyes. Some individuals may also experience dizziness or nausea.

The intensity and duration of these physical symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the dose, method of consumption, and individual tolerance. These physical symptoms are generally not harmful and will typically subside.


Understanding the role of THC and CBD in marijuana and its effects on the brain and physical symptoms can help individuals make better decisions about their use of cannabis.

Weed and Panic Attacks

Understanding Panic Attacks

They are sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort that can occur unexpectedly or in response to a trigger. Common symptoms include rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and a sense of impending doom. They can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder but can also occur in people without a history of anxiety.

Weed-Induced Panic Attacks

THC, the psychoactive compound, can cause changes in the brain that lead to increased anxiety and paranoia. High doses of THC can cause heart palpitations and other physical symptoms that can mimic a panic attack.

If you are prone to anxiety or have a history of panic attacks, be cautious when using weed. Start with a low dose and gradually increase as needed. Avoid strains with high THC content, and opt for higher CBD to THC ratios. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that can help counteract the anxiety-inducing effects of THC.

Use it responsibly and be aware of the potential risks. If you experience it while using, try to remain calm and remind yourself that the effects will wear off soon. If you continue to experience panic attacks or other anxiety symptoms, seek professional help from a mental health provider.

Factors Contributing to Weed-Induced Panic Attacks

Genetics and Personality

Some people are more prone to anxiety and panic attacks due to their genetic makeup and personality traits. Those who are naturally anxious or have a family history of anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to weed-induced panic attacks.

Dosage and Strain

Consuming too much or using a potent strain can increase the risk of experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. Start with a low dose and gradually increase it to find the right amount that works for you. Some strains are known to cause more anxiety than others, so research and choose a strain that’s less likely to trigger it.

Age and Mental Health

Younger people are more likely to experience anxiety and panic attacks due to their developing brains. Those with pre-existing mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD may be more susceptible to weed-induced panic attacks. Talk to your doctor before using cannabis if you have a history of mental illness.

Symptoms of Weed-Induced Panic Attacks

Physical Symptoms

These symptoms can include an elevated heart rate, sweating, dizziness, nausea, chest pain, and trouble breathing. The individual may feel like their heart is racing and have a sense of impending doom or danger. They can be very uncomfortable and can make the individual feel like they are having a heart attack or other medical emergency.

Psychological Symptoms

These can include an anxious mental state, agitation, and racing thoughts. The individual may feel like they are losing control or going crazy. They may experience hallucinations or other distortions in their perception of reality. These can be very distressing and can make the individual feel like they are losing touch with reality.

Not everyone who consumes it will experience them or other harmful effects. However, it can be a very uncomfortable and frightening experience for those who do. If you are someone who experiences them after consuming it, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to get help managing your symptoms.

Managing and Preventing Weed-Induced Panic Attacks


Choosing the Right Strain and Dosage

High THC strains are more likely to cause anxiety and panic attacks, so it’s best to opt for strains with higher levels of CBD or a balanced THC ratio. Start with a lower dose and gradually increase it until you find the right amount.

Relaxation and Breathing Techniques

Try relaxation and breathing techniques if you start to feel anxious or panicky while using marijuana. Take slow, deep breaths and focus on your breathing. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense and relax different muscle groups.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation can all help you feel more relaxed and calm. You can also repeat a calming mantra to yourself when you start to feel anxious.

Everyone’s experience differs, so finding what works best for you is vital. You can prevent and manage weed-induced panic attacks by choosing the correct strain and dosage, practicing relaxation and breathing techniques, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Medical Interventions and Alternatives to Weed

Medications and Treatments

Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat anxiety and panic attacks, but they come with the risk of addiction and withdrawal symptoms. A doctor may also prescribe other medications, such as beta-blockers and SSRIs, to help manage them.

In addition, therapy can be an effective treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns contributing to anxiety and panic attacks.

Alternatives to Smoking Weed

If smoking weed consistently causes panic attacks, it may be time to consider alternative consumption methods. Vaping, oils, and edibles are all alternatives to smoking that can provide a more controlled and less intense high.

Edibles can be unpredictable and may take longer to take effect than smoking or vaping. Start with a low dose and wait an hour before consuming more to avoid overconsumption and potential episodes.

Consider lifestyle factors that may contribute to them. Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, regular exercise and stress-reducing activities such as yoga or meditation may help manage anxiety and panic attacks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can using marijuana lead to panic attacks?

Yes, especially if you consume high doses or have a low tolerance. People with anxiety disorders are also more likely to experience it when using marijuana.

What are the symptoms of a panic attack caused by weed?

Symptoms can include rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and intense feelings of fear or dread. These symptoms can be very distressing and may last several minutes or more.

How can I prevent panic attacks when using marijuana?

Start with low doses and gradually increase as needed. Avoid consuming large amounts of marijuana in a short period. Be in a comfortable and safe environment and to have someone you trust nearby.

Is there a difference between panic attacks caused by marijuana and other triggers?

Panic attacks caused by marijuana can have similar symptoms to the ones triggered by other factors, such as stress or anxiety. However, the underlying cause may be different, and it’s important to identify the trigger to prevent them.

What should I do if I experience a panic attack while using marijuana?

Try to stay calm and remind yourself that the effects will wear off soon. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down, and take slow, deep breaths. If your symptoms persist or become severe, seek medical attention.

Are some strains of marijuana more likely to cause panic attacks than others?

High-THC strains, in particular, are more likely to cause anxiety and panic in some people. If you’re prone to them, consider using strains with lower THC or higher CBD levels.

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