When a person is smoking marijuana or eating THC edibles, it’s essential for them to know how much they are consuming and the potency of the cannabis they’re using. Someone who is new to smoking, such as a teenager or adolescent, is likely to misjudge how intoxicated they are, or how intoxicated they’re going to be when smoking marijuana.
While marijuana becomes legal and commonplace in many places around the country, it is also becoming more potent and concentrated. And although overdosing on THC is virtually impossible, smoking too much weed can lead to extremely uncomfortable and highly distressing symptoms. Colloquially, getting too high on marijuana, THC edibles, or THC extract, is known as “greening out.” Let’s discuss greening out, its symptoms, side effects, and dangers.
What is Greening Out?
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. THC is responsible for the altered state of consciousness that people experience when smoking or consuming cannabis. When a person consumes too much THC, their body can have adverse effects from the substance. This is known as greening out.
Greening out is a slang term used for the sensation of nausea, anxiety, limb heaviness, dehydration, dizziness, dissociation, and other uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms when someone consumes too much weed in one sitting. The adverse effects of greening out do pass in time, but they can be very distressing and uncomfortable and last for hours.
What Causes Someone to Green Out?
Greening out happens when too much THC is consumed, either from smoking weed or consuming edibles.
There are other factors that can contribute to greening out and factors that can make a person more susceptible to it. These include:
- Little or no marijuana tolerance
- Drinking alcohol while consuming marijuana
- Combining other substances with marijuana
- Dehydration or consuming marijuana on an empty stomach
- Lack of sleep prior to consuming marijuana
Keep in mind, a person can still “green out” without any of the above factors. For this reason, it is important for a person to know how much THC they are consuming, how concentrated their marijuana product is, and how much they can safely consume. Remember, the easiest way to avoid greening out is by avoiding consuming high doses of THC and other cannabinoids altogether.
What Does Greening Out Feel Like?
Everyone will react differently to consuming high doses of weed. Some marijuana users can tolerate an enormous amount of THC, while others will immediately feel the negative effects of marijuana. Some may experience psychological symptoms like anxiety or paranoia, while others may experience physical symptoms, like nausea and vomiting. It largely depends on the user’s tolerance, previous experience with the weed, and the potency of what was consumed.
Once in the bloodstream, THC dilates the blood vessels, which results in reduced blood pressure and an increased heart rate. This may explain the anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks that many cannabis users experience when greening out. A person’s heart may pound and they may experience dizziness, and feel lightheaded, sweaty, or clammy.
When a person smokes marijuana, because smoking results in more rapid absorption of THC, the effects of the drug begin to take hold within seconds or minutes of inhaling the smoke. In this way, a person could green out much faster by inhaling marijuana smoke than they could if they had ingested cannabis.
That being said, a person is more likely to green out by eating THC edibles. Because the effects of the drug are absorbed much more slowly when consuming edibles, a person is more likely to misjudge how high they are and how high they are going to be. Additionally, by ingesting marijuana, the drug stays in a person’s bloodstream for much longer, and the symptoms of greening out may take longer to pass.
Greening Out Symptoms
There are a few symptoms of greening out that may occur from consuming too much cannabis. Here are a few of the symptoms you may experience:
- Turning green or pale
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Loss of mobile functions (heavy arms and legs)
- Feeling disoriented, blurry vision
- Lack of balance, unstable
- Trouble hearing and comprehending
- Loss of focus
- Over sedation
- Mild hallucinations or an out-of-body experience
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Feelings of unease and paranoia
- Drop in blood sugar
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Sense of doom
It’s difficult to say what symptoms you will experience, as everyone’s greening out symptoms are different.
How Do I Handle Greening Out?
It can be tricky to manage psychological symptoms when greening out. It’s important to remember that although greening out may feel scary and overwhelming at the moment, the negative symptoms of the overconsumption of weed or other cannabis products will likely pass in time as your body flushes out the THC in your brain. Here are a few ways to stay calm and distract yourself from the discomfort you might feel.
1. Stay Hydrated
Although smoking weed doesn’t actually dehydrate you, drinking water can help a lot when you feel nauseous or anxious. Drinking water prior to consuming large doses of THC may help ward off symptoms of greening out. Be sure to drink plenty of water if you feel sick, and try fruit juice to help raise your blood sugar and help you experience some relief.
2. Find Distractions
Put a movie on, go for a walk, or listen to your favorite music to find some peace and calm. Distractions will help take your mind off any uncomfortable symptoms, and after a few hours, you’ll feel better.
3. Herbal Remedies
If you want to try holistic remedies to help green out symptoms, there are a few remedies you can try. Trying chewing on black peppercorns or lemon rinds to alleviate anxiety or discomfort. Both of these items are known for their calming and clarifying properties.
4. Eat Something
If your stomach can handle it, try snacking on something light. Avoid foods that are high in fat, like fruits and vegetables, popcorn, or toast. Eating can help raise your blood sugar and help balance your nausea. Avoid drinking alcohol, as it can worsen your symptoms and further alter your perception.
5. Relaxation Techniques
If your body is reacting negatively to a cannabis product, or if you think you are greening out, try to lie down and rest in a quiet place. If you feel restless or shaky, meditation can often help slow your heart rate and help you rest while you ride out the high. Meditation also helps in the event that you experience panic and need help staying calm. Taking deep breaths and concentrating on breathing can help immensely.
6. Avoid Peer Pressure
To avoid smoking too much weed or greening out, be sure that you avoid people who may coerce you into doing things you are uncomfortable with. Peer pressure is often a cause of consuming too much marijuana. If you don’t feel comfortable saying you’ve had enough or you have a low tolerance to weed, you will be much more likely to experience overconsumption and the negative effects of greening out.
Potential Risks & Side Effects of Greening Out
Aside from the severe discomfort that comes along with the overconsumption of cannabis, greening out is relatively safe compared to the overconsumption of other substances such as alcohol or narcotics. The effects of smoking too much cannabis will likely pass in a few hours or a couple of days at the most. For many people, once they experience greening out once, they pay close attention in order to avoid smoking too much weed and learn their boundaries quickly.
For most cannabis users, although greening out is extremely uncomfortable, it is not dangerous. However, for those with a medical condition, mixing cannabis with medication, hard drugs, or drinking alcohol, greening out can be dangerous and life-threatening. For example, if you are a person who is prone to experiencing seizures, the stress that your body is put under while greening out may be enough to trigger a seizure.
THC may also lead to the thinning of blood vessels, which can be dangerous for people with pre-existing heart conditions. THC can also interact negatively with some prescription medications. It’s important to talk with your doctor about using THC and what’s safe for your body, especially if you take other medications.
If you have an underlying medical condition, avoiding weed, THC, and marijuana entirely is the best course of action.
How Can I Help Someone Who Is Greening Out?
Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is normal for teenagers, but that doesn’t mean parents should take a backseat. Stay educated on cannabis and its side effects and other substances your child may be trying. Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of greening out can help you support your teen if they appear ill and you aren’t sure what to do.
If you think your teen may be struggling with their mental health and are using drugs and alcohol to cope, know that help is available. The team at Clear Recovery Center’s Teen Program is designed to help teens live healthy, purposeful lives without drugs or alcohol.