Our bodies are designed to instinctively handle stress. The sympathetic nervous system enables a fight, flight, or freeze response under stress, allowing us to quickly react to stressful situations and keep us safe. Once the stress has subsided, we move back into the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing into our natural state of rest. But recent studies suggest that for most people, they are finding themselves perpetually stuck in this fight or flight mode. Their bodies are unable to truly relax, which in turn eventually causes illness and disease. Busy schedules, societal pressures to obtain perfection, and a lack of tools on how to combat all the stress are just a few of the reasons why this pattern continues. To try and combat stress people are turning to cannabis for help. For some people though, cannabis increases their stress levels instead of helping it. Racing heartbeats, anxiety, and paranoia are just a few of the reported side effects some people experience with cannabis.
Is it the strain? Or are some people just destined for these types of experiences with cannabis? Not necessarily. It may just be the THC percentages in the flower you’re selecting. THC is the cannabinoid known for increasing your heart rate. It is a vasodilator, meaning it makes the blood vessels expand. When this happens, your blood pressure drops and your heart speeds up to compensate for the low pressure. If you feel any racing heartbeat, anxiety, or paranoia when you smoke, try selecting strains with a lower THC content. Micro-dosing may also be an answer for you. Don’t smoke the whole joint. Maybe just half, or even just a couple puffs. Small doses and allowing a longer period of time to go by between dosing, allows you to have better control over your experience.
What if it’s too late, you’ve already consumed too much, and are now starting to feel the effects too strongly? One popular suggestion is to take CBD. The CBD cannabinoid has a unique ability to calm excess signaling and activity in the brain’s endocannabinoid system. Because of this, it helps to mitigate those anxious, racing heart side effects associated with the overconsumption of THC. Another option is to practice breathing techniques to slow and obtain better control of the breath. This will help your body move back into the parasympathetic nervous system. There are a handful of mobile apps available nowadays for free (or at a low cost) that offer guided meditations as well. Five minutes of focused breathing can do wonders to soothe the mind and body in states of distress, and many can be done without anyone being able to tell you’re doing it if you just so happen to be surrounded by others.
More states across the country are legalizing cannabis, allowing more research on the effects and benefits of the plant. We are still at the very beginning of a revolution where plants are being used as medicine to heal. Remaining open to the fact that there are many ways to consume and use this plant as medicine, those of us that feel anxious about consuming cannabis shouldn’t be afraid. By utilizing some of the tools listed above and asking more questions about the products you might start hearing about, you can continue your own personal research to find your comfortable cannabis experience.
Written by: Brittney Ferris