What is greening out?

Greening out is the experience of nausea, unease, and other distressing symptoms that sometimes occurs after consuming too much cannabis

Symptoms differ individually, but greening out is usually accompanied by dizziness, vomiting, and severe anxiety. Greening out can also increase heart rate and reduce blood pressure due to the dilation of blood vessels caused by THC, as explained in a study of cannabinoids' pharmacological effects, published in the Handbook of Experimental Psychology. Users feel dizziness, nausea, and some report experiencing mild hallucinations when they consume too much weed.

Bear in mind that while greening out symptoms may feel overwhelming, no deaths from an overdose of cannabis have ever been reported. Symptoms of a green out can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. While this can feel like a long time when you're high, trust that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

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What causes someone to green out?

THC and other cannabinoids interact with the body's natural endocannabinoid system, including the CB1 receptors in the brain. The body has a natural analog to THC called anandamide that typically acts on these receptors and plays a role in appetite, pain, depression, memory, and other bodily functions.

When you consume too much THC, the CB1 receptors become overwhelmed, which may cause you to become sick. What symptoms you experience or whether you experience a green-out at all entirely depends on your physiological makeup, the potency of the cannabis, and your tolerance.

endocannabinoid receptor sites
When you consume too much THC, the CB1 receptors become overwhelmed, which may cause you to become sick.

What does greening out feel like?

Greening out can happen to anyone whether they smoke cannabis or ingest it. It all boils down to the amount of THC consumed and a person's tolerance and previous experience with cannabis. Smoking does result in more rapid absorption than eating cannabis, which may result in a faster onset of greening out. That said, ingested cannabis stays in your bloodstream longer, resulting in green out symptoms that may last longer. Green out symptoms include:

  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Limb heaviness or a lack of mobility
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness or lack of focus
  • Nausea
  • Chills or sweats

These side effects vary in length the same way a regular cannabis high does, anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. If weed is the only substance you've used, the symptoms should dissipate without requiring medical care. If you're greening out after consuming a combination of weed with drinking or harder drugs, known as crossfading, you may want to seek medical attention.

Can greening out cause damage?

No evidence supports that greening out on cannabis alone can cause any damage. There are no verified instances of death due solely to cannabis toxicity. However, there are instances where, for example, cannabis can aggravate things in people with underlying heart issues or cause over-sedation, which suppresses breathing if one combines cannabis with a sedative like sleeping pills.

Consuming too much marijuana at once may feel alarming, but there's no evidence it will cause lasting issues.

How do I prevent greening out?

Marijuana affects people differently, so a green out is more likely to happen to some individuals than others. People with prior cannabis experience have a good sense of their tolerance and often won't consume more weed than they can handle. Those who haven't tried weed before can prevent greening out by starting with a low dose and waiting an hour or more to judge the dose's effect on their system.

If you're someone who needs only one or two hits off a joint to get high, don't feel compelled to smoke more. Know your limits and resist peer pressure if it heads your way.

Eating and drinking water before smoking can also help prevent symptoms of greening out. Like drinking alcohol, consuming cannabis on an empty stomach void of any nutrients can make the effects of weed stronger. Too, mixing your weed with alcohol or prescription drugs can also increase the likelihood of greening out.

peach ring gummy edibles
If you don't pay attention to how many milligrams of THC is in your edible, you can easily consume way too much and experience an unpleasant high. 
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

When eating edibles, it's also essential to carefully measure your dose. If you don't pay attention to how many milligrams of THC is in your brownie, you can easily consume way too much and experience an unpleasant high.

How do I stop getting too high?

If you're experiencing symptoms of greening out, there are a few things you can do to manage symptoms. Having a friendly face guide you through things is always helpful, as friends can help manage psychological symptoms with their reassuring presence.

Find a safe space to ride out the high, drink enough water, and boost blood sugar levels with food or fruit juice. Take deep breaths and try to distract yourself with a TV show or your favorite music. Do what you can to create a soothing environment in which to wait things out.

Some research, such as this study published in Frontiers Psychiatry, indicates that CBD oil can soothe the anxiety and paranoia associated with too much weed, among other benefits CBD may provide.

Additional research indicates that terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene (found in black peppercorn) and limonene (found in lemons) may play a role in soothing the overwhelming psychoactivity. Beta-caryophyllene binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, preventing THC from doing so and reducing the associated anxiety. Another 2013 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that limonene demonstrated anti-anxiety symptoms in animal models. Therefore, chewing black pepper or a lemon rind may be helpful.

Prevention is usually the best medicine when it comes to smoking too much weed. Staying hydrated and within your canna-limits will help ensure you enjoy a pleasant high, but if you go too far, remember to keep calm and ride out the wave. The unpleasantness of greening out won't last forever, and you'll be back to normal in time.

Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on October 25, 2022.