Most of the time, smoking cannabis results in giggles, good times, hunger, and euphoria. Think back to last night’s smoking session (or what you can remember of it). Chances are, you simply smoked up, snacked, talked deep, then went to bed. What’s not to love?

Although cannabis catapults us into moments of joy and pleasure most of the time, sometimes things go a little differently. At some point, all smokers will experience the darker side of the herb.

For one reason or another, cannabis can make us feel anxious, paranoid, and uncomfortable. These feelings can even escalate into full-blown panic.

But why does this happen? And where do these feelings come from? Keep reading to explore what causes a bad cannabis trip, how to stop a negative experience, and how to prevent it in the future.

What Is a Bad Cannabis Trip?

Cannabis has a tendency to lead us down deep thought wells. When we’re sober, we often flash between ideas, thoughts, and inklings in an instant. Thoughts enter the mind and are almost immediately replaced as we become distracted or disinterested.

This normal mode of function changes when we’re high. Cannabis helps us to zoom in on each and every thought in detail. While this trait helps us when writing a book, painting a picture, or waxing philosophical with friends, it poses a lot of problems when negative thoughts arise.

When we’re in a bad mental place, or find ourselves in a risky situation, cannabis amplifies our thoughts and feelings and can trigger a bad reaction to weed. We can easily find ourselves stuck in a negative thought spiral until our breaths shorten, eyes widen, and the grip of anxiety tightens.

In reality, there’s almost nothing to worry about. Just like cannabis makes plain food taste orgasmic and music sound sacred, it exerts the same enhancing effects on our thoughts, be they positive or negative.

What Is a Bad Cannabis Trip?
  • Is Cannabis a Psychedelic?

Many people assume cannabis acts as a psychedelic, leading to the question: can you trip on weed? Sure, things can get intense with the herb sometimes, but it acts in a different way to the classical psychedelic such as DMT, LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.

These powerful substances are defined by their ability to induce intense and long-lasting visions, emotional changes, and distorted perceptions. They achieve this, in part, by temporarily interfering with serotonin signalling in the brain.

In contrast, cannabis produces a high via the endocannabinoid system. THC, the active molecule, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, where it exerts its psychoactive effects. Many different terpenes (the chemicals that make weed smell good) also add energising or relaxing effects to the mix.

However, the intensity and pseudo-psychedelic nature of cannabis changes when people eat it. Here, THC converts to a more potent and longer-lasting chemical known as 11-hydroxy-THC.

Although many users describe consuming edible cannabis as a psychedelic experience, hallucinations are rare, and it doesn’t act in the same way as most "true" psychedelics.

What Can Trigger a Bad Trip on Cannabis?

Many factors can contribute to a bad trip or a bad reaction to weed, from your state of mind before smoking cannabis to completely overdoing things. It can strike both overly eager beginners as well as experienced users. Check out some of the main reasons people experience a bad weed trip below.

  • High-Potency Strains

Consuming too much THC remains the single most common reason people experience a bad weed trip. Smoking or eating too much of this psychoactive chemical is becoming more common, simply because cannabis strains are getting stronger by the year.

In the 60s and 70s, cannabis lovers had to put up with poorly grown weed with low THC levels. If they were lucky, they’d score some high-quality imported hash. In the modern era, we enjoy dispensaries, cannabis clubs, and coffeeshops that all serve high-grade cannabis.

The average THC levels in cannabis strains have absolutely surged, with quantities of 30% not uncommon. Beginners smokers can easily get caught out by these potent cultivars, resulting in a bad high experience.

  • Edibles

Edibles catapult the mind into a whole other realm. Even if you’ve comfortably smoked cannabis for several years, the edible experience can still easily overwhelm you. The potency, duration, and somewhat psychedelic aspect of the trip barely resemble the effects of smoked cannabis at all.

If you enter into the experience with no caution and eat far more than you can handle, you’ll likely experience a bad weed trip.

What Can Trigger a Bad Trip on Cannabis?
  • Dabbing

Dabbing slams the body and mind with huge levels of THC. Potent concentrates will light up your endocannabinoid system to new heights if you haven’t experienced them before. Even seasoned smokers will struggle during their first heavy dabbing session.

Look at it this way; a large dab will provide the same amount of THC found in a large joint—the difference being you inhale all of those cannabinoids in a single hit.

  • State of Mind

The way you take cannabis influences the high, but so does your state of mind. Cannabis works as a magnifying glass to your problems. If you’ve got a stressful task that you’re putting off, financial worries that are building, or emotions you’re suppressing, weed will most likely launch them to the forefront of your mind.

American psychologist and psychedelics advocate Timothy Leary famously spoke about the importance of “set and setting” for psychedelic drugs. “Set” refers to entering the experience with a clear and clean mindset, whereas “setting” refers to an optimal and soothing external environment.

The same logic very much applies to cannabis. Try to resolve your issues, or at least make a plan for doing so, before you smoke to avoid this unpleasant experience. However, sometimes this kick in the right direction is exactly what we need.

Symptoms of a Bad Cannabis Trip

A bad weed trip can manifest in various ways, from unwanted visuals to mind-warping sensations of paranoia. Explore the most common symptoms of a bad weed trip below.

  • Hallucinations

Hallucinations are rare when smoking or eating weed, but they can happen. Anyone who has scarfed down several space cakes at a time will share their anecdotes of aliens and geometric scenery.

Realistically, you’re unlikely to experience hallucinations after smoking too much weed. But edibles are a different story. Even a 10mg oral dose can make most experienced smokers start to feel anxious, and larger doses can lead to hallucinations, delusions, and a racing heart.

All of these factors converge into a bad high if the user has little experience dealing with this state of mind.

Symptoms of a Bad Cannabis Trip
  • Intense Paranoia / Anxiety

Remember that tendency we spoke about? The one in which weed makes you overthink? Well, that trait can sometimes make users feel extremely uncomfortable when experiencing a bad reaction to weed. Is that guy staring at you? Did you just drop your wallet? Maybe you should double-check just to be sure? Does that random person know that I’m high?

These are some common questions people start to ask themselves when they get too stoned. Cannabis should be a fun and pleasant experience, not a negative one. These feelings are a sign that you’ve exceeded your personal dose, and that you should go easier next time.

  • Fear

Munching down edibles or inhaling fat dabs can lead to a deep sense of fear among the unprepared. From worrying about life responsibilities to the existential dread of why anything exists, this fear can hit hard and out of the blue.

  • Physical Sensations

A bad trip can also manifest as physical symptoms. These include:

- Sweating
- Elevated heart rate
- Stomach discomfort
- Numbness
- Shaking

How To Prevent a Bad Cannabis Trip From Occurring

Ultimately, a bad weed trip stems from either your mental state or consuming way too much weed. Below, you’ll find out how to prevent a bad cannabis experience to avoid riding this wave to begin with:

Clear your mind
If something is bothering you, don’t just smoke up. Go for a walk, sit with your emotions, meditate, and breathe. Only smoke once you’ve reached that state of inner peace.
Control your surroundings
You’re more likely to have a bad weed trip in the city or any place where you’re not supposed to be high. Smoke at home in your cosy bedroom, out in nature, or at the beach to capture those good vibes.
Start low and go slow
Pace yourself. Take a few hits at a time, wait for your body to react, and then proceed. If you’re taking dabs and edibles, don’t feel the need to catch up with everyone else. Take a low dose. You can always take more later if needed.

How To Stop a Bad Cannabis Trip

During a bad weed trip, you might feel overwhelmed and helpless. But don’t worry. Keep in mind the key fact that it’ll end soon. Until then, there are several things you can do to ease yourself down and reduce the intensity of the experience:

Breathe
When we enter fight or flight mode, our breathing becomes shallow. Take deep belly breaths to let your nervous system know you’re safe and ready to relax.
Go for a walk
Move your body and get your blood pumping. Fresh air will clear your head, and movement will speed up your body's metabolisation of THC.
Take some CBD
This non-psychoactive cannabinoid will relax you and take the edge off the high.
Drink some herbal tea
Rosemary and lemon balm contain the relaxing terpene and dietary cannabinoid beta-caryophyllene, and will put your mind at ease. Keep these herbs in your cupboard in case the time comes.
Have a word with yourself
Remember, you’ll be sober soon. Take this as a lesson. Dark things have come to the surface. Cannabis has just shown you what you need to do to improve your life and become the best person possible.

How Long Does a Bad Cannabis Trip Last?

A bad trip from smoking weed will last around 1–2 hours. However, your body’s response will likely reduce this time frame. If you start to become agitated and afraid, high levels of adrenaline and other hormones will sober you up sooner.

Bad edible trips last a lot longer, between 6–8 hours, depending on the dose.

Can You Overdose on Cannabis?

No, at least not lethally. Smoking or eating too much cannabis can lead to adverse effects, but not an overdose in the classical sense. Drugs such as opioids pose a real danger of overdose, as they act on receptors in areas of the brain that govern breathing. Cannabis receptors don’t exist in this region.

What’s the Difference Between a Bad Cannabis Trip and Greening Out?

A bad cannabis trip comes with side effects such as anxiety, stress, and panic. While sufferers might also feel some physical discomfort, a bad trip and greening out are two different things.

Greening out involves taking too much cannabis and feeling the subsequent physical side effects, such as nausea and an irresistible urge to sleep. However, people can experience greening out without having a bad trip.

When you experience either of these, just know that the end is in sight. Sip some water, have some warm tea, breathe, and know everything will be alright.

Once you’ve experienced a bad weed trip, you’ll know how much they suck. If you see a friend in a similar situation, help them. Use the tips from this article to get them through to the other side.

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