Marijuana and Panic Attacks

Writing byDr-Weedy Medical Team

The recent research showed that adults and adolescents who had been using cannabis regularly oftentimes experienced panic attacks. The association between these two is obvious, and the same problem is observed both in people with a lifetime history of marijuana use and in those who’re only trying their first weed. However, there is no clear understanding of what comes first — there is a chance that people who have panic or anxiety disorders are more likely to start smoking marijuana.

Marijuana and Panic Attacks

How to Recognize a Panic Attack

Some people confuse panic attacks with simply being anxious or scared. This is not completely right. Though being a kind of the anxiety disorder, panic is a stand-alone mental ailment with its own symptoms:

  • first of all, these attacks come suddenly and very intensively. The first and most evident sign of panic attacks is the strong feeling of a strong fear and/or agitation that appears from nowhere;
  • some obsessional ideas often accompany them — fear of sudden death, collapse, or some life-threatening accident;
  • you may also have an overwhelming feeling of losing control, paranoia, suspicion, etc.;
  • watch your body’s responses — if you are sweating, shivering, feeling weakness and tremor in limbs, it’s highly likely a panic attack;
  • other physical symptoms may include tunnel vision, dry mouth, troubled breathing, vomiting, dizziness, chest pain, abnormal heartbeat, etc.

Panic attacks are very intense yet abrupt cases of strong anxiety and fear — they come quickly and pass away in 5 minutes on average. The longest experienced attacks observed were 30 minutes long, but this happens very rarely.

The Causes of Panic Attack

First of all, we have to remember that there is a large number of users who smoke weed to treat their anxiety, stress, or depression. Thus, certain incidents of panic attacks may come from the underlying health conditions that are not caused by marijuana use. It may happen, though, that the psychoactive actions of cannabis may play a role of accelerators for these mental problems and lead to sudden onsets of anxiety or panicking.

Experienced users offer another reason for panic attacks from marijuana — it may be triggered by the surroundings or the situation. Mind-altering drugs, just like weed, often heighten your feelings and emotions. For example, when you smoke weed in a company of people who are not friendly or whom you do not know at all, you may have some paranoiac ideas after a strong dose of weed.

However, cannabis can also be the immediate cause of a panic attack, due to its active compounds that change our brain performance. THC, which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, interferes with the normal functioning of the central nervous system, giving us the high. But, it works in all parts of the CNS, including those responsible for such emotions as fear, stress, grief, etc. When used thoughtlessly, marijuana leads to various short-term mental problems, such as panic attacks.

panic attacks from marijuana

Here are risk factors you should remember about:

  • people with strong tolerance to cannabis may need more weed to have the desired effects. It leads to the increased doses of THC consumed, which may cause panic attacks;
  • everyone reacts to psychoactive drugs differently, some people are more prone to develop various mental disorders than others;
  • some methods of administration may also contribute to developing severe adverse reactions, e.g. when you eat weed cookies you may not feel anything right away due to a longer onset, and take too much;
  • THC-high marijuana strains bear more risks of causing panic attacks.

Pay attention to what you take and how you take it. It’s better if you have some experienced friends who can help you avoid the risks of any unwanted effects.

How to Avoid Panic Attacks From Weed

CBD-high weed strains

Here are some strategies from VICE that may help you prevent the unwanted effects of cannabis high:

  • start from minimum doses of marijuana and divide them into microdoses — do not eat your cookie or smoke your joint all at once. Instead, wait for the first onset after the first bite, then give yourself some time to understand if you need another one;
  • share your cannabis only with good friends and in comfortable surroundings;
  • and the main tip to never have marijuana-induced panic attacks — use THC-low CBD-high weed strains. This way you’ll be always safe, sinse cannabidiol does not cause any mind-altering effects.

In case you already have a panic attack and do not know what to do, here are some tips:

  • remember that it will pass very soon, try to concentrate on the thought that this is just the short-term effect of weed;
  • use breathing techniques that help you calm down, there are plenty of them on the net;
  • use some sedative medications, but use them only with the doctor’s recommendations;
  • physical activity releases the natural agents that will make feel better;
  • try to focus on the things and sounds around you, analyze them. It will help you keep in touch with reality.

Hopefully, these simple tips can help you deal with panic and anxiety caused by cannabis.


Many of you can say that the tips and strategies from this article only seem simple, and that when you smoke weed it is really hard to control the dose or remember about any breathing techniques. It’s true, and this is why it is important to remember that there is one real and 100% way to avoid panic attacks when you smoke marijuana. Choose CBD strains, such as Elektra or Charlotte’s Web, and you won’t have any problems.


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