Weed Words

Why Does Cannabis Make People Paranoid? Don’t Get Spooked this Halloween

Episode 160

Show Notes

How to deal with cannabis paranoia

Grab your favorite candy, your spookiest bud, and a pair of headphones, because hallo-weed is officially one week away. But before you cozy up with a THC-forward strain, let us remind you about the eeriest weed word there is: PARANOIA. With too much THC in your system, paranoia might strike, turning the neighborhood kids on a quest for candy corn into ominous figures lurking outside your front door… 👻 This is the perfect episode to get you into the spooky spirit, and of course we’ll leave you with some tips to ensure your night is filled with more treats than tricks.

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Ellen Scanlon (00:00):

This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over. Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon. At How to Do the Pot we’re here to help you explore cannabis, and that starts with understanding, well, the Weed Words. There’s a lot of slang, a lot of science, and a lot of stories that make up cannabis culture, and it can definitely be overwhelming at times. So I’m here to walk you through each tricky, telling or thought-provoking term and every funny, fictitious, or factual phrase, so that you can do the pot with confidence. And in honor of the spooky season, the Weed Word is, Paranoia, because what better way to kick off Halloween than by tackling the scariest weed word out there? The one that embodies fear itself. Paranoia is known as an unpleasant side effect of consuming cannabis. But before we dive in and figure out how to avoid it, I’d like to first define what paranoia is.


Paranoia is similar to anxiety, but it’s more repetitive and more specific. If you’re hiking in the woods at dusk, you may have a reasonable anxiety that animals lurking in the forest are watching you from behind the trees. But a paranoid thought may be that instead the actual trees are watching you. Since this isn’t a Hitchcock movie, it’s far more likely that the trees actually just have googly eyes attached to their trunks as part of your neighbor’s Halloween decorations, but being convinced otherwise, that’s a good example of delusional paranoia. Yet when we speak about paranoia as a side effect of consuming cannabis, it often presents itself in more common everyday circumstances. Like if you’ve just smoked a little weed and you have an unannounced visit from your in-laws, you may be paranoid that your mother-in-law has noticed you’ve stopped hanging her family heirloom fall wreath, or that your in-laws hate your pumpkin pie because of how their forks move on the plate.


But in addition to paranoia surfacing as a potential side effect of consuming cannabis, there’s also a cultural paranoia with weed. So where does this societal suspicion around cannabis come from? It started as a major change in most people’s view of cannabis, which up until around the 1910s was a common medicine used to treat a wide variety of symptoms. During the Mexican Revolution, a large number of Mexican refugees fled to the United States and brought an influx of the cannabis plant with them. Despite cannabis already being a common crop in the US, it was quickly associated with these new immigrants. Then during the depression in the 1920s, Mexican immigrants were blamed for taking jobs. With that resentment came the demonization of cannabis, which then became known, as drum roll please, the Marijuana Menace.


And if the word marijuana confuses you, you’re not alone. It’s way more complicated than most people think. So much so that we think it deserves its very own Weed Words. Check out episode 133 to learn all about the word marijuana’s complicated history. Ever since cannabis earned its stigma as being responsible for the Marijuana Menace, there’s been a cultural paranoia surrounding it. You may have heard of the infamous propaganda film, Reefer Madness that came out in the 1930s or maybe in the 1980s you were influenced by President Ronald Reagan’s claim that cannabis was the most dangerous drug of all time.


But as more and more states legalize cannabis, the societal paranoia surrounding it has been dissipating. When you can buy legal weed today, it really feels more like you’re walking into a Sephora or a fancy apothecary than quote, unquote, buying a drug. But still, for many people, the fear about cannabis is pretty ingrained in us. So let’s talk about paranoia as a side effect of consuming cannabis. The movie Reefer Madness posed the idea that weed was so mind altering, it would make women loose and force them to sleep with their drug dealer and maybe be accidentally killed by their boyfriend as a result. Without diving into whether that is sex shaming, I think we can all agree that this seems a bit far fetched. It reminds me of the trick or treat paranoia where parents suspected that there were razor blades being snuck into repackaged candy bars that their kids collected from their neighbors.


Listen, that is a scary idea, and maybe I’d be a little nervous about my son eating a pumpkin shaped sugar cookie that he trick or treated from a stranger, but I wouldn’t be worried about letting him eat one from a bake sale at his school. And that’s because context is everything. But much like the urban legend of the horrible tricks smuggled through treats, Reefer Madness was meant to instill a deep rooted fear and it succeeded. But today, people watch the film for a laugh because it took this worry too far and it’s even become something of a cult movie for people who love weed. In reality, paranoia doesn’t affect everyone who consumes cannabis, but it does affect some. In 2014, Oxford University conducted a paranoia and cannabis study. They divided participants into a test group that received cannabis with THC and a group that received a placebo.


About half of the test group experienced feelings of paranoia. Now that seems like a lot, but one third of the placebo group who didn’t consume any cannabis at all, also experienced paranoia. A takeaway from the Oxford Study, mindset is everything, and the best way to maintain a confident mindset is to understand what you’re dealing with. But even still, half isn’t necessarily great odds for anything, and we want to make sure that you never have to deal with paranoia as a side effect. I don’t want to leave you wondering if your cannabis is giving you a trick or a treat.


With so many podcasts to choose from, finding a favorite series can take some trial and error. We started How to Do the Pot’s Podcast Club because well, we love podcasts and when we find a good one, we want you to enjoy it as well. If you’d like to put a podcast on our radar, please reach out to hi@dothepot.com, or you can DM us @dothepot. Speaking of paranoia, we have a show that sifts through history for stories that cannot be explained and might give you some thrills and chills, perfect for Halloween. On each episode of One Strange Thing, host Laurah Norton digs deep into the nation’s archives and local newspapers to uncover regional stories that blur the line between realism and surrealism. Each story is wildly different, but all have a single unexplainable element, a house that bleeds, a missing ring that turns up on another continent, or a mysterious hum heard in Anchorage, Alaska. We looked long and hard for a spooky show to share with you that wasn’t full of bloody murder or missing people.


One Strange Thing is the kind of show that gives you goosebumps without giving you nightmares. If you’re watching The Watcher on Netflix, listen to the real story, the one you don’t get in the Netflix version of the New Jersey family who purchased their dream home only to be harassed by a stalker who left cryptic and threatening letters in their mailbox. That episode is called The Letter, or If Aliens are your thing, try an episode called The Saucer, which is about one of the most famous UFO sightings in US history, one that is often overshadowed by the more famous Roswell incident that happened some years before. Find One Strange Thing, wherever you listen to podcasts and pick your poison. It really is the good kind of paranoia. And if you want to smoke a little weed and listen, I recommend trying the strain Harlequin, and you can check out our episode 156, called What Is Good Balanced Weed, to find out more.


So, now it’s time to bring a little science in and figure out what causes paranoia so we know how to avoid it. To the laboratory. Whether you love a glass of wine or a warm chocolate chip cookie, alcohol and sugar both affect our brain. Getting, for instance, a sugar rush can be just part of processing those foods. And the same thing goes for consuming cannabis, except it affects the body a bit differently. In each of our bodies, we have what’s called an endocannabinoid system. We often call it the ECS. You’ve heard us talk about this before in earlier episodes, and to remind you, Dr. Jessica Knox, a Harvard trained physician and co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics helps us out.

Dr. Jessica Knox (10:32):

So most people know about the cardiovascular system, our heart, they know about the neurological system, the respiratory system. These are the systems we all learned about in health class in high school, right? The endocannabinoid system, really important system that’s sort of balancing and modulating all of these other systems in our body to maintain what we call homeostasis or balance.

Ellen Scanlon (10:51):

But why can weed make you feel paranoid? A study from the Vanderbilt University Medical School confirmed that the amygdala or the part of your brain that expresses conditioned fear has ECS receptors. So the theory is that consuming cannabis with high THC percentage can overstimulate these receptors, which can potentially cause paranoia, but this doesn’t always happen, and many cannabis consumers never experience paranoia. Remember the Oxford study with the placebo group? A lot of paranoia surrounding cannabis comes from our predetermined mindset. So it’s important to consume cannabis confidently knowing that you have the tools and the understanding to not only combat this side effect, but avoid it all together. So what does this mean for you, paranoia and cannabis consumption. That’s what we’re focusing on in today’s High Five.


Number one, strains. In addition to the Vanderbilt study, University of Chicago also performed a study which showed how higher THC led to more feelings of paranoia. So a quick and easy tip is to look for strains with a lower THC percentage. Lower is generally considered to be around or under 18% THC. I would also suggest looking for strains that contain CBD, like the strain ACDC or Harlequin. You can check out our list of the 12 essential strains for women if you need a little inspiration. The list starts with high CBD strains that won’t make you feel intoxicated and moves all the way up to those strains that will get you high.


It’s really important to always look at the packaging and ensure that the weed you’re buying has a THC percentage that you’re comfortable with. If it seems like a higher percentage, there is no shame at all in asking your budtender for a product with a lower THC percentage. And if you end up with a strain with more than 20% THC, just start slowly so you can be sure you like how you feel. Maybe just take one or two hits of a joint for instance.


Number two, hormones, Dr. June Chin, a New York based integrative cannabis physician shares how cannabis affects women specifically.

Dr. June Chin (13:22):

When MDs write prescriptions for women, they don’t take into account the differences in dosaging that’s needed or the differences in medication. Women, we have more adipose tissue, we have more changes in hormones, metabolism, our genetics are different, and that really plays a role in how we metabolize prescription medication and supplements and cannabis. So the studies that are being done are usually not diverse enough. There’s usually not as much women as there are men because even in animal studies, women’s cycle sort of quote, unquote, messes up the clinical trial.

Ellen Scanlon (14:01):

According to a study from the University of Washington, estrogen can lower your tolerance to cannabis by increasing women’s sensitivity to THC by almost 30%, a 30% increase. So cannabis can definitely affect women more than men. It’s just hormones. So please go at your own pace and as you’re figuring out how you want to feel, introduce THC slowly because depending on the time of the month and where your hormone levels are, the same dose of cannabis can make you feel really different. We have a great monthly cycle chart on our website, dothepot.com to help you figure out when you’ll be most sensitive to THC. It’s actually when you’re ovulating and I’ll link to it in the show notes. Remember, you don’t have to try to compete or keep up and a little bit can go a long way. And keeping all this in mind may just help to avoid all the feelings of …


Number three, pace yourself. When I say start slowly, I want to be really clear about what I mean. Many new cannabis consumers expect a huge revelation when they first try to consume weed, but often cannabis can have really subtle effects, and that’s great. It’s not meant to be an overwhelming experience, but in waiting for this big event, sometimes you can miss the subtleties. With cannabis, it’s very important to consider the timing with what you’re consuming. Smoking may have nearly instant effects and the high can last for one to three hours. Edibles can take one to two hours to feel, and the effects can last between four to eight hours after that. So no matter how you consume cannabis, it is important to wait before consuming more cannabis. Even though the gummy you might take is really small, some of them can pack a big punch.


Number four, microdosing. Christine De La Rosa is the co-founder of the People’s Ecosystem. We spoke with her in episode 59 where we dove into some of the benefits of microdosing and she had some really great tips.

Christine De La Rosa (16:24):

If you go into a dispensary, you’ll see edibles that are like 10 milligrams. Microdosing is really just using smaller amounts over a longer period of time instead of taking one gummy for 10 milligrams at that moment. So when you’re doing microdosing, you’re looking for edibles that have about three milligrams, and then you take one of those, see how you feel. You might in a couple of hours take another one to keep you on that really steady, like it’s doing good stuff for your body, but it’s not like you’re unable to function.

Ellen Scanlon (16:52):

Microdosing is just taking small amounts of cannabis and it’s a low risk way to experiment with weed. Everyone is different, and although Christine recommended microdosing with around three milligrams of THC, I would actually suggest consuming more in the range of one to two milligrams, especially with edibles, which remember can last a very long time. For me, a perfect microdose is two to maybe two and a half milligrams of THC. Listen to episode 101, which is called, Our Number One Tip for Enjoying Edibles, for our tips to keep in your back pocket when you’re shopping for weed edibles. I’ll link to it in the show notes. And if you’re feeling paranoid about potentially experiencing paranoia, starting slowly with a microdose is a great way to experiment with a new strain or a new method of consuming cannabis.


Number five. Okay, let’s say the worst has happened and you feel paranoid. You’ve consumed some cannabis and it’s not going well. There is a really simple way to get less high, which is to take some CBD in an oil tincture form. You can buy a CBD tincture from a dispensary, or CBD derived from the hemp plant can be purchased in all 50 states and online. So it’s an easy thing to have around. I love the CBD oil tincture from East Fork Cultivars. I’ll link to it in the show notes. The bottle comes with a dropper, so you put the oil under your tongue for 30 to 60 seconds and then wait about 15 minutes. You’ll feel less high and more like yourself.


While we hope these tips help you, we want to encourage anyone with persisting feelings of paranoia, lasting side effects or other concerns to speak with a licensed medical professional. This has been Paranoia and I hope you’ve enjoyed Weed Words. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com, and that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter. For sneak peeks behind the scenes, please follow us on socials @dothepot. And if you like How to Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps more people find the show. Thanks to our writer, Meliá Grasska and our producers Madi Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon and thanks for listening to How to Do the Pot.



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