As any cannabis consumer can attest, if there’s one feeling no one enjoys, it’s being too high. It can happen to anyone: maybe you took too big a hit trying to impress some friends, maybe the edible kicked in three hours late after you’d already eaten another thinking they weren’t working. Maybe you tried concentrates for the first time and underestimated their potency, or maybe you just have a lower tolerance than most. Whatever the cause, the result is the same: you’re in a whole other world, uncomfortably high, and feeling like you’re never coming down.
First of all, follow the immortal advice of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and DON’T PANIC! Nearly every cannabis consumer has been there at one point or another, and we’re all still here to tell the tale. To date, cannabis overdose has resulted in exactly zero deaths. As miserable as you may feel, you aren’t going to die. The next several minutes to several hours may be quite the journey, but you’ll be around to tell about it when it’s all over. First, we’ll discuss some ways to avoid getting to that “too high” point. Then we’ll present some potential strategies that may provide some relief after you’ve already crossed that threshold.
Avoid Getting Too High: Know Your Limits
Unfortunately, the key to not getting too high is to, well, not get too high! This doesn’t sound helpful on its surface, but hear us out: in order to avoid getting too high, you need to know your limits. This means you need to know how much cannabis you need to consume to produce the effects you desire without going overboard.
It takes experience, and a little experimentation, to find the dose that’s right for you. If you’re just starting to use cannabis, start small and work your way up to a larger dose. The principle works the same as with any other substance: you can always take more, but you can’t un-smoke that last joint or negate that extra edible once it’s in your system.
Conscious Consumption: How Not To Get Too High
First, an important note on selecting a strain: studies have shown that CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, can help negate the negative sensations that THC, the psychoactive component, can cause in some users. When starting out (or if you commonly experience paranoia or anxiety as a side-effect of cannabis), try selecting a strain that is relatively high in CBD and lower in THC. This may help you experience the positive effects of the herb without the intense negative side-effects.
We recommend starting by smoking the flower, vaporizing flower or cannabis concentrate, or using cannabis tinctures, as these methods allow you to consume cannabis in smaller increments, letting you fine-tune your dose until you find an amount that suits you. Consuming cannabis through one of these methods also allows it to take effect more quickly, which in turn allows you to more accurately discern how much and which of the effects you are feeling.
For this same reason, we suggest holding off on using edibles until you have a better idea of your tolerance level. This is because edibles tend to take much longer to take effect than cannabis consumed through the mucous membranes of the lungs or mouth, making it more difficult to detect when you’ve had enough. Every edible cannabis consumer has a story about eating one (or several) too many edibles and suffering from the dreaded “couch lock” that comes with the intense physical high they produce.
If and when you do decide to try edibles, go for an option from a dispensary that lists the dosage on the packaging. If you’re making them at home, you can manipulate the potency to find a dose that suits you but isn’t overpowering. A good rule of thumb when trying edibles, especially as a beginner, is to start with one serving (usually 10mg THC), then wait three hours before consuming more. While three hours may sound extreme, edibles can take a very long time to “kick in,” differing greatly even in the same person. For this reason, they carry a higher overconsumption risk and should be used with caution.
You may choose to consume cannabis concentrates, such as dabs or shatter. Like edibles, these forms of cannabis require extra caution, as it’s easy to overconsume without realizing it. While you may be consuming cannabis with a friend who dabs regularly or takes massive hits of shatter on a daily basis, you are under no obligation to keep up with them! Start with a small amount, then give it at least 15 minutes to take effect before you consume more, especially if it’s your first time. You can always take more, but a large dabis enough to knock even the most seasoned cannabis consumer temporarily senseless, so exercise caution.
Now, let’s discuss cannabis use in conjunction with alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to enhance the effects of cannabis, making your cannabis high significantly more intense and combining with the effects of the alcohol to produce undesirable side-effects. For cannabis consumers who have “cross-faded” like this, the feeling of vertigo, often resulting in nausea (commonly known as “the spins”), is a familiar and wholly unpleasant feeling.
Because even small doses of alcohol can drastically influence your blood-THC levels, it’s best to stick to one beer, cocktail, or glass of wine when consuming cannabis in conjunction with alcohol. Wait an hour, and then consume another drink if you desire. It’s always better to pace yourself than to find you’ve gone too hard too quickly, especially in social situations, especially in social situations such as parties or festivals.
Coming Back: When You’ve Gone Too Far
The first and most important step to bringing yourself back to a comfortable space is to hydrate yourself. Water is obviously best, but herbal (or decaffeinated) tea, sports drinks, and other beverages will do in a pinch—whatever it takes to get you to consume fluids. Note that this rule does not extend to alcohol, as it will only enhance the already too-intense effects of the cannabis in your system. Sugary and caffeinated beverages should also be avoided, as they tend to act as diuretics, dehydrating you in the long term.
Do you have “the munchies?” Cannabis can often make us feel hungry, and consuming a light snack may help you feel less impaired. Fruits, nuts, vegetables, and cheeses are all good choices to satisfy your cravings while nourishing your body. It may not be a good idea to eat a heavy meal, as this can induce feelings of sluggishness, drowsiness, and potentially nausea.
It’s a good idea to keep some black peppercorns on hand—many long-time cannabis consumers swear by this trick. Chewing on a few peppercorns, or even sniffing some ground black pepper, may provide some relief if you find you’ve overindulged. The science behind it is fairly simple: the terpenes in the black pepper bind to the same receptors that cannabinoids do, resulting in a synergistic effect that yields feelings of calm. This means that black pepper could help you mitigate feelings of anxiety or paranoia that can result from getting too high.
If you’re still feeling uncomfortably “elevated,” now is a good time to find a place to rest for awhile. Dim the lights, find a soft blanket to curl up with, give yourself all the pillows you need—whatever you need to do to make yourself completely comfortable. If you’re experiencing “the spins,” you can try placing one foot on the floor to help “ground” yourself; many cannabis consumers find that this helps stave off feelings of vertigo. Once you’re situated, just relax. You may find you drift off to sleep, or you may not. Take a nap if you can; you might wake up a bit groggy, but you’ll feel much better. If you find you can’t sleep, don’t fret. Just rest, and rise when you feel you’re ready.
As we discussed briefly earlier, there is some evidence to suggest that CBD can counteract the effects of THC, particularly the negative effects. If you order CBD oil tinctures, you might consider taking a dose (most are consumed sublingually and absorbed by the mucous membranes of the mouth, so they act relatively quickly) and seeing how you feel over the next fifteen minutes or so. For instantaneous relief, you could try inhaling from a CBD vaporizer cartridge or dabbing some 99% CBD Isolate. Worst case scenario, you won’t feel any different from before—CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it can’t possibly get you any higher than you already are.
Restless Soul: When You Can’t Sleep It Off
Sometimes cannabis gives us energy, and that energy needs to be directed someplace. That’s okay! Taking a walk can provide the release you need, grounding you in the present and refocusing your mind. Most cannabis consumers will agree that a walk in a natural setting is more peaceful than walking through a crowded square or street, which can aggravate feelings of paranoia and self-consciousness. Find a park or quiet trail to walk if you can, though just getting some fresh air by stepping onto a patio or into a backyard may do you some good.
Perhaps it’s raining or otherwise unpleasant outside (cold weather, in particular, can be especially insufferable when you’re too high). That’s okay, you still have plenty of options! The goal is to take your mind off how high you feel. Take a bubble bath or a shower and enjoy the heightened sensation, as well as the relaxation. Draw how you’re feeling, or grab a coloring book and settle in for a bit. Cuddle your significant other or your pet, or talk with your friends (who are hopefully right beside you, encouraging you that everything is going to be okay).
If you’re by yourself, you can use media options to pass the time while you “come down.” Play a video game and get “zoned in” for as long as you please. Listen to a favorite album while sitting in your favorite chair. Watch something that makes you laugh (I mean really laugh), and enjoy the endorphin rush. Put on a nature or space documentary if you’d rather contemplate a little while enjoying striking and evocative visuals, or a cooking show for a little culinary inspiration: you can make yourself something delicious, being as creative as you please! By redirecting your attention, you can change your perception of your high long enough to get through it.
Whether you’ve found yourself past a point of seemingly no return with cannabis in the past, or are new and trying to avoid that “too high” feeling altogether, knowing your limits is key to maintaining a pleasant cannabis experience. As with any other mind-altering substance, cannabis’ effects increase with dosage, and taking too much can produce undesirable sensations. Knowing how to consciously consume cannabis and recognize your personal limits can keep you from reaching that dreaded “never coming down” feeling in the first place.