Cannabis Panic Attack
3 min

Does Cannabis Cause Panic Attacks?

3 min

There are no end of ironies about cannabis. One of the most interesting is how its side effects show up. While it is increasingly used to treat drug resistant anxiety disorders, recreational users can find it creates a short-lived panic attack.

You smoke cannabis. Your heart suddenly starts racing. Maybe you suddenly have the chills. Or you might have trouble breathing. Maybe your toes or finger start tingling.

Then your mind gets into the act.

This is known as a “panic attack”. It is also a side effect of some kinds of cannabis in some people. In this situation, the body believes it is being harmed rather than helped.

What happens is pretty easy to understand.

Cannabinoids stimulate neurons in the brain and body. While they are usually thought of as a way to dampen the “flight or fight”[2] response, sometimes they have the opposite effect.

That said, if you do not understand what is going on, the experience can be a little bit on the terrifying side.


Marijuana – Both Anxiety Solution And Cause

There are several ironies at play here. These ironies have played a huge part in the drug war as well as cannabis’ demonization. Using cannabis for most people, does not seem to increase the risk of anxiety or depression.

Further, it is also clear, that there is no link  between cannabis use and the development of mood or anxiety disorders. Stress is a major cause of both. And since cannabis also helps alleviate stress, one would think it would actually help.

However, the fact remains, that sometimes, cannabinoids light up the wrong neuroprocessors. The end result? Panic attacks, that are unpleasant, even if short-lasting.


It is a matter of simple bio-chemistry. Cannabinoids are a way to help the brain send signals to every part of the body. Most of the time, and in most people, this has a regulatory impact. In other words, cannabis seems to help re-regulate systems, that are not working correctly. This is why they help people who suffer from anxiety and panic most of the time.

Anxiety and panic are caused in many cases, by a non-thinking, automatic response from the brain. This is sometimes called “flight or fight”. However, in reality it causes physical reactions, that are not always easy to identify or deal with. This is especially true if not facing down sabre tooth tigers but rather just blazing a toke in your living room.


How To Recognize A Panic Attack While High

This is the first question. Are you not feeling comfortably numb, relaxed or euphoric? Instead are you feeling hot (or cold). Are your fingers tingling? Do you feel dizzy or have trouble breathing? Is your heart suddenly racing?

Relax. However hard that might be. Understand that this is not fatal. It is also very fleeting. It will not last long.

Where such issues get complicated of course, is, if there are other problems going on. When users smoke a joint to relieve stress, sometimes those issues are magnified by the high.

However, the first way to stop the feeling is to recognize, that you are having it in the first place.


After recognizing what is happening, there are several ways to deal with the problem. These are both short and longer term. The most immediate effect of recognizing you are having a panic attack is that you do. This self-awareness will be calming in and of itself.

Short term, just wait. If overwhelming, eat or drink something. Effects from smoked cannabis dissipate far more quickly than if you eat it. 

Here is the other very good news. There are many, many strains of cannabis, that have been bred for people like you. This is another sign, that what you are experiencing may just be your body telling you to switch your weed.

Related article

Can Black Pepper Help Manage the Effects of Cannabis?


Low Anxiety Causing Cannabis

Think of it this way. Your anxiety attack might just be the source of inspiration. It will certainly be the beginning of a journey to find a cannabis strain that works for you. This is absolutely an opportunity for a journey of self-discovery. You could also find, that you have identified a health problem, that you were unaware of and treat it. Regardless, you will be better off and feel better.


If you also find, that you cannot tolerate any kind of cannabis, there are also other products you might try for a different but still euphoric trip.



Trip-e is a herbal psychedelic. It is made primarily from Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, which is also known as Argyreia nervosa. The capsules also contain a splash of guarana for added buzz. This product also has side effects, that include sleeplessness and nervousness. This is powerful stuff. Use with caution and follow user instructions.

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Hawaiian Baby Woodrose

Hawaiian Baby Woodrose

Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, used in ancient shamanic practices and today by space travellers of another sort, this plant has a niche rep all of its own. It has reported LSD-like effects (of a less intense variety). A normal trip lasts up to 8 hours. Tranquil feelings can last about 20 hours. That includes a deep and restful sleep after the trip. Negative side effects, however, can be extreme. Go slow and be careful.

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These party pills give you a feelgood buzz and lots of energy on the dance floor. Dance all night and feel great! Do not exceed recommended dose. Do not combine with other medications, alcohol or drugs.

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These tablets contain a smorgasbord of relaxing ingredients. Made from Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, I-tryptophan and I-tyrosine, these caplets can cause a dreamy, spacey effect for up to 12 hours. Like the other substances on this list, Space-e tablets should not be mixed with other narcotics or alcohol. Go slow.

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Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.
  • (n.d.). Marijuana anxiety? Here's what to do if you have a panic attack while high -
  • Carlos Blanco, Deborah S. Hasin, Melanie M. Wall, Ludwing Flórez-Salamanca, Nicolas Hoertel, Shuai Wang, Bradley T. Kerridge, & Mark Olfson. (2016/04/01). Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychiatric Disorders: Prospective Evidence From a US National Longitudinal Study | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network -
  • Jack A Prenderville, Áine M Kelly, & Eric J Downer. (2015, August). The role of cannabinoids in adult neurogenesis -
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