Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 27, 2022

For all the nice and cozy feelings the cannabis plant can induce, getting paranoid when high is the most dreaded and unwelcome side effect a lot of weed enthusiasts have experienced. Yes, it may feel like you’re in danger when you’re not, but the feeling is far from pleasant.

Some cannabis users have managed to get past it, while others may still be looking for ways to become less paranoid when smoking weed, which is what we’ll discuss in this article.

Let’s see why weed makes some people paranoid and what you can do to lessen the weed paranoia.

How Does Paranoia Feel?

Paranoia is not pleasant in the slightest. It’s the irrational belief that you are in danger or that someone is trying to harm you. Some examples of paranoid thinking involve that there is someone following you, or that others are talking about you, or thinking that there is a plot against you. The feeling might make you worried about your mental health, it’s intense when it happens and feels very real, but, of course, it’s actually not.

How Cannabis Can Induce Paranoia – THC Is to Blame

Weed interacts with the body’s own endocannabinoid system by attaching to its cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are located in various places throughout the body, including the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for the fear response, or “fight-or-flight”.

The role of the amygdala is to regulate these responses, but when it’s over-stimulated, we start feeling a little uneasy and start perceiving danger that isn’t there. Consequently, we start to experience all sorts of symptoms, like an increased heart rate, racing thoughts, fear, etc.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in weed, is what causes the mind-altering effects of cannabis. When THC attaches to the cannabinoid receptors, it temporarily modifies their function, including the amygdala.

Some People Are More Prone to Experiencing Paranoia When Using Weed

Not everyone gets paranoid when smoking weed, so why do some people get terrible anxiety from it while others use it to treat their anxiety? What causes these opposite effects?

The truth is, several factors may come into play. A 2019 animal-based study seems to suggest that some people may be more genetically prone to experience anxiety and paranoia from weed use than others. Another animal-based study from 2014 suggests that sex also plays a role, with females being more sensitive to the effects of THC by up to 30% due to the higher estrogen levels.

However, other things are also important in this case, such as frequency of use (first-time users at greater risk), basal anxiety levels, and the personality of the individual. Those who have already experienced symptoms of anxiety or even panic attacks for a prolonged period of time may be more prone to experiencing anxiety and paranoia when smoking marijuana.

How to Prevent Feeling Paranoid When You Use Marijuana

Let’s see some tips about what you can do beforehand to avoid experiencing paranoia when you smoke weed.

Opt for a Less Potent Strain

The strain you use is crucial to your experience. Strains that have a high THC content will naturally be more likely to cause paranoid feelings than high CBD strains. CBD (cannabidiol) is known to be able to counter the effects of THC and balance it out.

Different strains cause different effects. Generally, Sativa strains are more energizing, and therefore the chances of experiencing weed paranoia are bigger. On the other hand, many users sensitive to THC like Indica strains do better because they are more mellow. Indica strains are also popular among medical marijuana users. Talk to your budtender in your local dispensary to learn more about low THC strains.

Try Micro-Dosing

Microdosing is great. You don’t have to get full-on high every time you smoke weed, especially if you’ve experienced paranoia in the past. Microdosing offers you the benefit of getting high just enough to get you buzzing, but not enough to feel any side effects. 

Vapes are a great method for micro-dosing and even edibles (gummies, brownies, candies, chocolates), provided that you use store-bought ones that disclose the amount of THC on the label. On the other hand, when you’re smoking a joint, try taking only one hit at first. High doses of weed are much more likely to get you paranoid than if you try a low dose. It’s better to be barely high than be highly uncomfortable for 2 hours.

Smoke Weed in a Safe Environment With People You Trust

If you’re worried about getting paranoid, pick your surroundings when you consume weed, at least until you build some tolerance, start feeling safer, and don’t get these side effects any longer. That said, if you’re at a get-together or a party where you don’t know anyone very well, maybe take a pass on the joint if you’re not sure.

Don’t Mix it With Alcohol

Alcohol can actually enhance the absorption of THC in the bloodstream, making its effects even more pronounced, so remember to start smoking weed completely sober. Mixing weed with alcohol can lead to undesired side effects in even experienced weed users.

What to Do if You Get Paranoid

Sometimes, even if you do everything you can to prevent feeling paranoid when you smoke weed, it can still happen. Maybe you took more than you intended or weren’t aware of the potency of the strain you used.

Whatever the reasons, it’s good to have a back-up plan if you know that you’re prone to getting paranoid. Let’s see what you can do to ease this side effect and help yourself feel better.

Drink Some Lemonade

Hydration is very important when you consume weed, not only to combat cottonmouth but also to flush the THC out of your system sooner when you experience anxiety and paranoia. That said, what better way to hydrate yourself than having some refreshing lemonade?

In fact, citrus fruits contain an enzyme that can help to counteract the effects of THC, and at the same time, they stimulate your salivary glands to prevent mouth dryness. Having a bottle of lemonade prepared beforehand in the fridge will definitely be useful if you want to stay on the safe side.

Chew on Peppercorns

This may sound unusual, but many users will swear by chewing peppercorns when feeling paranoid after getting high. Peppercorns contain the terpene called alpha-pinene which has an inhibiting effect on THC. In other words, this terpene works together with THC to gently calm you down.

Find a Comfortable Spot

Comfort is everything when you’re getting high, let alone when you experience paranoia. In this case, finding a comfortable spot means finding a place where you can feel safe and comfortable, whether it be on the couch or on the floor, or in the kitchen corner. Wherever you are, find the place that feels the most comfortable at that moment and snuggle yourself there.

Distract Yourself

This tip may be underrated, but distraction can work wonders when you feel paranoia creeping in. This may be as simple as turning on your favorite TV show or playing your favorite song, or even talking to a friend about something you know you have a lot to say about, like your favorite games, or anything really. The point is to shift your attention to something more calming.

Snack on Something You Like

Weed gives you the munchies, so you’ll have one more reason to reach for some snacks. The act of eating itself brings awareness back into your body and grounds you, which can help to pull you away from the paranoid thoughts.

Lastly, Remember That It’ll Pass

Remember that even though it may feel like it lasts for ages, it’s actually not that long. Try to remember that you’re not in danger and that by the next day you’ll already feel better.

Final Thoughts

Experiencing paranoia and intense anxiety when smoking is a very common side effect of weed use. Some individuals are more prone to experiencing paranoia than others, but it can happen to anyone regardless of experience or THC tolerance.

The best way to prevent it is to opt for cannabis strains that are lower in THC and higher in CBD, like Indica strains, and to mind the dosage you take.

If you happen to experience paranoia, hydrate yourself with lemonade, chew on some peppercorns, make yourself comfortable, and remember that it’s only temporary and you’ll soon feel a lot better.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.