Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 28, 2022

While weed can make you feel higher than a kite, it can also cause some temporary side effects that can dampen your marijuana spirit. Many weed enthusiasts have experienced some really unpleasant cases of weed-induced paranoia, and we can all agree that that’s not fun. 

If you’re one of the many cannabis users who’ve had to endure this negative effect once or twice, you might find this article of interest, because we’ll be talking about weed paranoia and its causes, as well as how to prevent experiencing it.

What Is Weed Paranoia?

Weed paranoia is one of the short-term side effects of cannabis where you experience paranoid thoughts while being under the influence of weed. 

These paranoid thoughts usually involve feeling like you’re being watched or followed, or like someone is plotting against you or trying to harm you in some way. This causes irrational fear and suspicion of the people around you, based on a perceived threat that’s not there. The feeling is similar to anxiety (another side effect of weed), but it’s much more specific.

What Happens In My Brain When I Smoke Cannabis?

Cannabis has many active compounds of which the cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most important because they cause the majority of the effects weed is known for. The remaining cannabinoids and terpenes are there as companions to work with them and support them, so they also play a part in weed’s effects.

THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system, which is a complex cellular network that plays a major role in restoring homeostatic balance in the body. It’s composed of cannabinoid receptors, neurotransmitters, and enzymes that work together whenever there is something out of balance.

The Cannabinoid Receptors and Weed

The cannabinoid receptors are located in various parts throughout the body, including parts of the brain responsible for mood, memory, coordination, perception, etc. When you consume weed, THC attaches to the receptors and influences their function, in that way producing the psychoactive effects also known as “the high.” CBD doesn’t fully bind to the receptors, but it regulates the intensity of the effects of THC.

Normally, weed should relax you and even give you the giggles because it influences the production of serotonin and dopamine, the mood-boosting neurotransmitters. However, not everyone gets euphoric feelings, as some experience the not-so-pleasant side effects.

Why Does Weed Make Me Paranoid?

Experiencing paranoia during a weed session can really be disheartening. Your experience will be ruined, and your mood even more so. However, there is an explanation as to why all this occurs.

As we said, THC stimulates the cannabinoid receptors in the brain by influencing the production of certain neurotransmitters that improve your mood. But THC also influences another neurotransmitter in the body, and that is the GABA neurotransmitter. 

One of GABA’s primary roles is to reduce the excess activity of neurons, which is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain. By extension, GABA helps to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress. 

Higher doses of THC seem to inhibit GABA and interrupt its normal function. This activates the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates key emotional processes, including our “fight-or-flight” response. Consequently, the amygdala gets overstimulated and starts to perceive danger when it isn’t there, thus increasing your anxiety and causing paranoia.

Other Important Factors that Can Cause Paranoid Thoughts

There are also other factors that can influence whether weed will cause paranoia. Certainly, not everyone will experience this side effect, but many do. To make things more clear, here’s what else can be at play.

1. Genetic predisposition

Some people are genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to the paranoia-inducing effects of THC, which is why they easily become paranoid or anxious whenever they smoke weed. For others who have a family history of mental illness, it can induce schizophrenia or psychosis, so these individuals are always advised to tread carefully with marijuana or avoid it completely.

2. Momentary mood

Sometimes, when you’re having a stressful period and you’re anxious most of the time, weed can make things worse and only bring out what you’re feeling to the surface. It may happen once or twice, even if you’re not one to get frequently paranoid when consuming weed, but sometimes your brain will have its own chemistry that just won’t tolerate weed well.

3. The setting and people you’re with

If you’re smoking weed with people you don’t know well and you’re not comfortable with, it’s highly probable the feeling will only exacerbate, and instead of relaxing, you’ll end tensing up (and probably getting paranoid).

4. The strain you’re using

It’s a well-known fact that strains with a high THC content are much more likely to produce negative effects, especially if your tolerance is low or if it’s your first time smoking weed.

5. The dose 

Since weed is non-toxic, a lot of users tend to consume more than they actually need, which is totally unnecessary. Doses larger than what your own tolerance allows will easily make you experience side effects, including paranoia.

How Can I Avoid Getting Paranoia Every Time I Smoke Weed?

There are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of getting paranoid when you consume weed. Let’s go over the most effective ones.

1. Use Low-THC and High-CBD Strains

You probably guessed it by now, but low-THC and/or high-CBD strains are very recommended if you’re prone to getting paranoia. Don’t judge the strain by whether it’s a Sativa or an Indica strain, but look at the cannabinoid ratio instead. In case you need some help, here’s our list of the best weed strains for anxiety.

2. Seek Specific Terpenes

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that work in synergy with the cannabinoids to support their effects, and they add their own spin to the mix. Some terpenes actually have calming properties that inhibit the intensity of THC and help you feel more balanced. Weed strains with the terpenes linalool, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene are a good choice.

3. Consume Weed In Smaller Doses

Large doses will only do you harm. If the lowest effective dose works for you, then there’s no need to go higher than that because, funnily enough, it won’t make you higher, only more paranoid.

4. Choose Your Method Wisely

Choose a method of consumption that’s easily dosed and that you can have control over. Smoking and vaping are preferable because you start feeling the effects soon and can dose it well. One-hitters are an excellent choice, as are bowls. Bongs hold too much smoke that can be hard to control, while dabs are too powerful to mess with if you’re sensitive to THC. Edibles are also not a good idea because the high lasts longer and can get very uncomfortable if you get paranoid.

Final Thoughts on Weed and Paranoia

One of the more unpleasant side effects of weed is certainly getting paranoid. Even though it’s temporary, it can be intense and therefore it can feel like it lasts for much longer. However, it’s mostly related to how increased amounts of THC overly stimulate a key part of the brain that regulates our fear response.

Besides that, there are other factors, such as genetic predisposition. Individuals with a history of mental health problems should be cautious of cannabis use as it may trigger episodes of psychosis. In other cases, it may be a combination of a bad mood or an uncomfortable setting, as well as the dose and the strain used.

In any case, to prevent it, using low-THC strains and smaller doses could be the most effective. You should also stick to smoking and vaping and avoid edibles.

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.