Managing Side Effects of THC FAQ

Cannabis is a very safe and effective medication. However, like all medications, there are some common and not-so-common side effects that may be experienced. Most of the side-effects are due to the THC content (the cannabinoid that can cause impairment) and are often mitigated simply by choosing strains that contain CBD (the non-impairing cannabinoid).

 
 

Why does cannabis make me hungry and why does food taste so good after using cannabis?

  • Some cannabis strains trigger the area of the brain responsible for appetite stimulation, telling your body you are hungry, while at the same time heightening your sense of smell and taste.
  • THC is well known for stimulating appetite and cannabis users actually seek out cannabis strains for this effect. They choose THC strains that deliberately stimulate their appetite, especially if they are suffering from poor appetite due to gastrointestinal upset caused by a disease processes or certain medications or treatments like chemotherapy.
  • THC’s ability to stimulate the appetite can bring a lot of enjoyment to your cooking and dining experience, however it can be an annoyance when you find yourself binging on junk food after medicating with THC.
  • Read the research: “The endocannabinoid system controls food intake via olfactory processes”: https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.3647

How can I avoid appetite stimulation aka ‘the munchies’?

  • Choose strains with at least a little CBD content (2-5% or more). CBD can dampen the appetite stimulating properties of THC helping you stay more in control of your appetite.
  • A bit of experimenting with different strains may help you discover a strain that helps with your symptoms without stimulating your appetite.
  • Choose strains with lower myrcene and higher humulene terpenes. Myrcene is well known for increasing appetite and also one of the more common terpenes found in cannabis so it is hard to avoid completely, but it is possible to choose strains with lower amounts of myrcene content compared to other terpenes. The terpene Humulene is well known to suppress appetite. Choose strains high in humulene to help combat the munchies.
  • As the cannabis market develops watch for strains that are high in THCV and CBG cannabinoids. These cannabinoids shows promise as appetite suppressants and may be helpful for weight loss programs.

What do I do when I get the munchies?

  • The munchies can occur anywhere from just a few minutes to up to 2 hours after using a cannabis product.
  • Whenever possible, take your THC medication just prior to a meal. Since you were going to eat anyway you can satisfy any munchies with a proper meal.
  • The munchies will usually dissipate within 20 – 30 minutes, so you can ride out the urge to eat through distraction techniques, such as:
  • Drink a glass of water just after medicating with THC and then every 10 - 12 minutes. This can help dampen down feelings of hunger. (This may not be a great option just before bed as the need to urinate could interfere with sleep!)
  • Move your body with a gentle stretching routine or light yoga practice
  • If you are not feeling overly impaired, dizzy or disoriented go for a walk – preferably with a friend. The companionship and physical activity are both great distractions and extremely good for your mental and physical health.
  • Call a friend, read a book or engage in an activity that you enjoy.
  • Passively watching tv or streaming video is not recommended as many people are more conditioned to snack when staring at a screen. However if you feel that watching a movie is the best option for you after medication, choose your snacks wisely!

What food should I eat when I get the munchies?

  • Popcorn! One of the best healthy munchie foods, air popped popcorn has a satisfying crunch and is full of fibre. Toss with a small amount of melted butter or coconut oil and generous amounts of your favourite spice blend to satisfy even the most extreme case of the munchies. (Hot air poppers make the healthiest popcorn. Stay away from microwave brands that contain a host of artificial flavourings and preservatives.)
  • Veggies or rice crackers and savoury dipping sauces (guacamole, hummus, pesto, Baba Ghanoush (eggplant dip), Tzatziki (cucumber and garlic dip), etc),
  • Flavourful salads, homemade or from your local deli, especially ones that contain a mix of cooked grains or a starch as well as veggies
  • Roasted root vegetables can be extremely satisfying and nourishing, especially if spiced up to your taste
  • Avocado toast topped with savory spice blend.
  • Roasted nuts and seeds
  • Dried fruit is a healthy way to trick your mind into thinking you are eating candy
  • Granola or other healthy cereal with unsweetened nut milk or yogurt

How can I stop myself from eating junk food when I have the munchies?

  • Don’t keep junk food (such as chips or candy) in the house. Instead stock your pantry and fridge with healthy, flavourful foods.
  • If you do keep junk food in the house purchase the smallest bags available. The psychological effect of eating a whole bag of junk food tells your brain you’ve had enough. So the smaller the bag, the less junk food you will need in order to feel satisfied

How can I avoid feeling sleepy when I take cannabis during the daytime?

  • Many people turn to cannabis for its sedative effects, helping them fall asleep and stay asleep, ensuring their body gets the rest it needs.
  • Other people use cannabis to help them relax and manage stress.
  • However for people who require cannabis to manage their symptoms during the daytime, drowsiness can be problematic.
  • Choose daytime strains that are less likely to cause drowsiness.
  • Sativa strains are best known for their stimulating properties and are a good choice for daytime use; whereas Indica strains are best known for their sedating properties, so stay away from indicas during the day.
  • Choose strains with low THC and high CBD for daytime use.
  • If your health conditions responds best with higher amounts of THC, try strains with equal amounts of CBD or at least a little CBD (2 – 5%)
  • Stay away from strains high in CBN. CBN, the most sedating of all the cannabinoids, is a metabolite of THC that increases with the age of the product. Fresher cannabis products will contain less CBN.
  • Choose strains with fewer sedating terpenes:
  • Both Limonene and Pinene are uplifting and energizing terpenes
  • Myrcene can be very sedating for some people and is a great choice when you want to induce sleep. It is one of the more common terpenes found in cannabis so it is hard to avoid completely, but it is possible to choose strains with lower amounts of myrcene content compared to other terpenes.
  • Linalool is well known for its sedating properties, so best to avoid for daytime use.

Why does my heart race shortly after using cannabis?

  • Tachycardia (elevated heart rate) is experienced by some cannabis users. This is usually caused by the body compensating for a drop in blood pressure as a result of THC use.
  • An increase heart rate, while in itself is not dangerous, can be uncomfortable and even add to feelings of anxiety.

How do I avoid tachycardia (elevated heart rate) as a result of cannabis use?

  • If you are prone to tachycardia minimize THC intake by choosing strains with high CBD and less than 2% THC.
  • If you require THC to treat your symptoms, choose strains with equal amount of CBD.

How do I avoid anxiety caused by elevated heart rate?

  • When you experience uncomfortable anxiety from THC, move into a calm, quiet environment and sit in a comfortable chair. Sip on water. Take slow, deep, deliberate breathes until the heart rate calms down.
  • Be sure to talk to your doctor about this side effect, especially if you are taking heart medication or drugs to control high blood pressure.

How can I avoid dizziness after using cannabis?

  • Dizziness can occur within just a few minutes of inhaling cannabis medicine or shortly after ingested cannabis becomes active in the body.
  • Dizziness is usually the result of a drop in blood pressure after taking THC.
  • Dizziness is uncomfortable and disorienting, and can lead to falls and other accidents.
  • It is very important that people inexperienced with THC take only a small amount at a time, and slowly increase the amount over several days and weeks. This will allow your body to have more tolerance to THC and avoid uncomfortable side effects.
  • Inexperienced and sensitive users should always be sitting down in a safe space when using cannabis medicine, and preferably not be alone.
  • When experiencing dizziness, find a calm, quiet place to lay down and rest. Take slow, deep breaths and sip on water.
  • Do not remedicate with THC until all feelings of dizziness have passed. This can take a few minutes to several hours.
  • Be sure to talk to your doctor about this side effect, especially if you are taking heart medication or drugs to control high blood pressure. Most people on blood pressure medication may be able to reduce or even stop their medicines. However, this must be done in consultation with your doctor.

Why does cannabis cause bloodshot eyes?

  • Stereotypical “stoners” are depicted as having bloodshot eyes that are half closed.
  • This well known side-effect of cannabis medication is caused from the drop in blood pressure from THC. When your blood pressure drops, the capillaries dilate and open up allowing more blood flow to the area. This increased blood flow is very visible in what are normally white eyes.
  • It is for this very effect that some people use cannabis to relieve eye pressure caused by glaucoma.
  • Even though red eyes are not harmful, nobody wants to walk around looking like a stereotypical stoner.
  • People can purchase over-the-counter eye drops that will reduce the redness caused by cannabis consumption.

Why do I experience numbness and tingling after using cannabis?

  • Rarely do people experience numbness or tingling when using cannabis, and people who do experience numbness or tingling may only experience it occasionally – not everytime they use cannabis.
  • Inexperienced users tend to experience numbness and tingling more often, and for the inexperienced it can take longer to resolve than for people who have built up a tolerance to THC.
  • The numbness and tingling is most often a result of lowered blood pressure brought on by THC, however it could be due to other reasons such as interaction with other medications.
  • Most numbness and tingling is harmless and will resolve in 12 – 24 hours after using THC
  • Be sure to talk to your doctor about this side effect, especially if you are taking heart medication or drugs to control high blood pressure.

Does cannabis cause dehydration?

  • While not technically dehydration, cannabis use can bring on uncomfortable dehydration-like symptoms such as dry eyes and mouth, grogginess, headache, etc.
  • Reducing the amount of THC in your cannabis medication can help mitigate these symptoms.
  • Be sure to drink a glass of water each time you take cannabis medication.
  • If you use THC to help you sleep, drink a half glass of water prior to sleep and have a glass of water waiting for you when you wake up.
  • If plain water does not quench your thirst or relieve THC headache and grogginess, try an electrolyte drink.
  • Dry, crusty eyes can usually be relieved by splashing water on your face or with over-the-counter eye drops.

Why do I feel disoriented and confused after using cannabis?

  • For some people THC in cannabis can cause impairment, and like any drug that causes impairment, can lead to disorientation and confusion.
  • Disorientation can occur within just a few minutes of inhaling cannabis medicine or shortly after ingested cannabis becomes active in the body.
  • Disorientation may lead to falls and other accidents or even panic.
  • It is very important that people inexperienced with THC take only a small amount at a time, and slowly increase the amount over several days and weeks. This will allow your body to have more tolerance to THC and avoid uncomfortable side effects.
  • Inexperienced and sensitive users should always be sitting down in a safe space when using cannabis medicine, and preferably not be alone.
  • When experiencing disorientation, find a calm, quiet place to lay down and rest. Take slow, deep breaths and sip on a little water.
  • Do not remedicate with THC until all feelings of disorientation have passed. This can take a few minutes to several hours.
  • Be sure to talk to your doctor about this side effect, especially if you are taking heart medication or drugs to control high blood pressure.

Why do I feel anxious and paranoid after using cannabis?

  • Inexperienced and THC sensitive users are more prone to experiencing anxiety or even paranoia from THC medication. But even experienced users can find themselves in an uncomfortable situation from time to time.
  • Anxiety and paranoia happen when THC hits certain receptors in the central nervous system.
  • Certain strains, such as sativa varieties, are more likely to cause this than others, although it seems to be very individual as to who is affected.
  • If you are prone to mild anxiety or full blown paranoia cause by THC is it important that your cannabis medicine always contains equal amounts or more CBD than THC as CBD will counteract the less desirable side-effects from THC.
  • People prone to anxiety and paranoia should only use THC medication when they with someone they know and trust. Make sure that person understands that you are taking THC and that anxiety and paranoia are possible side-effects. Your support person can help you stay calm until the feeling goes away.
  • Use THC in a private, familiar place and avoid noisy public areas.
  • Distractions like a watching a funny movie, listening to a fun talk show or putting on your favourite music can be helpful.
  • When unexpectedly experiencing anxiety and paranoia reach out to a trusted friend for support. Be sure to set up your support system prior to using cannabis.
  • Do not remedicate with THC until all feelings of anxiety and paranoia have passed. This can take a few minutes to several hours or even a day or two.
  • Be sure to talk to your doctor about this side effect, especially if you have a history of mental health disorders or are on certain medications.

Why do I experience perceived time alterations after using cannabis?

  • THC can affect the brain in a way that interferes with our ability to sense an accurate passage of time.
  • Some people say this is because THC ‘puts you in the zone’ … that creative space where your surroundings seem to disappear and time passes unnoticed.
  • However most people experience a slowing down of time with THC use, rather than time ‘disappearing’.
  • While annoying, perceived time alterations are not harmful.
  • You can mitigate this side-effect by choosing strains that have more balanced amounts of THC and CBD.

Why does cannabis interfere with my short-term memory?

  • THC can affect the brain in a way that interferes with our ability to anchor in memories of events that happen while under the impairment of THC.
  • This in no way affects any of your long term memories.
  • Some people say that to retrieve your memories from a previous impairment from THC, you need to be impaired from THC … but this method is rather hit and miss.
  • THC can be an incredible stimulant of creativity, but all too often many of those great ideas are irretrievable after the effect of THC wear off. If you are using THC during creative sessions, be sure to record the session or have a sober person take notes.
  • You can mitigate this side-effect by increasing the amount of CBD in your medication.

Can cannabis use decrease a person’s motivation?

  • Decreased motivation is another stereotype of THC use and a relatively uncommon side-effect.
  • However for those who do suffer from this side-effect after using THC it can be a real problem and drastically interfere with their life.
  • THC is well known for its ability to relax the body and calm the mind, but for some people these symptoms can swing a little bit too far resulting in temporary or even long term inability to do the things you want to do.
  • Left unchecked this side-effect can spiral into increased use of THC creating a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.
  • If you are experiencing decreased motivation from THC use it is important that you talk to your doctor so you can be assessed for other health disorders that may be the cause.
  • Decreased motivation may actually be the result of increase anxiety cause by THC use. Anxiety can paralyse a person from getting on with their day.
  • Try switching to CBD products, with under 2% THC content.
  • Choose strains that are higher in Limonene and Pinene (uplifting and energizing terpenes) and lower in Myrcene and Linalool (sedating and relaxing terpenes)

Can I use alcohol at the same time as cannabis?

  • Both THC and alcohol can cause intoxication.
  • Using alcohol with your THC medication can increase the effects of the alcohol, leading to unpredictable and uncomfortable effects, including disorientation, low blood pressure and loss of memory.
  • It is best to abstain from alcohol use altogether when taking cannabis medication.
  • If you do choose to take alcohol, use the lowest percentage and dilute generously with water or juice.
  • Do not drink and drive! And especially do not drink, smoke and drive!

Is it possible to be allergic to cannabis?

  • Very rarely a person will have an allergic response when smelling or ingesting cannabis, much like someone might experience with seasonal allergies to grass and other pollens.
  • If an allergic response happens, immediately discontinue all cannabis medication and talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Your doctor can determine if cannabis should be permanently discontinued or if the allergic response can be managed with antihistamines.

Why do I get a rash on my hands and arms whenever I roll a joint?

  • Rarely people experience a rash when their bare skin comes in contact with cannabis plant material.
  • The rash is harmless and will disappear in a few hours.
  • If you experience such a rash, use long sleeves and gloves when rolling a joint or handling cannabis products.

My friend often vomits when she uses cannabis, but I never do. Is she allergic to cannabis?

  • A rare reaction to cannabis use is cyclical vomiting, also known as ‘Hyperemesis Syndrome’
  • Some feel that vomiting after cannabis use is a result of chemicals that are formed when cannabis is burned. Try using a vaporizer instead of smoking cannabis.
  • Choose strains with lower THC potency and strains with balanced THC and CBD amounts.
  • Change strains often.
  • If possible take a cannabis rest day once a month or once a week.
  • To break the cycle you may have to stop all cannabis products for several weeks to allow your cannabinoid receptors to reset.