There are so many reasons to love the effects of marijuana; the euphoric high, the burst of creativity and the calming, anti-stress effects are just a few.  But what do you do when too much of a good thing turns into an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation? This is often referred to as “greening out” in the marijuana community.

That’s right, we’re talking about the dreaded “green out,” which can occur when you consume too much mary jane, turning a fun time into a bummer time.  How should a green out be dealt with and, better yet, how can you avoid having a green out to begin with?

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greening out

What does greening out mean?

Occasionally, when a person consumes too much marijuana for that person (whether in an edible, smokable, vaporized or oil form) a green out can occur.  The emphasis on individuality here is important: what may not seem like a lot of pot to one person can be quite a lot for another, due to differences in body chemistry, overall health, mental state and other factors.  The symptoms of a green out vary from person to person but they typically include feelings of nausea and distress and may include vomiting, dizziness, sweats or chills, a disoriented feeling, lack of mobility and a heightened sense of paranoia or anxiety. 

Though it can be scary to witness a green out in a friend or to experience one yourself, most green outs will fade away given time, but that timeframe for recovery can vary widely from person to person.  Sources indicate that a green out can last anywhere from thirty minutes to six hours, depending on how much pot was consumed and on the person’s individualized reaction. The good news is that most green out episodes do not require professional medical attention.  However, if someone is experiencing a green out after ingesting marijuana in tandem with other substances such as alcohol or harder drugs such as cocaine, obtaining professional medical attention is strongly recommended.

What Causes a Green Out?

Greening out involves the component in marijuana known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC – that lovely part in marijuana that makes people high.  THC ingested in an amount that is right for the pot user means that he or she can listen to “The Dark Side of the Moon” ten times through and have a thoroughly enlightening, entertaining and euphoric experience.  Ingest too much THC, however, and the primary cannabinoid receptor in the person’s brain, known as CB1, becomes overstimulated, possibly leading to sickness, paranoia, chills and other unpleasant green out symptoms.

greening out

How to Manage a Green Out

In many ways, a green out can be managed in the same way you would a panic attack.  The goal is to get the person to a calm and even-minded state. The first step in this process is to bring the person to an environment where he or she feels safe and secure.  Most likely, this is not the dancefloor at a local rave, so if that’s where you find yourself when a green out starts to happen, it’s time to hail a rideshare home.

Other Tips to Manage Greening Out

  1.       Breathe deeply – One of the most common signs of a green out is an elevated sense of anxiety and paying attention to one’s breathing helps calm both the mind and any unusually rapid palpitations of the heart.
  1.       Drink fluids — Water and juice are both viable and helpful tools to help manage a green out.  Save the cocktail or energy drink for another occasion.
  1.       Use CBD — You may not have used CBD before but it works to block the THC receptors in your brain, which can be very helpful when those THC receptors become overstimulated.
  1.       Sleep it off – Getting some shut-eye can be the most effective way to manage a green out and fully recover from it.  If you feel too anxious to sleep, putting on some relaxing music or a favorite episode of a TV show you’ve seen dozens of times can at least help lull you into a relaxed state of mind.
  1.       Grab some pepper – If all the above tips fail, some people swear that chewing or snorting black pepper can calm a green out episode.  It may sound strange, but the beta-caryophyllene in black pepper has been shown to have proven anxiolytic qualities.
greening out

How to Avoid a Green Out

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just avoid the drama and anxiety of a green out altogether?  The good news is that avoiding a green out is entirely possible if you recognize and stick to your limits when it comes to marijuana.  To state it succinctly: don’t overdo it when it comes to pot. Start out slowly if you haven’t used it in awhile – everyone knows that marijuana is much more potent today than it was twenty years ago and your marijuana limit now may be different than it once was.  If you are a regular user and you suddenly smoke more than you usually do, you also may experience a green out. Also, the likelihood for a green out rises if the mixing of substances occurs: in general, it’s not a great idea to take marijuana with alcohol, pills, etc.

The likelihood for a green out also increases by consuming cannabis on an empty stomach – think of food in your stomach as the first barrier to a cannabis crash!  And while we’re talking about substances in your stomach: use extra caution when enjoying pot edibles. Determining the THC dosage in an edible can be challenging, as can anticipating the edible’s effect on your body and mind, so start out by ingesting a small amount and go from there.  Your body and mind will thank you.

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