Audio hallucinations while smoking weed?
May 24, 2011 6:55 PM   Subscribe

How concerned should I be about audio hallucinations while smoking weed? And who do I even ask about this?

In the past 6-9 months, I have begun to experience occasional, mild to moderate auditory hallucinations while high (on pot). The weed has been different kinds, used in different amounts.

Generally, these incidents have happened while sitting in a relatively quiet place with a fan or other "white noise" in the background. The noises I have heard ranged from the sounds of laughter (eerily enough, in an otherwise silent, but not empty, theater space), singing and speaking voices.

Is this something to be concerned about? My hearing isn't terrible though occasionally with sinus trouble I find myself making people repeat things.

In each of the 3 or 4 times this has happened, I have found myself thinking that I was actually experiencing 'heightened' sense of hearing, until I have turned off/stepped away from the source of the white noise and realize there was no sound at all. In one case, I thought it was the neighbors upstairs talking and singing enthusiastically until I turned off the bathroom fan to silence.

I smoke regularly, anywhere from zero times a week to daily use, depending on the week. Part of me thinks this is just my brain "hearing" patterns that aren't there, but then it's also concerning as there's something distinctly eerie about hearing something that isn't there.

TLDR: should I be worried about audio hallucinations while getting high, and if so, should I see a shrink, a hearing doctor, both or neither?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've had mild auditory hallucinations while baked. When I was fairly young, at least.
posted by Netzapper at 7:02 PM on May 24, 2011

AFAIK this is completely normal, especially if you have only recently begun smoking. Enjoy it, it's part of the experience.
posted by lemur at 7:04 PM on May 24, 2011

You're high. That's how it works. If it bothers you, smoke less.
posted by empath at 7:16 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Mild hallucinations of this kind are par for the course, especially if you're smoking a sativa. They tend to be the more brainy and psychological of the two strains. If it's freaking you out a bit too much, try an indica instead. It'll give you more of a typically "stoned," heavy feeling.

One thing that definitely doesn't help is to be overly anxious about what you're experiencing. Anxiety has a powerful counter-effect to the high that can turn you edgy and paranoid. It's pretty psychoactive stuff and will change based on your overall feelings towards the experience.

In the interest of balance, I will mention that some researchers suggest that weed can have negative effects on folks who are already prone to psychotic symptoms - bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. But if you're only experiencing this when smoking weed, then you are most likely completely fine. If you are super-duper concerned about that, then of course consult your doctor.
posted by mykescipark at 7:22 PM on May 24, 2011

I am not your doctor, nor am I your psychiatrist. I am a neuroscientist who specialises in schizophrenia research. I would recommend that you see your doctor. If you are male and between the ages of 14 and 25, I urge you to see your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist if need be.
posted by unlaced at 7:28 PM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

The human brain commonly attempts to construct meaning/patterns from pseudorandom stimuli. The Ganzfeld procedure takes advantage of this effect in the visual and auditory fields.

One of the most notable effects of Cannabis is that it greatly increases the pattern matching capability of the brain and along with this the likelihood of spurious matches. Sleep deprivation and certain medications may create this effect too or otherwise augment the effect of Cannabis.

There may be something wrong with you, it's possible, but you describe this effect in conjunction with a drug known to cause it.

If you experience this effect without having consumed Cannabis, on a regular basis, and it impairs your normal function either practically (i.e. you can't tell when someone is talking or not or are constantly distracted by the sound of someone somewhere calling your name, etc.) or psychologically (i.e. threatening voices torment you, an omnipresent voice harshly criticizes you, etc.) then cease consumption of all non-prescription drugs and consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

I've smoked/vaporized/eaten Cannabis on a daily basis for most of the last decade and occasionally I hear things. Usually I'm on the edge of sleep experiencing hypnogogia or while lying in shivasana. Normally this phenomena comes as the sound of distant music, indistinct voices in the distance, non-existent wind chimes or occasionally some foreign voice calling my name (usually when I'm extremely sleep deprived).
posted by Matt Oneiros at 7:31 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've experienced this a hand full of times. Lots of factors, ranging from sleep, settings, strain and quantity consumed.
As long as you are not experiencing it while sober, I wouldn't worry about it. Cutting back/quiting should resolve it, else nthing seeing a doctor.
posted by handbanana at 7:46 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had that on shrooms. Never pot.

If you opt to see a doctor - which can never hurt - my thought is shrink over hearing specialist... but you might as well just start with your GP.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:01 PM on May 24, 2011

It's all in your head. No need to worry.

If the effects of drugs bother you... then maybe you shouldn't do drugs. You tried it, you didn't like it, so what? Honestly, regular weed smoking shouldn't be like something you need to practice or build character in order to achieve. If it doesn't work for you there is absolutely no point or benefit in trying to make it work.
posted by twblalock at 8:07 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

You mention white noise. Hearing things in white noise, especially a human voice (maybe saying your name), is very common, like seeing shapes of things in clouds or things moving in the corners of your vision.
posted by idiopath at 8:17 PM on May 24, 2011

" I am not your doctor, nor am I your psychiatrist. I am a neuroscientist who specialises in schizophrenia research. I would recommend that you see your doctor. If you are male and between the ages of 14 and 25, I urge you to see your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist if need be."

Sometimes we are too quick to label, labels are very limiting. It makes sense that a neuroscientist would knee-jerk react to hearing voices to schizophrenia.

While it's true that your symptoms could be signs of schizophrenia, that can be said of a great deal of people and their behaviors and experiences. If it doesn't happen when you aren't high, I wouldn't consider it worrisome.

I wish there were more true studies done on marijuana without corporate biased agendas, It can be a great help to many people. Besides who is to say that perhaps when you are high your more relaxed and allowing the flow of energy between you and everything around you to gain momentum to the point where you might be hearing something "cosmic" or "energetic".

"We don't see the world how it is, we see it how we are? Anais Nin
posted by gypseefire at 9:13 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lay off for a while, see if they occur during the time you're abstaining.

I have plenty of friends who have and do smoke pot, and some of them have had some mild auditory hallucinations. However, I've also had some teenaged clients (I work in mental health) who's first signs of schizophrenia are very similar to what you're describing. If you're mid teens to mid twenties, and male, and this problem worsens or occurs while you're abstaining, I strongly encourage you to talk to a psychiatrist.

I'm as pro-marijuana legalization as you'll find, but please don't listen to people who deny that there is plenty of research documenting a RELATIONSHIP, non-causal or otherwise, between marijuana and schizophrenia. Please don't start thinking you're in tune to cosmic forces; dude, you're just having fun and getting high.
posted by Benjy at 9:50 PM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm a sound mixer, don't get high, and I hear things. My last apartment had a bathroom fan that, when listened to for a long enough period, made me swear I could hear my phone ringing in the other room. Very inconvenient, considering the circumstances. I agree with with the pattern matching posts, and I'd suggest that if you replaced the white noise with something structured like speech or music the illusion would vanish.
posted by stephennelson at 10:00 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just be careful. Smoking too much can and will mess you up. Smoking little enough is OK. OK?

Ask me how I know.
posted by krilli at 1:33 AM on May 25, 2011

Don't see a doctor--yet. It may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon and visit a psychiatrist, neurologist, or other health professional, but your first priority is to establish a connection between weed and the audio hallucinations. Do do this, modify your weed consumption. Cut it back, cut it out, switch to indicas, try different strains. Experiment. If that doesn't work, then--and only then--see a doctor (by all means, and as soon as possible).

Our health system is overtaxed by patients who visit doctors at the drop of a hat, without attempting lifestyle changes. Be kind to the system and other people who really need the care.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:17 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

A fair range of anecdotal evidence from multiple parties back in my youth suggests that this is a commonplace effect of weed. Some of the effects of weed are sometimes psychologically uncomfortable. If this aspect of it starts to bother you you cut back or quit for a while. No need to worry about this otherwise.
posted by nanojath at 9:44 AM on May 25, 2011

I hear voices in white noise often when I am distracted or nearly asleep. This has been a lifelong thing for me, and I don't smoke pot anyway. I could see how pot might strengthen the effect, but this sort of thing isn't uncommon anyway. I wouldn't worry unless it begins to interfere in some way with your life or comfort in your sanity.
posted by Because at 12:32 PM on May 25, 2011

We have very similar experience. I am not schizophrenic, nor am I, by anyone's definition, a "boring stoner." Auditory hallucinations are extremely common even for the un-stoned, and after experiencing them occasionally for more than ten years now, depending on the nature of the hallucination it can still be hard to tell if you're really hearing faint noises until you change your sound environment and it goes away (or doesn't). Shit, I've heard some of the best music of my life this way. Whole bands, apparently well produced.

The only thing I'd say is that if they develop into critical voices or voices giving commands (compelling or not), then seek help immediately. Other than that, how much you smoke and when is up to you and how it makes you feel. If you're bothered, then cut down. If you like it, figure out how to make it happen. I am not anyone's doctor.
posted by cmoj at 12:41 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

This used to happen to me all the time when high. Usually it was a mild auditory hallucination--what sounded like a group of people chatting or laughing. Then I'd turn off the music, or TV, or whatever, and realize there wasn't anything to hear besides normal background sounds. Other times, I'd enter a completely quiet space (like an empty apartment) and very briefly hear more of the same, before realizing no one else was home.

I also remember some intense auditory hallucinations while camping (e.g., swearing I could hear bat echolocation sounds; groups of non-existent hikers coming down the trail in the middle of the night, etc.).

It's been a good ten years since I've smoked any amount of pot, and I didn't go crazy, and I don't have auditory hallucinations at all (other than tinnitus). So, yeah, it's a normal part of getting high. I didn't like many of pot's side-effects, so I stopped using it.
posted by bennett being thrown at 7:04 PM on May 25, 2011

Enjoy it while it lasts; tolerance will make it less so.
posted by kalsifur at 6:07 PM on June 11, 2011

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