the vice grip
May 6, 2008 2:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I avoid debilitating paranoia when smoking marijuana?

After time goes by things are nice, but the first 30 to 45 minutes are excruciating. I tried drinking but I'd rather not drink.
posted by plexi to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Doctor Doctor! It hurts when I move my arm like this . . .

you know the rest.
posted by tiamat at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2008 [6 favorites]

Do you want to avoid the munchies too? Seriously, this seems like an almost impossible question to answer if one only answers the question as asked.
posted by found missing at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2008

Smoke very small amounts at a time.
posted by Evstar at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2008

Play Mario-Kart.

posted by BigVACub at 2:14 PM on May 6, 2008 [4 favorites]

but the first 30 to 45 minutes are excruciating

Stop doing things that are excruciating.

Yeah, it's simple answer, but perhaps one worth thinking about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 PM on May 6, 2008

Or smoke all the time so it is never the "first" 30-45 minutes.
posted by jmd82 at 2:20 PM on May 6, 2008 [4 favorites]

Seriously, why would you want to cultivate a pot habit? I've had similar wonderings because I've had great experiences smoking weed and terrible experiences smoking weed. I'm sure I could talk to some stoners for "advice", and it probably just takes, well, practice, but -- why would you want to do that?

I hate to get all Nancy Reagan on ya, but what are the nice parts about smoking weed that you like? Is it the focus, or the relaxation? Take that $60 you'd spend on weed and get a massage and drink some wine. Problem solved.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:23 PM on May 6, 2008

breathe deeply. and relax. listen to some music, or focus on something visually/aurally/tactically entertaining that will keep your attention.

and as trite as this sounds, remembering to "surrender to the flow" got me through many intoxicated experiences. be in the moment.
posted by gnutron at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2008

Switch to less potent weed, or smoke in smaller amounts.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2008

Sorry to jump on the don't-do-it bandwagon, but as a regular smoker who never gets the paranoids, I'd say just don't. I've had friends who really wanted to be able to smoke, but couldn't due to this issue - there seems to be some (fairly small, I guess) percentage of people for whom weed is just Not Good, and I don't know if there's a way around it.

It's a drug. Some people can't tolerate aspirin, or Prozac, or [brand-name perscription drug] without getting the side effects that "only" X% of the people taking them get. You may be like that with pot. Sorry.
posted by rtha at 2:29 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mod note: A few comments removed. A chorus of "don't smoke weed" remarks really isn't answering the question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:29 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Practice, practice, practice. Stay only in your comfort zone for the first hour. You will have to learn that in some situations, you can't avoid the paranoia, and thus you won't want to smoke up. As gnutron indicates, sometimes a good mantra or saying can help you regain control. My friends & I have always been fond of the Zappa lyric, "No one will know / 'Less it's you that might tell 'em so." It's a simple way for me to remember - regardless of where exactly my head might be at - that I'm ultimately just as in control as I was before I took whatever it was that is now freaking me out. I'm also a big fan of "This, too, shall pass." It does. (Also, "Don't smoke" isn't an answer, chumps!)
posted by Banky_Edwards at 2:30 PM on May 6, 2008

BOP has part of it: less potent weed and smaller amounts at a time will help a lot.

Also, if you start to feel paranoid, just go be alone for a bit and do something to occupy your racing brain. A friend of mine *ahem* would play emulated Nintendo games on her computer, or she'd try to solve a particularly difficult homework problem, just for the challenge and with no expectation of doing it correctly (which was pretty funny to decipher the next day). Passive things like watching TV or movies just give your brain a chance to over-think everything. IE Paranoia.
posted by muddgirl at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2008

I would start by taking maybe 1/4 as many hits as you need to get high, and letting the buzz settle in. So if you need like 4-6 big fat hits to get wasted, just take one hit and let it settle in.

Play some videogames, listen to music, watch some TV, a movie, etc. Do something happy. And once you're in the zone, just build on your buzz until you're where you want to be.

If you are in X% of the population that gets paranoid when smoking weed.. I would venture to guess that the worst thing you can do is just jump straight over the edge and get super blasted in a matter of minutes.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 2:35 PM on May 6, 2008

Eat it. Make brownies or incorporate it otherwise may give you more of a mellow body buzz than smoking which will kick it into high gear.
posted by Gucky at 2:45 PM on May 6, 2008

How long have you been smoking? Regular users are much more apt to adjust to the side effects than new or occasional users. I definitely used to get paranoid, but it doesn't happen anymore.

Are you a person who normally worries about things in general?

Oh, and also, set and setting are always a big factor in how you are affected while high. When you are high, are you in a situation that might you think something bad might happen? Figure out what you are paranoid ABOUT and try to avoid being in that setting while high.
posted by ninjew at 2:46 PM on May 6, 2008

Set and setting.

If possible try using different weed, there are many different strains and they can have a very wide range of effects, including the potential for paranoia. If you normally smoke a sativa, try an indica, or vice versa, or even just a different version of the same strain you've been smoking could make a difference.

Being in a place you are comfortable and listening to soothing familiar music can also help. Also, if you start feeling a bit off choose things that will lighten your mood; watch the comedy instead of the drama.

I find the biggest reason for paranoia is shame/guilt associated with the habit, which isn't exactly being helped by people saying you just shouldn't do it. Try watching some shows or movies where recreational drug usage is celebrated, or at least not stigmatized; Weeds comes to mind. There are plenty of intelligent, productive, and creative people who smoke.

Finally, some people can't handle certain situations on weed, don't force yourself to try, just avoid them. If you find the paranoia is all the time though, it may just be time to lay off for awhile, you just may not be in a place in your life that is conduscive to the enjoyment of the experience. That's part of setting too, if your mind is a hostile place, smoking will make it worse.
posted by paradoxflow at 2:56 PM on May 6, 2008

I agree with many of the previous posters: start with a MUCH smaller hit, and if you think you want more, don't take another one for at least 15 minutes. Also, keep some high carb snacks around - donuts are great, or if you are at home, spaghetti (the great high killer). Food will definitely take the edge off quickly. I used to get very paranoid when I first started smoking pot, and didn't use it very much for years - many years after I moved to California, I realized it was no longer happening. I don't know if it's just a matter of "growing out of it," but I can say that the pot is waaaaay better now than it was then. Try another variety, if you can - I've heard that higher levels of THC compared to the other psychoactive compounds in pot can cause paranoia.

I don't recommend pot edibles if you don't have a good grip on your ideal dose. It's very hard to regulate your intake with an edible - they take a long time to take effect, and every brownie will have a different amount of pot in it. So, toke small, hold it less time, and eat a (non spiked) donut, and it should help.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:07 PM on May 6, 2008

Try some music to take the edge off of your marijuana high. A "friend of mine" likes early Brian Eno and ambient.

As always, it's all about set and setting. Have to ask: Is this medicinal marijuana, or is there continual paranoia of "the man" busting you for illegal marijuana cigarettes?
posted by porn in the woods at 3:10 PM on May 6, 2008

I was once like this, but that was at a time many years ago where I felt (un-baked), that I had no control over my life. Also, please don't eat the brownies...I get the 'noids just typing that.
posted by wafaa at 3:19 PM on May 6, 2008

The solution is to manage your side effects. But if the side effects are less pleasant than the desired effects, then maybe sobriety is a considerable option.

If not, p-flow is on to something there. Take a walk outside. Do something. What I think is happening to you is that your mind is not otherwise engaged, so it slips into paranoia mode and we all know that paranoia is a self-feeding state. If you are doing something, like say, playing disc golf, you can be pretty sure that 1) everybody else out there is high, too; 2) you are in an environment safe from whatever you are paranoid of; and 3) your brain is occupied with something other than slipping intop paranoia mode.

Consider, though, for a moment whether you are continuing to get the desired effect or whether you are feeding an addiction. If you are just feeding an addiction, there is no amount of regulating you can do to make the paranoia go away. It is a biochemical reaction to the substances you are adding to your system (assuming that the paranoia is not present when you are not enebriated) and unless you break the addiction, it will just continue to get worse.
posted by valentinepig at 3:19 PM on May 6, 2008

Please be very careful of consuming it in brownies or otherwise. Someone I know very well, we'll call her slim, also has paranoia issues with smoking and had a frightening first experience with brownies.

It's difficult to judge dosage and when you've consumed too much, it's too late by the time you're sticking to the floor crying because you think your lungs forgot how to breathe, your organs are melting and you thoughts dissipate before they can get from your brain to your mouth for the next 6 hours.

These days slim is an occasional consumer and wiser about recipes and dosage but always has a moment of paranoia to work through. slim is able to laugh at the paranoia and talk slimself around it.

In slim's experience, a strain that gives uncontrollable munchies will not have superscary paranoia at the same time and focusing on eating something wonderful can be distracting enough to get past it.

Maybe you're in California where you can take your prescription to a reputable dispensary and talk to them about it. They will have recommendations of which strains work for someone like you and they have more controlled dosages for consumption in cookies, candies etc.

You might want to look into using kava as well.
posted by simbiotic at 3:27 PM on May 6, 2008

Regarding Gucky's "eat it" suggestion - be very, very careful with that. Of course there's absolutely no real danger, but it is very hard to control the dosage, and it lasts a very long time once you're there. I used to do an extensive amount of experimentation in the kitchen, and during that time I personally knew three people who were hospitalized due to extreme paranoia brought on by eating too much THC-laced food product. Properly cooked THC can be overwhelming - it's often compared to a mild LSD trip - and if you're prone to paranoia, the onset of a fierce 6-8 hour high can totally freak you out.

Also, just because you're getting freaked-out these days does not mean you're one of "those people" who can't handle their high. I was a heavy, daily smoker from age 18-28 or so; now that I'm in my 30s I often get a little wiggy when I smoke up, particularly after a long break. But it is absolutely controllable, it's just something I have to be aware of and make accommodations for from time to time.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 3:28 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Immersion therapy. Do some gravity bong hits and hang out on the stoop in front of your local police station. Say "hi" to the nice policemen/women.
posted by exlotuseater at 4:27 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to be a daily smoker. Around four years ago, I started experiencing reasonably severe anxiety during the initial 40 minutes of a high, and still do occassionally. Things that have helped me:

1) Stopping. I didn't smoke for about two years, and now only smoke about once a month or so. If I have a bad experience, I'll wait a few months before trying again.

2) Very small quantities. Like, half a bowl tops. One benefit from reducing my consumption is that now I'm a lightweight. Cheap!

3) Reading, during the Quitting Years, a fair amount about brains, especially on the topic of OCD and general anxiety (not specifically for this problem, but because a lot of behavioural research relates to those topics). This helps me understand a little bit about what's happening in my brain during The Panic and being able to sort of step aside and say "Okay, this is crazy but it will fade soon and then it will be good." Principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and other anxiety treatments are also beneficial.

4) Finding my distraction. For me it's doing the dishes. It's an easy sort of activity to joke about since usually it's after dinner with friends or family that I smoke (and I'm pretty terrible about housework most of the time). I say "oh you guys can go sit down, I really enjoy cleaning up when I'm stoned so I'll take care of it." It lets me get away from other people so I can freak out in peace, and it's pretty productive.

And for the curious, I put up with the bad period because the occasional 40 minutes worth of crap is a fair trade for the following 2-4 hours worth of mellow buzz for me.
posted by cCranium at 4:27 PM on May 6, 2008

Meditation works for me.
posted by wigglin at 4:59 PM on May 6, 2008

Quit for a while. Sometimes it takes a long time. I don't know anything about you, but, to put it out there, a lot of women I know got severe anxiety when they smoked pot while they had small children. These are nice freak girls who smoked up regularly in high school and college, but something about the motherhood thing - that constant low level worry - made it very hard for them to enjoy pot, so most of them gave it up. Now that we're all getting older, anecdotal evidence says that when the children grow up, the anxiety interestingly enough fades away.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:06 PM on May 6, 2008

I rarely smoke marijuana anymore, say maybe a handful of times a year, and I was never too big on it to begin with: remember, growing up in Holland (or maybe it was just my specific social environment, but I doubt it) marijuana was everywhere, to varying extents.

I guess I'm just disproportionately sensitive to it: I'm sort of the laughing stock to my more seriously weedy friends, the guy who can stand about two or three drags before laughing uncontrollably at the fact that yes, that really is a dinosaur riding a motorcycle, or wondering obsessively why these silly motorised creatures are so hellbent on stealing other silly motorised creatures' balloons. This is ususally the point where I wander off and man the music for a while, or read Metafilter or whatever. Often I'm perfectly happy to make some food for everyone, which is always a boon among stoned people. Bottom line is that I'm just too damn stoned to play Mario Kart (and that apparently, I'm a really cheap high).

Any more than this, and I get seriously paranoid. I've never hit someone in my life, but I once charged a guy who had my jacket due to a mix-up at the coat check at a club. He was actually turning back from right around the corner to return it, all smiles and friendly, but I was apparently paranoid enough to infer some bizarre, malicious intent. I regained my senses quite quickly and it ended well, but that was an episode I'd gladly forget.

So, while I recognise myself in your question, I find it difficult to answer, because for me, alcohol tends to help a great deal. Now to be clear, I would never recommend any drug to anyone, and I understand what you said about drinking, but personally, alcohol is kind of the drug of choice for me anyway, and on (for me, a little bit of) marijuana it tends to take the edge off, just as it normally does. This way, I actually like marijuana, as I like a night of good drinking, perhaps slightly enhanced by a modest weed buzz. I would be careful not to overtax yourself, which is easy on alcohol alone, let alone when mixing drugs of course, and by God, does one need to go to lengths in order to stay hydrated (on nights like this I'm never separated from my water bottle by more than a few metres).

So that's just as a data point. Short of alcohol, I'd still recommend getting plenty of fluids, and maybe some sugar too. If alcohol is off-limits and you still struggle with the paranoia - and I'm saying this as someone who once kept his girlfriend up all night to have her try and convince him that the world was still real - then maybe marijuana just isn't for you.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:40 PM on May 6, 2008

If you don't want to quit, smaller hits and a search for marijuana with a higher CBD to THC ratio would probably help. THC is what causes the paranoia/hallucinatory/ aspects of the high and CBD is the "mellow." So you want strains with less THC and more CBD. Dutch websites can probably help with this.
posted by Maias at 6:13 PM on May 6, 2008

Slow down.
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 PM on May 6, 2008

If you get confused, listen to the music play.
posted by muckster at 9:03 PM on May 6, 2008

A nice big glass of water. And try to drink it all at once. I don't recommend other fluids (especially carbonated ones) because they are not as gentle on the digestive system as water is. And digestive issues are never good for the paranoia.

If you're open to mixing other substances, Xanax is great to combine with marijuana.

And I know you said you don't want to drink, but if you are in a full blown panic attack, a shot or two of vodka can bring you back to earth very quickly. Hell, even the option of having a drink has helped calm me down in those situations.

Off topic, you might want to consider using a vaporizer instead of smoking. It won't help with the paranoia, but it will help your lungs.
posted by cjets at 10:35 AM on May 7, 2008

posted by herbaliser at 11:24 AM on May 7, 2008

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