Weed and Panic Attacks

Estimated reading time: 29 minute(s)

Panic attacks have slowly become a common phenomenon across the world. While the problem remains multifactorial, many people experiencing these attacks consider their substance use as a trigger. Weed or marijuana, in particular, is a common drug that can easily trigger panic attacks in someone, especially if they are already vulnerable. Understanding how weed and panic attacks are related, how to recognize them, and their possible treatment is important for personal safety. [1]

What Are Weed Panic Attacks And What Determines Their Risk?

Weed can often lead to panic attacks due to how it affects the endocannabinoid system in the body. This system is important for regulating different processes, like stress response, mood, and anxiety levels. The active ingredient found in weed, known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), interacts with its specific receptors in the brain to alter neurotransmitter activity and emotional responses. The duration and severity of the resultant panic attack due to weed can vary depending on factors like dosage, type of strain being used, and individual susceptibility. Individual susceptibility plays the most important role in determining whether a person is likely to experience a panic attack due to weed. People with underlying mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder, are more vulnerable to stressful situations.

Dosage remains another critical factor in determining whether smoking weed is likely to trigger a panic attack in a person. Smoking too much THC in a relatively short time can overwhelm a person’s endocannabinoid system, leading to anxiety and panic. However, this effect can vary from one individual to another due to different tolerance levels. In simpler words, what may be a milder dose for one individual can be high enough to cause a panic attack in someone else. The strain of marijuana a person uses can also play a role in predicting a weed panic attack. Strains with higher concentrations of THC can induce panic and anxiety, as this primary ingredient is generally responsible for these emotional side effects.

How someone uses weed can also contribute to the risk of experiencing panic attacks. For instance, vaping or smoking weed leads to a faster onset and consequently stronger side effects compared to eating edibles, as the latter takes longer to metabolize in the body. On the contrary, smoking leads to faster absorption and quicker results that may become overwhelming for the users.

In short, panic attacks due to weed are primarily due to how the drug impacts a person’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for managing anxiety levels and mood. Other factors that weigh in while determining if weed is responsible for panic attacks include dosage, strain type, and individual susceptibility. Understanding and remembering these factors can help people decide better about using weed.

Weed and Panic Attacks: The Common Symptoms

Cannabis is unlikely to affect every person in the same way. Even for someone who is a seasoned consumer, their reaction to weed may not be the same every time it is used. Sometimes, weed works exactly as someone intends, regardless of the purpose. However, for some, it may increase feelings of anxiety and stress. The latter is particularly common in people using a weed product with a high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), its active component.

Following are some symptoms of a weed panic attack:

Sweating and shaking

Intense feelings of fear

Worry about others watching or judging you

A sense of detachment from the body or reality

A sudden feeling of impending doom that remains unexplainable

Trouble breathing

Racing heartbeat

Numbness, tingling, or chills

Chest pain

Stomach pain and nausea

Choking sensations


It is also extremely common to keep worrying about losing control or dying. While these feelings may be too intense and frightening, remember that they are quite normally a part of panic attacks. The good news is panic attacks do not cause any significant risks or danger and can go away on their own, typically within ten minutes.

How to Stop Weed Panic Attack? Tips to Remember

If you experience a panic attack after smoking weed, follow the tips mentioned below to keep your calm and get through the tough time.

Remember that you are not in danger.

Everyone can experience panic attacks differently; however, almost every one of them wonders if they are experiencing something serious, such as an overdose or heart attack. The feeling is particularly worse in those who have never experienced a panic attack before.

Remember that the fear associated with a panic attack is natural and very real. However, the threat related to it is not real and will likely suppress itself as soon as the panic passes. It is common to experience certain unpleasant symptoms, especially after taking too much cannabis. However, the scenario never becomes life-threatening, no matter how real it feels.

One way to calm down a panic attack includes the following steps:

  • Find a comfortable place to sit, such as the floor, sofa, or chair.
  • Shut your eyes as you take a deep breath.
  • Remind yourself that you are safe and that whatever you are going through is a part of the ongoing panic attack that will pass soon.
  • Continue repeating this mantra as you breathe in and out slowly and naturally until the panicky feelings pass.

Have something to eat.

Consuming cannabis on an empty stomach can intensify the effects of its active compound called THC. When this happens, a person is at risk of experiencing a greater, more serious high than what regular users experience. Fortunately, an easy way to sort out this danger and keep it under control is by grabbing a snack. If you do not feel particularly hungry, consider having a light meal to counteract the effects of weed and manage the panic it is causing.

Research also suggests that certain terpenes, like limonene present in lemons, can help reduce the effects of THC and cannabis. [2] So, people undergoing weed panic attacks may consider squeezing some lemon into a glass of water, add honey and sugar, and drink it. For those who do not have lemons, black pepper can be used as an alternative source of terpenes.

Deep breathing exercise

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to calm a panic attack, regardless of what triggers it. Hyperventilation, or rapid breathing, is a common symptom of weed panic attacks and can make a person feel faint, dizzy, and tingly in extremities. Slowing breathing in such circumstances is often the best way to relax the mind.

For this relaxing exercise, find a comfortable spot and consider sitting or standing with your back against a support. Slowly inhale using your mouth for 3 to 4 seconds while focusing on the sensations of the breath filling the lungs. Consider placing a hand on your stomach and observing it expand as you take each breath. Hold each breath for up to two seconds before exhaling it over 3 to 4 seconds. Continue repeating the practice until you overcome the initial period of lightheadedness.

Alternate nostril breathing

This simple technique involves closing one nostril and mouth while using the other nostril to inhale for 2 to 4 seconds. Now, hold your breath for up to two seconds before slowly exhaling. Repeat the technique with the other nostril and continue while switching from one nostril to another to feel calmer. 

Try grounding techniques

Panic attacks can make it impossible for a person to stay present and calm as the overwhelming feelings of anxiety take over. However, grounding techniques can help such people step back from the ongoing waves of fear to anchor themselves. Following are some grounding techniques to try in this regard:

  • Try running your hands under warm or cold water.
  • Stroke or cuddle your pet.
  • Pick three objects in your sight and run your fingers over their contours while focusing on the colors and sensations.
  • Identify and list different things around you using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, i.e., five sounds, four textures, three objections, two scents, and one taste.

Get some exercise

While exercising in the middle of a weed panic attack is not ideal, some kind of light movement can help people relieve the feelings of panic and anxiety. Moving the body can distract a person from overwhelming sensations while releasing endorphins, chemicals that induce calmness in the mind and body. [3] So whenever you feel like panic is building up, leave your house to go for a brisk walk in the neighborhood. If you do not wish to leave the house, try doing yoga, jumping jacks, slow stretches, or jogging in place. In some cases, pacing within the room can also help.

Try aromatherapy 

Aromatherapy is known to help people relax and rewind in peace and serenity. So, if you are worried about weed and panic attacks, consider stocking up on essential oils. Certain types of essential oils, such as pine, lemon balm, and lavender, are particularly known to calm down the mind. Other ways to use aromatherapy to calm an edibles panic attack include lighting a scented candle, brewing a cup of tea, or simply opening a bottle of scented lotion.


Can weed cause panic attacks and anxiety?

Weed is generally associated with easing anxiety and causing relaxation. Because of this effect, many people may misunderstand its potential to cause anxiety in certain people. However, those using the substance regularly must be aware of this possible side effect, as weed-induced anxiety can quickly convert into full-blown panic attacks. The risk is far higher in people with co-existing psychotic or mental health disorders.

What causes a panic attack from weed?

In many people, using weed interferes with their ability to process stimuli, which may serve as a root cause behind their panic attacks. For others, this substance affects the brain, causing it to absorb dopamine more quickly, leaving less time for a person to respond properly. Consequently, such people are at an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Remember that such a response is more common in people who are chronic users of marijuana.

Can you diet from an edibles panic attack?

It is not possible to die from a weed panic attack. Regardless of what triggers a panic attack in a person, such attacks are not fatal. However, before they involve a sudden increase in fear in addition to other symptoms like shortness of breath, trembling, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and impending doom, panic attacks may give people a high level of stress. However, remember that while panic attacks are not directly damaging, they may sometimes contribute to potentially fatal behaviors and reactions.


1 Zvolensky MJ, Cougle JR, Johnson KA, Bonn-Miller MO, Bernstein A. Marijuana use and panic psychopathology among a representative sample of adults. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology. 2010 Apr;18(2):129.

2 Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology. 2011 Aug;163(7):1344-64.

3 Anderson E, Shivakumar G. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in psychiatry. 2013 Apr 23;4:27.

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