Overdosing on cannabis is a controversial subject. There are no reported deaths from using too much cannabis, so many believe it’s impossible to truly overdose the way one can with other substances. However, it is possible to consume too much.
Smoking too much can be overwhelming. Someone who smokes too much may experience anxiety, paranoia, confusion, extreme fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, and other unpleasant symptoms.
In extreme cases, someone who consumes too much cannabis may have difficulty forming clear thoughts and sentences. There have even been reports of people experiencing hallucinations after consuming too much cannabis. Panic attacks are also known to occur in rare instances.
If you’re ever with a friend who consumes too much cannabis, there are several ways to help:
1. Be Reassuring
First, when your friend is anxious, remind them that their experience will pass. Depending on the amount and type of cannabis consumed, the worst side effects may last anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours. Reassure your friend that what they are feeling isn’t permanent.
You can also tell them that there are no recorded cases of someone dying from using too much cannabis. If you’ve ever consumed too much, you can try reassuring your friend by telling them about your own experience and how you were fine afterwards. However, be mindful not to use too much detail -- if your friend is experiencing anxiety or paranoia, you don’t want to feed it with any stories of “bad trips.”
2. Have Your Friend Eat Something and Drink Water
When your friend consumes too much cannabis, you can also help them by offering food. A meal or a snack may take their mind off their current state. Carbs like pasta and bread are a great option, as the “heavy” feeling of being full can help your friend relax and feel more grounded.
Make sure they drink plenty of water, too. Often, people who consume too much cannabis experience increased levels of thirst as well as dry mouth (also known as cottonmouth), so offer lots of water to help with this. Other drinks are okay, too, as long as they are nonalcoholic and do not contain caffeine.
3. Move to a Calm, Quiet Room
When you've consumed too much cannabis, loud noises and bright lights can make your experience much worse. You can help a friend by moving them into a calm space where there isn’t very much external stimuli. Help your friend get as comfortable as possible. Consider putting on soft instrumental music or white-noise, such as ocean sounds.
Consider a darkened living room or bedroom where they can lie down and relax. Encourage your friend to take a nap if they feel like it. Sleeping can be one of the best ways to cope, especially if you consumed a lethargy-inducing indica strain.
4. Go for a Walk Outside
If your friend is too anxious to relax, take them for a walk outside. Fresh air can help clear their head, while movement can help your friend process any extra energy. Taking a walk can also help your friend focus on the world around them, instead of whatever unpleasant side effects they may be feeling in their body.
Consider playing a game of “I Spy” with your friend while you walk. Point out birds, flowers, clouds, or unique buildings. The more you can get your friend out of their head, the more you can help them. Remember to bring a water bottle and check in. If your friend begins to feel nauseous or disoriented, turn around and go home.
5. Try Black Pepper
If your friend feels anxious, have them chew on a few black pepper kernels. Some also find that simply smelling black pepper provides relief. Although this might sound like a prank, the black pepper method has been touted by Neil Young and backed by scientific evidence.
Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical compounds called terpenes. Certain cannabis terpenes are highly reactive. This means that consuming terpenes from other naturally occurring sources, such as fruits and plants, can change the effects of cannabis.
Studies have found that black pepper contains a terpene called “alpha-pinene,” which has been shown to enhance the calming effects of THC. This is why chewing or smelling black peppercorns can help your friend calm down when they feel paranoid.
6. Find Pleasant Distractions
Finally, if all else fails, you’ll just have to help your friend wait it out. Consider distracting them with a low-intensity movie or TV show, or relaxing games like puzzles. Listening to music or a comedy podcast can also be great options to help your friend.
When someone consumes too much cannabis, the worst aspects of their experience are usually caused by their own mental reaction. By distracting your friend, they’ll soon start to come down without even realizing it. Then, they’ll be able to relax and enjoy the final stages of their experience.
Disclaimer: This is not intended to replace medical advice. We are not doctors, and in case of an emergency we encourage all readers to contact emergency medical services (911) immediately.