Why Does Cannabis Paranoia Strike Some People But Not Others?

One of the unpleasant side effects of using cannabis is a feeling of paranoia. However, it only impacts a small percentage of users. And even then, it usually involves cannabis with high potency. Still, enough people have felt it – or watched someone else feel it – to wonder why cannabis paranoia strikes some but not others.

Of course, for the people who experience paranoia, the concern is not only why, but also how to make it stop.

Cannabis paranoia is an issue intriguing enough to interest scientists who work in cannabis research. A  study from U.S. and European researchers with the very long and scientific title –  “Multiple Mechanistically Distinct Modes of Endocannabinoid Mobilization at Central Amygdala Glutamatergic Synapses” – offers some insight into the issue.

Why Some Feel Cannabis Paranoia

It’s all about the firing of synapses in the brain, which is where the THC in cannabis makes its impact (and why it can offer help from those suffering from PTSD or possibly even slow the onset of dementia). It also interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a nerve-signaling system throughout the body that maintains physiological, emotional and cognitive stability.

Compounds within cannabis, including THC, bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, including those in the brain. One of the areas in the brain where this binding occurs is the amygdala.

A lot goes on in the amygdala, which is considered a center in the brain for integrating emotions. For example, it regulates your response to fearful and threatening stimuli, anxiety and stress. It also helps regulate paranoia. The study found that cannabis rich in THC may overstimulate receptors in the amygdala, causing excess feelings of fear and paranoia

People who use CBD products do not experience paranoia because CBD does not bind to the endocannabinoid receptors in the same way as THC.

Reasons Some People Are More Prone to Cannabis Paranoia

Certain people feel paranoia and fear stronger than other people. Many may not have those feelings at all. Researchers have developed some theories as to why.

A 2019 study on animals found that those who experience the impact of cannabis on the front region of the brain experience positive effects such as reduced anxiety and relaxation. Those who experience the impacts on the anterior of the brain are more prone to increase anxiety and fear. That leads researchers to believe that how people experience marijuana depends to a certain extent on genetics.

Other research shows that the potency of a marijuana has an impact. Those with higher concentrations of THC can cause feelings of paranoia in those more susceptible to those feelings. This study involved Delta-9 THC, not the less potent Delta-8 that is gaining in popularity.

Gender may also play a role, with those with higher estrogen levels showing a higher sensitivity to cannabis.

Ways to Reduce Cannabis Paranoia

The top tip for those who want to reduce the chance of feeling cannabis paranoia is to experiment with their own level of tolerance. Experts (and budtenders) will likely recommend either a low-THC strain or small doses of a more potent strain.

It’s also important to create a relaxing environment and do things you enjoy, such as listening to music or taking a warm bath. People who are still new to using cannabis might benefit from having a trusted friend with them.

Some also suggest trying a whiff of pepper, which contains terpenes that share some similarities to those found in cannabis. Deep breathing also helps relax the body. Most people feeling anxiety and fear start to take very shallow breaths, often without realizing it.

Most importantly, if you experience paranoia, just stay calm. The feeling eventually will pass.

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