Greening Out – And How to Avoid It

March 28, 2017

You are consuming some cannabis with your friends and feeling wonderful, but one more hit, and not so much. After a few moments, you begin to feel woozy, light-headed, dizzy, anxiety is welling up; you may feel nauseous, and even vomit. You are desperately seeking somewhere to lie or sit down if you haven’t got there already.

Cannabis consumers may be familiar with the term “greening out”, which means when one has over indulged ingesting cannabis, and are now experiencing unpleasant effects such as dizziness, fainting, anxiety or vomiting.

It can seem scary at the time, but no one has every died from a cannabis overdose and relaxing for a bit will take the edge off. If someone has greened out from smoking or vaping too much cannabis, then in a couple of hours they will usually be back on their feet. If cannabis was mixed with alcohol, they could be down for much longer, as is the case with edibles. No matter the circumstances, it is wise to monitor someone in this condition for signs of distress, especially if alcohol or other drugs are involved. Even the order they are taken in can matter as the old saying generalizes, “Weed before beer, you’re in the clear, beer before grass you’re on your ass.”

An easy way to green out is by dabbing. If you consume dabs, which are a highly concentrated form of cannabis resin, then very small amounts in spaced intervals is the best way to avoid greening out.

Edibles are also incredibly easy to green out on and many inexperienced users wish they could take back that last brownie or two. The general rule of thumb, is to start small like 10mg, wait 2 hours, then figure out if you want another small increment, or are good as is..

Sometimes it is not a matter of consuming too much, it could depend on physiological factors such as how run down, tired or hungry a person is. Perhaps you have taken a break from cannabis and you haven’t mentally prepared for the difference this can make to your tolerance level. It can be disconcerting when you have ingested a normal or small amount that hits you the wrong way.

Inexperienced users are also more likely to green out if they have not titrated in a measured manner to compensate for their lack of tolerance. Beginners to cannabis are advised to take small puffs, wait at least 10 minutes before taking another. If it is the usual strength of today’s cannabis, you may want to stop after two or three. If you are consuming concentrates for the first time, then one puff is probably good for at least 30 minutes.

Greening out from cannabis consumption alone is much rarer than if it is mixed with alcohol, tobacco or some pharmaceuticals, so keep in mind what other drugs are in your system and your overall feeling of health at the time you consume cannabis, and dose accordingly. Cannabis may affect blood sugar levels, increases heart rate. cause low blood pressure and may increase drowsiness caused by some drugs, so it is important to compensate if you are being treated with related pharmaceuticals .

What should you do if someone is greening out, or you are the culprit, but still feeling competent enough to do something? Hydrate as soon as possible. You don’t need to chug big glasses of water, slowly sipping a glass of water will help. Lie or sit down and relax as much as possible. You’re in for a bit of a ride, so try and enjoy the ride instead of fighting it, it will help you recover faster. You may have some juice, citrus fruit, peppermint tea with honey, or sugar water to help your blood sugar levels, but moderation is the key. Mainly you just wait it out.

Cannabis interacts with our whole beings, creating complex connectionas that produces a different, unique experience and affects everyone differently at an individual level. Anecdotal evidence and scientific studies give us some great insight and explanations of the general properties of cannabis, but you must dose in a way that is right for you, no matter what the conventional wisdom is. Experiment with dosing until you find the optimum intake needed for you at the time. Even on a personal level, what works for you one day may not on another, or become more ineffective over time as tolerance increases, is the case with many pharmaceuticals.

The best way to ensure you will not green out, is microdosing. Microdosing is taking a very measured and micro dose of around 5 to 10 milligrams of THC and wait two hours before consuming any more. You get deep, subtle benefits without the high or any negative side effects such as anxiety, and can function and perform at your best. A typical joint can weigh 500mg – 1g of cannabis per joint, and contain between 90mg-210mg of THC, so just a tiny pinch is needed to microdose.

Also the simplest way to microdose is with edibles, everything from brownies, cookies, teas and other infusions, but this can only be accomplished in a totally regulated environment where labels provide the information you need for proper dosing. That is not currently a reality in Canada except at some dispensaries, both retail and on-line, which could possibly be raided and closed down any day now. Canadian legal medical cannabis patients can sometimes purchase oil from their Licensed Producer when it’s available, otherwise they must become adept at turning their LP cannabis into oils, tinctures and edibles. This is a legal activity in Canada for patients, thanks to a court victory which took place in 2015, R. vs Smith.

If you buy your cannabis in a plastic bag provided by a neighbourhood dealer, than always start small until you can gauge how potent it is. The potency varies from strain to strain and so many factors can affect it, that the same strain will not be consistent if grown by different people. If you are microdosing, then just keep it small all the time.

The more informed you are on what to expect, the more knowledgable you become, based on education and experience, the more self-awareness you have about why you are using cannabis and what your expectations are, will minimize the harms and increase the benefits you wish to achieve.

Debra Harper