If you are having panic attacks (or severe anxiety) after smoking weed or while tripping, first understand that it has happened to probably millions of other people, and they’ve all been fine. It has happened to me and many other seasoned veterans. I know people who had a panic attack their first time smoking at 18 years old, and life-time smokers who didn’t have them until well into their 50s. So this is nothing unusual or harmful.
However, anxiety attacks can be very scary if they are happening to you or a friend in a high mindset. If you’re freaking out, just relax – take deep breaths and think about something you enjoy. Visualize it in your mind. Sit calmly and find some pleasant distractions – put on some music, watch something light-hearted, even just playing with your pet dog, cat or snake can help. And if you’re really feeling bad just find a quiet place to lie down and chill. If it’s weed it will pass (as all highs do) in less than an hour, often 15 minutes or so. Psychedelics usually last longer, but do know that in a few hours at most, you’re going to be sober.
After you’re greeted with the reassuring grip of sobriety, you will probably be very confused and possibly upset about what happened. This is normal, and expected. If you feel like you never want to smoke weed or trip again, that’s ok (but you probably will again later). For me, the solution was always as simple as just taking a week to a month or two off.
In my worst case scenario, I could return to my normal smoking-self after a 2 month abstention, but admittedly that was after an intense acid trip and a combination of factors. Typically I’ll be back to normal after a week or less. Just a few days off to set the mind right will often do wonders.
Anyway, after you’ve overcome the initial panic and discomfort, consider possible factors that may have led to this change. If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then consider avoiding those variables, or using a lot less in the future:
- Did you use more than normal?
- Was it a different strain or strength than you’re used to?
- Did you smoke in an unfamiliar place (concert, festival, etc)?
- Did you eat/vape weed when you’re used to smoking?
- Have you had abnormal or high stress in your life lately?
It is very common for people to eat weed, or to vape weed for the first time and become unexpectedly high. Eating weed can be 2-5x stronger than smoking it, as it is absorbed differently through your body. Vaping is hard to gauge when you’re a newbie, and can get you too high as a consequence. Both of these are common factors that cause “whiteys,” and are easy enough to avoid and mitigate.
Hectic areas like concerts, festivals, parties, raves, clubs, etc., can be overwhelming for even experienced smokers or trippers. Lack of an escape from the situation can induce extreme anxiety and panic attacks in many people. Your very best option in these type of situations is remove yourself from the area. Step outside for a breather, drink some cold water, splash some water in your face and see if you don’t feel better in 10 minutes. And in the future, just avoid smoking or tripping in those areas. Don’t feel bad though – I usually feel horrible when I trip at a concert, but I’ve still done it like 10 times.
Chronic anxiety or depression are another matter. I am lucky enough to have had anxiety and severe depression throughout some of my life, so I can speak on both of these matters. If you are feeling at all down or out-of-sorts, it is best to avoid tripping entirely. There’s no good that can come from psychedelics to a depressed person – trust me on that one.
Psychedelics will often amplify feelings and leave you making rash decisions and exacerbating the issue. The same qualities that turn music into sex and back rubs orgasmic will apply equally and opposite on the negative scale of emotion. There have been success stories, of course. But the ratio of good to bad when you are in a depressed, anxious or otherwise altered mindset is heavily biased toward bad. For every “psychedelics made me [temporarily] happy” I can show you 20 “I wanted to kill myself and was convinced life was a simulation that I had to end.” Freaky stuff.
Weed on the other hand isn’t quite so explosive. Many people have no problem smoking if they’re down, and may even use it as a mood stabilizer. I don’t necessarily recommend the latter, however I have done it myself so who am I to judge? If weed is not working for you, and you’re feeling more anxious or more depressed while high, then simply stop smoking. At least for a while.
If you stopped smoking for a week or two (or a year, whatever), and feel like starting back up, just take it easy. If a bowl to yourself made you freak out last time, try taking just one hit. There’s no honor and glory in taking huge hits, though frat boys and moochers might have you believe otherwise. Just take a nice puff and wait a couple minutes. If you feel good and want more, take another puff and gauge your reaction.
An older stoner gentleman I met had smoked for about 40 years, and was in his late-50s. He didn’t have his first anxiety attack from weed until he was about 55. It happened when he went from having only ever smoked shwag, to smoking a full joint of high-grade, all-American hydro. After that he kind of got turned off of the strong stuff, but figured out he could smoke just a puff or two and be satisfied.
Sometimes though, even a small amount is unpleasant or just unfun. Weed may have provided happiness and pleasure for years, and seemingly overnight it will lose every ounce of magic. It happens. Don’t feel obligated to smoke weed just because it’s a habit. Usually the magic will return later. And if it’s internal struggles that cause it, the magic will return when they eventually dissipate. Don’t force it, you’ll know when the time is right.