From ritual use of ye olde times millenia past to your friend couch-locked and binge-watching baking shows all night, cannabis has a rich history. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone has a pleasant experience with THC; some need to get unhigh, and quickly.
Why Are People Getting Too High?
An undisclosed amount of time ago, I dabbled in edibles for the first time with a college friend. She was a regular consumer; I was brand new. At the time, there wasn’t much information about dosing and strains were basically labeled either sativa or indica. We made the butter for our brownies (classic), and I brought home a small plate’s worth for the next day. I knew it helped my friend both relax and focus — ideal for the final, high-pressure weeks of class.
What I didn’t know? It was really, really potent.
Today’s cannabis is not the same as the historical plant. It’s been bred for different strains with different effects, flavors, and cannabinoid concentrations. The amount of THC in a bud is significantly more potent as many strains start at a minimum of 10% with the current highest at least double that amount. (For perspective, 4% was the average THC concentration in the 1990s.) Vapes, concentrates, and edibles may even contain over 90% THC. This may catch newer consumers — as it did me — by surprise.
Why Would You Want to Get Unhigh?
Going back to those brownies: I had one. Just one so I could chill and write a paper for one of my courses. The laptop was open, I was on the couch all ready to go and have a good time working when I heard a subtle buzzing and felt the world shift.
I woke up 16 hours later. And no — I hadn’t type a word.
It turns out a lot of people go too hard, too fast. For some, it’s an inconvenience solved by breathing exercises and time. For others, it can be debilitating if their body reacts negatively. While there are no reported casualties from weed, people call a doctor or go to the ER because of hallucinations or extremely uncomfortable lack of body control.
I had the chance to speak to two cannabis consumers, Liz and Gemma. Liz is a new consumer, a medical marijuana patient seeking relief for a variety of conditions. Gemma used to partake in the legacy market in the 1990s, and has recently become a medical cannabis patient after a couple of decades of abstaining.
“The budtender warned me to just try one hit or a quarter of an edible,” said Gemma, “but it didn’t even occur to me that it isn’t the same weed I used to smoke, so I ignored him.”
She continued with a soft chuckle, “I was basically tripping that night, completely freaked out.”
Liz was more cautious: “I knew to start slow, but even then it’s hard to know what will work and what won’t. The first time I layered an edible and smoking for nighttime, I was so high I swear I saw bugs on the wall where there were none!” She explained that the combination of the strain, concentration, and environment ramped her anxiety up into hallucinations.
Liz also mentioned some common undesirable side-effects in her experience: a racing heart rate and paranoia. “It was so strange. I really don’t think you’re supposed to feel your heart like that,” she stated with a laugh.
The mental and physical side effects like this are some of the main reasons people want to sober up - and fast.
How to Stop Feeling High
“I just waited with a friend until I sobered up,” said Gemma. Waiting out the high can take hours, though, and not everyone has the time.
I’ve compiled a brief list of ways to sober up a bit faster:
CBD. It may seem counter-intuitive, but cannabidiol (CBD) itself can counteract a THC high. Of all of the options here, it’s also generally accepted as the most effective…and considerably less uncomfortable than some other methods.
I had the chance to try VONA’s Exhale, a CBD sublingual blended with other botanicals, all designed to help people relax. Besides easing my anxiety issues, it took the edge off of a THC high when I had to focus for work. It’s common for cannabis consumers to keep some CBD nearby, just in case.
“I had done a lot of reading myself about cannabis, and I knew that any ratioed or CBD products I had around could help sober me up faster than waiting,” said Liz. “I didn’t have the time to wait around, not with my kid liable to wake up and need attention.”
Black Peppercorns. Yes, I’m referring to the spice in your kitchen! Black peppercorns have been used to counteract the effects of THC. They’re rich in terpenes called pinene and caryophyllene, both of which are said to lessen the effects of THC. If you can manage, a meal with a lot of black pepper may help. Some of the more hardcore folks munch directly on the peppercorns themselves.
Lemons. Lemons (and other citrus fruits) contain a significant amount of a terpene called limonene. Similar to pinene and caryophyllene, limonene is reputed to mellow out THC highs.
Cold Showers. A cold shower won’t technically sober you up, but it may snap you out of a haze enough to make more lucid decisions and ground yourself to avoid a bad psychoactive high.
How CBD Effects a High
Our bodies have an amazing internal system called the endocannabinoid system. It’s a part of everything from the brain to the reproductive system to the skin. Our bodies naturally make endocannabinoids — endogenous cannabinoids — which is why cannabinoids from plants — like THC and CBD — affect us so strongly. THC and CBD both bind to the same receptors as the endocannabinoids we make naturally.
The psychoactive “high” comes from THC binding with cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in your brain. CBD barely binds to those receptors, if at all, which is why it doesn’t give you the high feeling. If both THC and CBD are present, the THC actually helps the CBD bind which blocks the THC to an extent. This ultimately reduces the unwanted effects of THC.
Think of it as CBD taking THC’s seat in your head — canceling out the high.
Sober Up Safely
While you’re waiting to come down from an undesirable high, a calm environment and mindful actions make for a safer experience.
The VONA team would like to remind you to remain safe and avoid activities like driving if you are impaired.
Hydrate. Water and tea may help ease some of the uncomfortable effects of being high, like a dry mouth. Keeping comfortable will help you shift your focus off of the ‘high’ feeling. It’s recommended to avoid drinks with notable caffeine, as well as alcohol. Both can make you feel worse.
Eat. Munchies aside, it’s speculated that food may lessen the high of THC. If nothing else, it will negate any hunger pangs and help efforts to feel normal again. Try to incorporate black pepper, lemon, or something else with similar terpenes.
Rest. Being too high can cause people to hyperfocus on stressful feelings or situations. Mindful breathing and a peaceful environment can help bring you back down.
Reducing THC Effect
The best way to manage an undesirable high is through prevention and preparation. Start with a low dose, go slow and consume cannabis in a safe, comfortable environment so if it does get too intense, it isn’t as negative an experience.
Having CBD — like Exhale — nearby as part of your preparation gives you the chance to dose and counteract the THC faster.By Sarah E.