One major benefit of cannabis is that users cannot overdose on the substance, at least not in the traditional sense. Major amounts of THC could very well lead to a prolonged, potentially unpleasant experience, but too much cannabis on its own will not kill you, unlike other drugs.
That said, cannabis does come with its own array of “overdose” features we’d rather avoid. Many consumers refer to this experience as “greening out.”
One of the best ways to avoid a green out yourself is by knowing what to expect from the experience and what consumption habits help folks to steer clear. You’ve come to the right spot! Keep reading to learn more about greening out, what to do if it happens to you, and the best ways to keep it from happening in the first place.
- Greening out relates to feeling sick, anxious, and/or paranoid after consuming too much THC. It’s considered a “cannabis overdose,” though it’s not the same as overdosing on other substances.
- Greening out can happen through cannabis flower, concentrates, or edibles. There is no universal amount of THC that will cause a green out, as it’s highly dependent on individual tolerance and experience.
- Identifying symptoms of a green out is the best way to know if it’s happening to you, and understanding the risk factors leading to a green out is the best way to avoid it entirely.
What Does “Greening Out” Mean?
In general, greening out is the feeling of physical sickness and related symptoms, like dizziness, nausea, or vomiting, after consuming too much THC. Sometimes it is compounded by feelings of panic or anxiety, potentially stemming from feeling unwell.
Feelings of extreme stress and panic on their own after smoking are sometimes considered greening out as well, though the term typically applies to some form of physical sickness.
Is Greening Out Overdosing?
Generally, when we think of a drug overdose, it’s correlated with a life-threatening experience. Folks who are greening out, especially if they are experiencing panic and anxiety, may feel as though their life is in danger, but this is where greening out is distinct.
Yes, greening out is a good way to describe a cannabis “overdose” specifically, as it happens when you’ve consumed too much cannabis for your body to handle. When you apply a greening out scenario to other drugs and their respective “overdose” scenarios, it’s not comparable.
What Causes a Green Out?
When it comes to what causes greening out, the answer is simple: consuming too much weed, namely THC. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that elicits the feeling of being high, though in heavy doses the experience can quickly turn sour, especially for inexperienced consumers.
Greening out can happen through consuming flower, concentrates, or edibles, though it’s more likely to happen with the latter two items. Flower hits your system fairly fast, so it’s easier for consumers to gauge their current feelings and whether or not they’d like to continue dosing up. Concentrates are much higher in THC than flower, and especially for folks with a low THC tolerance, just one dab can feel incredibly overwhelming and far heavier than a couple hits of flower.
Many cannabis consumers have their share of edible horror stories, given that many take up to two hours to fully hit your system. While we have the luxury of specific dosing information in today’s legal market, it’s still easy to wonder if you’ve taken enough, double or triple up on a dose, only to be far too high hours later when everything hits.
It’s also much easier to green out when combining cannabis with alcohol, given the ways that alcohol can negatively interact with cannabis.
Unfortunately, the threshold for cannabis amount and a solid experience, an unpleasant experience, or greening out is not universal. It typically comes down to experience with cannabis and tolerance, meaning a new consumer or someone with a light THC tolerance is more likely to green out from smaller amounts of cannabis. A frequent cannabis user with a high tolerance must consume far more cannabis to have the same experience.
How to Tell a Green Out Is Happening
What does it feel like to green out? Most people know based off the typical symptoms of greening out:
Nausea: Cannabis often alleviates nausea, so if you smoke and start to feel sick to your stomach, it could be a sign you are greening out.
Dizziness: Some light-headedness is expected when using cannabis, but if you are overwhelmingly dizzy — the world is spinning, and you cannot find your balance — you might be greening out.
Paranoia/Anxiety: Cannabis is known to encourage these effects anyway in some consumers, so feeling anxious or paranoid isn’t a sign of greening out on its own (though it’s still a good indication to slow down). When these feelings feel too extreme to manage, or result in a panic attack, it’s a sign of greening out.
Vomiting: Some reported cases of greening out involve uncontrollable vomiting. This is NOT a typical effect of cannabis consumption, so vomiting is a good sign that you are greening out.
Hallucination: Cannabis is psychoactive, so high amounts of cannabis can indeed result in some hallucinogenic effects. Under normal circumstances this can be fun, but folks greening out may hallucinate an altered perception of time, or altered senses within their body, which can be unpleasant, especially compounded with other symptoms.
How Long Does A Green Out Last?
A green out period, specifically the time where a consumer experiences unpleasant symptoms, can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. It ultimately depends on the amount of cannabis consumed and the person’s THC tolerance.
For example, flower typically has lower THC than concentrates and edibles, so someone greening out from flower may have a quicker resolution than someone who took too many edibles. Flower and concentrate highs generally last up to two hours, while edibles can take up to four hours to even feel the full effects. Intoxicating effects can last far longer — think 12 hours, or even up to a full 24 — depending on the amount taken, so an edible green out could be a far longer experience.
Tips To Handle A Green Out
There may not be a set greening out cure or a magic solution for how to stop greening out, but you can cut your the experience short, or ease any unpleasantness, by knowing how to navigate it, should it happen. Here’s what to do when greening out:
Terpene science is improving, and beta-caryophyllene and limonene can both help to reduce anxiety and paranoia that comes with too much weed. You don’t have to turn back to cannabis, either: Some peppercorn balls or a lemon wedge should be enough to do the trick. While research is still expanding, CBD and CBG have also been shown to reduce the effects of THC.
Hydration is also important, and be sure to avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages as they are ultimately dehydrating.
You will likely have to turn to some grounding techniques as well. This looks different for everyone, but some general suggestions include laying down, putting on calming music or a familiar show, taking a shower or bath, or talking to someone to get your mind off the experience and some extra assurance.
If you’re looking at how to help someone greening out, these same tips apply, but make sure that the person in need is in a safe, comfortable space before helping them with anything they may need.
Greening out is temporary, and many will never get there simply because they know how not to green out. Avoid mixing cannabis with other drugs, especially alcohol, make sure to go slow with edibles, and understand your own tolerance. If you are concerned about greening out, or it’s happened to you before, try out some low-THC products.
Luckily, we’re in an era where all kinds of products and an ever-increasing array of cannabis knowledge are accessible right at our fingertips. It’s up to us to utilize these tools so we can fully enjoy all the benefits the plant has to offer!
Laprairie, R. B., Bagher, A. M., Kelly, M. E. M., & Denovan-Wright, E. M. (2015). Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. British Journal of Pharmacology, 172(20), 4790–4805. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.13250
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Cannabis laws in the U.S. are continually shifting; therefore, the information in this article is subject to change. The information in this article does not constitute legal advice, and no entity at Evn-cbd is claiming to provide legal advice. Please visit your official state website for more information on your state’s cannabis laws and regulations.