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What is Greening Out? And How to Manage it.

The term ‘greening out’ is a phrase used when somebody inadvertently consumes too much cannabis. Many experienced cannabis consumers know what it’s like to feel “greened out”. To newcomers, it can be quite overwhelming. Despite the excellent safety of cannabis (specifically THC), too much of it can lead to intense side effects like anxiety, nausea, loss of balance, increased heart rate, emotional disturbance, and more. Some people may be especially vulnerable.

Whether new, experienced, or healthy as a horse, “greening out” is unpleasant and sometimes frightening. However, it is important to remember that nobody has ever died from a cannabis overdose. These feelings will pass.

If you learn how to prevent and handle greening out, it’ll make the entire experience easier.

What is Greening Out?

Simply, “greening out” describes the unpleasant mental and physical effects caused by too much THC. What’s happening here, exactly?

Our body’s natural endocannabinoid system relies on receptors – called CB1 and CB2 – which respond to the naturally-occurring cannabinoids produced by our own body. CB1 receptors primarily exist in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), while CB2 receptors are found throughout the body. These same receptors respond to the elements in cannabis, such as THC. In THC’s case, the compound directly affects both the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system and body.  This explains why THC has both physical and mental effects.

“Greening out” occurs when the CB1 receptors are exposed to too much THC, leading to mental effects that can be scary and uncomfortable, and other symptoms, like a fast heart rate.

Symptoms of Greening Out

Greening out is hard to experience, but it’s easy to spot. What separates “greening out” from just being too “high” is that the effects become too intense. Let’s see what to look for.

1) Nausea

Cannabis is famous for helping with nausea. We’ve all heard the benefits it does for cancer patients with severe nausea issues and lost appetite from chemotherapy. But if you become nauseous during or after cannabis use, it’s quite likely you’ve consumed too much and you’re “greening out”.

2) Dizziness

Dizziness isn’t uncommon when you’re “high”. But when you “green out”, the dizziness goes beyond manageable light-headedness. Try lying down or closing your eyes. If you feel like you’re still spinning, you’ve probably pushed beyond your THC limit.

3) Paranoia

Paranoia is often associated with being “high”, so just because you have paranoid thoughts doesn’t mean you’ve overdone it (although it’s a sign you should put down the cannabis for now). Paranoia is that uneasy feeling, as if something’s not right. This can lead to intrusive, disturbing thoughts. You may also get jumpy, being more reactive to movement or sounds.

Again, it’s not uncommon to feel somewhat paranoid. But if that feeling gets more extreme than you can manage, it’s possible you’re “greening out”.

4) Anxiety

A lot of people use cannabis to combat anxiety, whether isolated or chronic. But anxiety and cannabis are a balancing act. Low, careful doses of THC help anxiety, but higher doses of THC may worsen anxiety. Some cannabis strains just make you feel anxious. But again, it’s about the degree. If you start to feel extremely nervous while consuming cannabis, cut yourself off right away.

5) Increased Heart Rate

THC and increased heart rate go hand-in-hand, but too much THC may cause some serious problems if you’re in poor cardiac condition. If, however, you have no concerning issues then you’ll probably be fine once the THC wears off and your heart rate becomes normal again.

Those with known or suspected heart disease, high blood pressure, or any other condition affected by heart performance, it’s best that you avoid cannabis until you check with a specialist.

6) Drowsiness

Drowsiness is easily one of the most common side effects from using cannabis. After all, its sedative nature is of great benefit to many people suffering with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Of course, not all strains make you drowsy. But it’s easy to tell the relaxing ones from the uplifting kinds. With “greening out”, that drowsiness can get really severe. It crosses the line from “mellow and relaxed” to “barely awake.”

7) Dry Mouth

If you wonder why cannabis can give you cottonmouth, you might be surprised to know it’s not due to dehydration. Instead, THC inhibits saliva production, leading to “cotton mouth.” While you’re not at risk of dehydration, per se, “greening out” can cause severe cottonmouth or dry mouth, which feels really uncomfortable.

How to Avoid Greening Out

The best way to handle a “green out” is prevention – something that’s surprisingly easy to do. Ultimately, it comes down to being careful to avoid more THC than you can handle. Everybody’s tolerance is different. “Low and Slow” is always the best approach to cannabis consumption. Remember that your friend’s tolerance will be different from yours. If you are consuming with friends, pay attention to your own sensations and use that as your guide.

Be Careful with Edibles

A lot of people like edibles for their variety and extended effects. The problem is that “greening out” on edibles is easy to do, but hard to fix. Edibles take time to work, so you could more easily consume too much THC without realizing it at first.

“Start low and go slow” is always a good approach to cannabis consumption, but it is especially true with edibles. Users of all experience levels should stick to it religiously. The delayed effects of edibles make it hard to tell how much you need. The only way to know is through gradual experimentation.

It is generally recommended to start with 2.5-3 mg. Wait 30 to 90 minutes for the edibles to take effect, although it could take even longer. Re-dosing too quickly is a common mistake. Edibles can creep up on you and seem weak at first, then suddenly feel too strong. To avoid this, some people will wait a full day before trying again. This is an especially sensible strategy for new consumers, or those without recent exposure.

Smoking or vaping cannabis works quickly, which can be a big advantage. It’s easier to tell right away if you’re approaching your limit and need to stop. Trust you instinct and err on the side of caution.

Know Your Limit

Cannabis consumption isn’t an exact science. Everyone’s system is different. Experience (or lack thereof) often determines tolerance. New users need to be extra careful and avoid overdoing it with high-THC products. Remember that for those without recent cannabis experience, your initial exposure may not produce much effect. This phenomenon is called “priming the pump”. It is not well understood but it appears that sometimes you will need a few exposures until cannabis begins to have noticeable effects. So, when learning your sensitivity and optimal dosing strategy, be patient with yourself and only gradually increase your consumption amounts each time.

Consume With Friends

Consuming quietly at home can be relaxing, but if you plan to push your limits, it’s best to do that in a trusted group setting. Friends can warn you if you’re using too much cannabis. If you do “green out”, being around others will help reduce symptoms like anxiety or paranoia because the sense of immediate help often has a calming effect.

Try Lower THC Products

Greening out happens when you take more THC than your body can handle. The key to preventing that is to stay as far away from that threshold as possible.

We’ve covered “start low and go slow” as the golden rule for edibles, but a similar strategy applies to smoking or vaping.  Newcomers should start with products below 10% THC. Take two or three puffs and see how you feel after ten minutes, then try more, but only if necessary. Don’t let your friends’ consumption be your guide. Follow your own feelings.

What to Do When You Do Consume Too Much

Even with careful dosing, there’s still a chance you’ll overdo it. If that happens, don’t worry. The next few hours might be physically and mentally rough to some degree, but having a plan adds a sense of control to the rocky situation.

Ultimately, you can’t stop a THC overdose in its tracks, but you can reduce or shorten the effects and learn what works best for you.

Deep Breaths

One of the first clues that you’ve “greened out” is an elevated sense of anxiety. Don’t worry, there’s no reason to panic. Start by paying attention to your breath, like in a yoga class. Breathe deeply and slowly, in through your nose and out through the mouth.”

Drink Water

Water is usually the go-to, but juice and herbal tea (little to no caffeine) will work as well. If nausea or vomiting won’t let you keep any fluids down, try taking small sips or sucking on ice chips until you feel a bit better. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, like cola or coffee, as these contribute to dehydration.

Take Some CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is well known to counteract and reduce the effects of THC. CBD alters the uptake of THC in the CB1 receptors, abruptly stopping further intoxication.

If you think you might be more susceptible to “greening out” keep some CBD on hand. You can find hemp-derived oils and other ingestible forms of CBD. But it’s also available in vape cartridges which offer the benefit of a quick onset. There are plenty of online vendors and health food stores that specialize in these products. Of course, the dispensaries also carry high quality CBD products.

Take a Shower

Showers help awaken the senses and fight off some of the negative effects you’re experiencing. Use cold water if you feel overheated.

Talk to Someone

If you’re with friends, tell your group you feel sick and suspect you’re “greening out”. They’ll talk you through the experience and be able to help you be as comfortable as possible while you wait for the symptoms to subside.

If you’re alone, try texting or calling someone you trust. Tell them you feel sick or might be “greening out”. Stay in touch on the phone or in text until you feel comfortable enough to power through on your own.

Change Your Environment

Sometimes, getting up and moving somewhere else can really help take the edge off. Try going outside for a few minutes. The fresh air might just give your senses a bit of a jumpstart.

It’s also a good idea to eliminate intense background noise, like loud music. Try and put on a funny or low-key movie to help keep your mind busy.

Take a Nap

One of the most effective ways to combat “greening out” is to simply sleep it off. Find a quiet place away from too much stimulation and get some shut eye until it passes. If you’re too anxious to sleep, try lying down and listening to some relaxing music. (In fact, that might be just what you need to doze off).


Moving your body can help increase blood flow, reduce stress and redirect your attention from racing thoughts when greening out, allowing you to drift away afterward.

Reassure Yourself

When “greening out”, you’re often your own worst enemy. The negative, intrusive thoughts zipping through your head can make the situation feel ten times worse. It may be difficult to understand at the time, but the issue is temporary and will wear off. Sometimes, the key to a milder “green out” comes from positive thinking. Remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is the result of THC. Once that’s gone, the symptoms will be gone too.

Everything you hear, see, or think about is just the consequence of too much THC. Maybe you feel scared, but don’t worry – it’ll pass. Once you understand this, the whole experience will be a lot easier.

Seek Help

If all these measures don’t help and you think you may become a danger to yourself. Or, if you think, or know that you may be at risk for heart disease and you begin to experience chest pain or shortness of breath associated with a rapid heart rate, you should seek medical attention immediately to rule out any risk.