Paranoia is a symptom of something not nearly understood. It appears attached to several mental disorders, including schizophrenia. At its mildest, it manifests as fear and anxiety with little foundation.
Now, you can suffer from fear and anxiety for good reason, as when your life is threatened, or a spouse or child are injured. In those flight or fight moments, your biochemistry and neurology misfire affecting your complex body and brain systems.
Paranoia, however, is an intense fear and anxiety often taking the form of delusions, irrational thinking, and lasting belief that you are in danger — even where there is no evidence. Depending on the degree of the disorder, people may appear to function normally, but without care, their anxiety can lead to other physical and mental problems.
The THC in cannabis has been known to calm paranoia in PTSD patients, but it has also been known to increase it in others. What’s the problem? And, how do you counteract cannabis-induced paranoia?
Daniel Freeman, Ph.D. and Jason Freeman reported on their extensive collaboration at University of Oxford, the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, and the University of Manchester study in Psychology Today.
They injected mentally healthy volunteers with 1.5mg of THC or placebo. All the volunteers had reported one experience of paranoia following cannabis use the month before the test. “To track the effects of these substances, we used the most extensive form of assessment yet deployed to test paranoia, including a virtual-reality scenario, a real-life social situation, self-administered questionnaires, and expert interviewer assessments.”
As a result, 50% of the THC recipients reported paranoid thoughts; 30% of the placebo group did, too. In short, the THC caused an increase in paranoia in one in five. The fact that 30% also felt paranoid is an interesting insight into how difficult it is to define cause and effect precisely.
The chemical mechanism
There’s been no final determination, but the correlations among studies indicate that the THC in cannabis interacts directly with the brain’s neurological receptors. In some patients, that interaction improves a lack of energy or smooths poor connections for a therapeutic effect.
In others, it hyper-activates those receptors with negative results. Even cannabis advocates do not deny these results, and they are concerned by an increase in psychotic issues following use of the high-THC strains on the black market.
The problem with paranoia
Paranoid episodes lack predictability and scientific certainty. They may be a direct or indirect result of cannabis consumption. Or, they may arise from a combination of influences and conditions. People should reconsider using cannabis if:
- There is a history of paranoid events or who are heirs to a genetic history of paranoia.
- They have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or problematic basal anxiety levels.
- They are females more prone to paranoia or have manifest personality disorders.
So, if you enjoy the paranoid experiences attached to some cannabis trips, it isn’t wise to continue with that attachment. If you have had paranoid events from cannabis consumption, you should consider what you can do to counteract cannabis-induced paranoia.
What you can do
In general, you should consider how frequent and how much you use. It may be time for a cannabis break.
- CBD is the most direct antidote for acute anxiety. Straight CBD oil should have a place in your medicine cabinet or in easy access to your using place.
- Exercise will get your systems moving. Cannabis smoke directly affects blood stream, but so do does exercise. So, try to walk if off.
- Talk to others. If you are prone to anxiety in the first place, you should be using in the company of others who might help talk you down.
- Change your focus with some distraction like music or gaming. The change in attention and focus should get your mind off the problem.
- Eat pistachios or pepper pack a beneficial punch. Pistachio seeds are dense with amino acids, terpenes, and nitric oxide, all of which restore and repair. And, according to Merry Jane, black pepper “typically expresses the terpenes myrcene, alpha-pinene, and caryophyllene, all known for calming and relaxing properties.”
- Choose the right setting. You are likely more comfortable in some situations and settings than others. That’s where you want to consume your cannabis. For example, if you smoke in a place where you are claustrophobic or have bad memories, that’s a poor start.
- Avoid other stimulants. If your psychology is turning upside down, it’s no time to add caffeine or alcohol to the mix. In fact, you should hydrate heavily with water, hot tea, or warm broth.
- Eat something nutritious. You have better options than Cheetos. So, some fresh fruit or protein can straighten out your body chemistry.
If you use or are planning to use, you should have a plan that includes trusted friends and cannabis intelligence. You should learn about the risks and be honest about your vulnerabilities.
You must learn to identify the THC: CBD content of your product and the recommended dosing. After a first use, you should study your experience and reaction. If it included paranoid feelings, you should reconsider the strain and dosing. And, if the paranoia continues with each smoke or increases with frequency of use, you should stop using.
At its most positively effective, THC will induce enhanced sensory experience, distortion in time, and an uplifting euphoria. When that moves into intense anxiety and paranoia, it’s time to rethink what you are doing.