Many people who used cannabis have felt it one way or the other – after the high comes tiredness; after waking up comes hangover. It can be a mild headache, feeling burned out, or slightly confused. These are known residual effects of cannabis.
Residual Effects Of Cannabis
Science has not yet explored the reported hangover effects of cannabis in full, but there are a few studies that found supporting evidence. One such study in 1985 aimed to determine if cannabis consumption has residual effects that last until the following morning.
The study had a small sample size of 13 men, who were either given a joint with 2.9% THC or a placebo. After smoking, the heart rate and carbon monoxide level were measured. The participants were also given tasks that allowed the researchers to observe their behavior.
These tests were repeated the following morning after the participants had rested. What they found is that smoking cannabis can produce reactions that are very different from its original effects. It led researchers to conclude that continued use does cause hangover-like symptoms, but the exact nature and scope of these are yet to be explored.
Another study in 1998 came up with the same findings. The problem with these studies, however, is that the results were inconclusive. It does not mean that weed hangovers are not real, though. The residual effects of cannabis are definitely something that users all around the world experience.
To learn how to avoid it, one must know what causes it in the first place. Although studies determining the exact factors that lead to cannabis hangovers are yet to be performed, the following appears to be the most likely causes.
What seems to be the common denominator among the many users who have experienced cannabis hangovers and the studies that investigated this phenomenon is the higher rates of consumption. It could then be naturally assumed that over consumption leads to cannabis hangover.
This may be one of the reasons why symptoms are more likely to appear when consuming edibles rather than smoking. It is easier to ingest more edibles than expected in addition to the fact that the body’s digestive system takes a longer time to process the THC.
On that note, the some of the reported hangover symptoms might actually be the result of a lingering high. Overconsumption of edibles means that there is more THC to metabolize. It is possible that significant amounts of the chemical are still present in the body and the digestive tract is still metabolizing it even after sleeping.
However, it is important to note that the amount of cannabis that can be considered as overconsumption slightly varies per individual. Each body reacts in a different way to THC. While some might not experience a hangover from consuming a certain amount, it might be beyond the threshold for other users.
This is why teens are more likely to have cannabis hangovers than adults. Younger people have more receptors that THC could bind to, and the compound actually lingers for much longer time than in an adult brain.
Cannabis hangovers, contrary to popular belief, are not necessarily caused by dehydration. That is because, unlike alcohol, it does not cause dehydration in the first place.
After taking a hit, THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the mouth and hinders the production of saliva causing the throat to feel dry. If it is indeed dehydration that is the root cause, then it means that the user already lacks fluids in the body before even consuming cannabis.
3. Half-Life Of THC
Another explanation for getting hangovers is that THC has a rather long half-life. Even if smoke, some of it hides out in the fat cells for some time only to be re-released into the system later.
This is also the reason why some people get a positive drug test result even if it has been days since the last session. It can take several days or even weeks to flush it out of the body thoroughly.
Even if THC is still present in the body, users would not feel the high profoundly due to the slow release. As such, it can cause some of the symptoms associated with cannabis hangovers.
The effects of cannabis may only last for a few hours, but the residual effects can last for a few days. This is why some individuals might feel hungover due to its use.
One of the many reasons why people use cannabis is as a mood enhancer. It is known to induce the release of dopamine – the hormone associated with feelings of pleasure among many of its functions. A high level of this compound leads to a lower level of stress and an increase in motivation.
As the high fades away, it causes the level of dopamine to lower resulting in the opposite effect. And, in this case, users start to feel fatigued. In some instances, might even feel lethargic extending until the next day.
Restless sleep is also a significant contributor to the feeling of fatigue. A research team led by Dr. Michael Grandner found a link between cannabis and poor quality of sleep, although a correlation could not be drawn yet. It is evident, however, that its use affects the sleep/wake cycle of the users.
2. Headaches And Brain Fog
For some people, brain fog might as well be the worst of the residual effects. While the lack of sleep is partly the reason, it is also due to how THC interacts with the brain.
The body has an endocannabinoid system that “processes” the cannabinoids. Although it is found all over the body, most are concentrated in the nervous system. That is why cannabis exerts a significant influence on the cognitive functions of the brain.
As THC lingers even after the high, some people might experience confusion and a distorted perception of time. Others might also have slight issues with coordination and memory.
One might also experience headaches, although it is not as common as the others on this list. This may be due to the smoke, which is a leading trigger of a headache.
3. Red Or Dry Eyes
Red eyes, aside from questionable actions and thoughts, are the universal symbol of being high. It is a common effect that usually disappears after a shower and some rest, although it can linger until after the psychedelic effects have passed.
After binding with receptors in the brain, THC lowers blood pressure. It then causes the blood vessels and capillaries in the eyes to dilate. To maintain vision, the body reacts by increasing blood flow, and this causes redness or bloodshot eyes.
Some people also experience dry eyes. Its cause, though, remains unknown. A possible factor could be that some people are sensitive to smoke. Even so, some people who consume cannabis as edibles also experience this condition. A more plausible explanation is that the cannabinoids likely has an effect on the mucosal membranes of the eyes through the endocannabinoid system.
4. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth, or “cotton mouth” as it is also known, is a common symptom of cannabis hangover. THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the submandibular glands in the mouth mostly responsible for the production of saliva. The binding then stops this function leading to a decrease in saliva secretion.
5. Sore Chest
This symptom might be unique to smokers most notably the ones who use a bong. The lungs take a huge hit when people inhale smoke, which is why the chest can feel sore during a session or afterward.
Those who are not used to smoking are usually the ones who will feel this effect. This symptom is still present to those who are experienced, although it is not much of an issue for the regular smokers. It will disappear when the user transitions to using edibles or other cannabis-based products.
How To Avoid Or Deal With Cannabis Residual Effects
Weed hangover is not as common and as bad as an alcohol hangover. That is if an individual takes precautions and is aware of the body’s limitations. There are steps that one can take to minimize the chances of having a hangover the next day. Even if one happens to experience some residual effects, there are ways to mitigate.
1. Avoid Overconsumption
As this seems to be the number one cause of a hangover, it makes sense to avoid going beyond the tolerance limit. This is where the old adage “go low, go slow” comes into mind.
Most especially for beginners who have yet to know personal tolerance limit, it is recommended to start with a low dosage and then go through the joint or edible slowly. The dosage can be increased gradually as tolerance builds up. If one ends up getting a few or more residual effects, it is only logical to decrease the dosage the next time around.
2. Avoid Cannabis
However, fighting fire with fire would only delay the inevitable. It will likely even make the hangover worse. To completely get over the residual effects of cannabis, avoiding it is the better option to give the body time to flush out all lingering cannabinoids.
3. Watch Food And Drink Intake
Sometimes, the munchies can quickly get out of control. What is terrible about this is that junk foods are usually the go-to snacks when it hits. This can lead to an upset stomach later on and an influx of junk chemicals. Even if it is healthy food, overeating could still cause some issues.
One should also watch what goes into the body while in a hangover state. A hearty breakfast with healthy fats, eggs, fruits, and vegetables can start the day right, especially considering that the body needs the nutrition to fend off the adverse effects of cannabis. Eating balanced meals throughout the day will further help the body heal itself.
Of course, it is best not to forget fluids. A fresh juice drink is a great accompaniment to breakfast, as well as a hot tea. Both are equally refreshing while providing lots of nutrients.
Even drinking plenty of water before, during, and after a hit can also stave off some of the nasty effects of a hangover. Of course, this would not be able to cancel out the side effects of overconsumption entirely, but it will be extremely helpful in preventing or remedying headaches and other effects.
Sometimes, the only thing that the body needs is a good rest. Having a nap or a good night’s sleep can refresh the mind. If supplemented with a yoga session or meditation, it can trigger the body to subdue the hangover symptoms.
5. Do Physical Activities
Although a hangover is not the best motivator to go outside and break a sweat, it is a good reason to do so. Starting the day with a few minutes of exercise or a light jog can help dissipate hangover symptoms. Some fresh air should also assist in clearing up brain fog and in uplift the spirits.
6. Take Cold Shower
That splash of cold water first thing in the morning can awaken every cell in the body, which is what it needs before that dull groggy feeling can take over. It is an excellent alternative to a hot cup of coffee, which can only aggravate the symptoms due to its caffeine content.
Forcing the body to feel energized instead of wallowing in lethargy can help it overpower the signs of a hangover. It can also help reduce the redness in the eyes, which is why a cold shower before work is best to avoid any suspicion.
Responsible Use Of Cannabis
The cannabis community is divided on whether cannabis hangover exists or not. Understandably, people who experienced these adverse symptoms swear by its existence. On the other hand, those who have yet to feel anything negative the next day do not think it even occurs at all.
Science has provided a glimpse not only in its existence but also the likely causes. In essence, the most logical explanation is that the symptoms that may or may not resemble the known psychedelic effects of cannabis are a result of lingering cannabinoids in the body.
As the psychoactive effects dissipate hours into the high, that means most of the cannabinoids have been flushed out of the body. However, some of these compounds such as THC are also stored in fat tissues. Because it is slowly released into the bloodstream, it is entirely possible that some users might not feel high the next day, but its presence is still significant enough to cause adverse reactions.
It explains why most people who have felt cannabis hangover are the ones who ingested edibles. In this case, that is due to the cannabinoids being released slowly through the digestive tract. Also, it also likely occurs for people who take hits regularly and continuously over a period of days or weeks. Consequently, before the body flushes out all the cannabinoids, more of these compounds are absorbed.
The best way to avoid the residual effects of cannabis, therefore, is not to overconsume. It means keeping the dosage within reasonable limits as well as taking a break on some days to give the body time to get rid of cannabinoids stored.