Can Weed Cause Panic Attacks?

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Weed is often portrayed as a harmless recreational substance. But is this completely true? Can weed have a negative impact on your mind? For example, can weed cause panic attacks?

What is Weed?

Weed is one of the common slang terms for marijuana. The drug is also known as herb, tea, tree, ganja, and myriad other descriptors.

Marijuana (or weed) consists of dried parts of the cannabis sativa plant. It is commonly ingested by smoking, though many edible options have gained in popularity as decriminalization and legalization efforts have spread throughout the United States.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported the following about weed use in the United States:

  • About 18% of the U.S. population aged 12 and above used marijuana at least once in the previous 12 months. This works out to more than 52 million people. 
  • Marijuana use is most common among younger adults aged 18-25. The past-year rate of weed use in this demographic is 35.4%.
  • In the previous year, NIDA estimates that about 16 million people (or around 30% of those who use the drug) met the criteria for a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder, which is the clinical term for marijuana addiction.

How Does Weed Affect Your Mind?

The psychoactive substance in weed is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, which is usually shortened to THC. 

The level of THC in a cannabis plant can be significantly different from one strain to the next. This is one factor that can impact how a person is affected by weed. Other factors include how long they have been using weed, how much they typically use, and if they have any co-occurring mental health concerns. A person’s age, gender, and genetic makeup can also influence how they are affected.

With all of these factors in mind, weed’s general effects can include both pleasurable and distressing outcomes. 

On the positive side, some people experience the following when they use weed:

  • Relaxation
  • Improved mood
  • Increased appetite
  • Easing of stress and anxiety
  • Enhanced senses

The potential negative effects of weed can include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Hallucination and delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic

The positive and negative effects listed above can result from using weed just once. Prolonged use has also been linked to the following physical and psychological effects:

  • Breathing problems
  • Heart problems
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Psychosis
  • Addiction

Can Week Cause Panic Attacks?

In the previous section, we included panic in our list of possible negative short-term effects of marijuana use. You may wonder if we are referring to a momentary sense of panic or a more extended episode. In other words, can weed cause panic attacks?

In a clinical context, the term panic attack refers to the sudden onset of both physical and psychological distress. Someone who is in the midst of a panic attack may experience symptoms such as the following:

  • Excessive perspiration
  • Rising body temperature
  • Racing heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Inability to catch their breath
  • Feeling of being choked or suffocated
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Tingling in fingers and toes
  • Shakiness
  • Distorted perceptions
  • Fear of imminent death

Marijuana doesn’t usually lead to these types of severe symptoms, but a person can absolutely have a terrible experience like this after using the drug. This means that the answer to the question, can weed cause panic attacks, is yes. Marijuana-related panic attacks aren’t common, but they do happen.

Tips for Managing a Panic Attack

Whether or not they result from using marijuana, panic attacks don’t usually last for more than a few minutes. But in those moments, you may truly feel that you are about to die. 

Thankfully, there are a few strategies that you can employ to help you manage your symptoms and minimize your distress:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This can help alleviate the sensation that you are suffocating or can’t catch your breath.
  • Sit or lie down and close your eyes. This can eliminate visual distortions and reduce the likelihood that you will be distracted by lights or other stimuli.
  • Acknowledge that you are having a panic attack. Naming the experience can help you take control of the situation. It can also be helpful to remind yourself that panic attacks are temporary, and rarely cause lasting harm.
  • Contact someone you trust. Tell them what you’re going through. They can help talk you through the experience and remind you that you are safe.
  • Visualize yourself in a safe and peaceful place. Mental images of being on a beach, in a park, or wherever else you find happiness can ease your emotional distress.

If you have panic attacks when you use weed, you should stop using weed. Depending on the nature of your relationship with this drug, that might require professional help. Though many people mistakenly believe that marijuana is a completely safe substance, you can become addicted to it.

While you are in treatment for marijuana addiction, your treatment team can help you determine if your history of panic attacks is linked to an anxiety disorder or another co-occurring mental health condition.

Begin Treatment for Marijuana Addiction in Nashville, TN

Untreated marijuana addiction can have a profound negative impact on virtually every part of your life. At Nashville Treatment Solutions, you can get the personalized care you need to stop using weed and start living a healthier life. 

Treatment options at our center include detox, partial hospitalization, an intensive outpatient program, and traditional outpatient rehab. In every program, you will receive customized services and comprehensive support from a team of skilled professionals.

When you’re ready to get started, the Nashville Treatment Solutions team is here to help. For additional details or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our contact us page or call us today.