by Silent Jay on 25/11/2014 | Consumption

Red eyes and cannabis

Eyes Why does cannabis make my eyes go red ? This might be one of the most common questions an average cannabis consumer could ask themselves during their first encounters with the substance.


Why does cannabis make my eyes go red ?

This might be one of the most common questions an average cannabis consumer could ask themselves during their first encounters with the substance. The reason why that is, is that while cannabis is known to have psychoactive effects, therefore having an impact on behaviour and general mind set, most of what the user experiences goes virtually unnoticed by others.

The reddening of the eyes, on the other hand, is known to be the most visible proof of someone having indulged in a cannabis-fuelled session, to a point where this symptom alone, regardless of its origins, is now almost systematically associated with cannabis consumption.

While this phenomenon has – obviously – a scientific explanation, the stigma linked to it has increased over the years, perhaps also because in medical terms, red eyes may have to do with conditions such as flu, allergies, conjunctivitis, fatigue, etc. It can also be linked to substance abuse, namely alcohol abuse, or even regular, non-abusive consumption of tobacco. In other words, this symptom is generally a synonym of relative “bad health”. But when red eyes show as a result of consuming cannabis, is it in fact a bad thing?

What is the explanation behind red eyes?

The principal reason why cannabis consumption can lead to red eyes is due to the main active compound of cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol, more popularly known as THC. One of THC’s effects on the human body is to decrease blood pressure, resulting in dilatation of blood vessels and increase of blood flow throughout the entire organism. The decrease in blood pressure has a direct impact on the arteries of the ocular globes, which expand, allowing blood to circulate more visibly than it usually would.
This means that this symptom can show regardless of method of consumption, even though common (inaccurate) knowledge associates it more frequently with the activity of smoking. A noteworthy fact is there are people who can be affected similarly, but for different reasons; many find their eyes redden systematically when smoking, whether this smoke comes from cannabis or another substance. This could partly explain why this erroneous fact is so widespread.

But in reality, vaporising cannabis, ingesting an edible of some kind, or combusting it in any way has the potential of triggering red eyes. THC, one of the main cannabinoids in cannabis, is activated when the matter is heated up to a certain minimum temperature: vaporised, combusted, baked into a cookie, etc.

Why are red eyes actually a great thing?

In the realm of medicinal cannabis, the plant is known to be of precious help to patients suffering from glaucoma. One of the main symptoms of this disease is the increasing intraocular pressure that can eventually lead to permanent damage, which can go as far as blindness.
It turns out, the way cannabis can relieve this intraocular pressure comes from the exact same property that makes a consumer’s eyes red. While cannabis cannot actually cure glaucoma, it allows patients to alleviate their symptoms enough to be able to live with the condition, without it being sight-threatening.
Cannabis is to this day the only truly efficient medication available to glaucoma sufferers, and has been authorized for a couple decades in this context in many countries, as well as in a few U.S. states. A tremendous amount of studies have shown that cannabis can relieve intraocular pressure 25% more efficiently than pharmaceutical vasodilators. Before the prohibition era, cannabis has also been used for centuries by glaucoma patients, and was also used for many other purposes including recreational and spiritual ones, making the current “red eye issue” somewhat of a by-product of the infamous War On Drugs.

Of course, this precious medicinal property is also currently being exploited in the context of other ailments, such as hypertension, and any condition involving high blood pressure.

What to do to get rid of red eyes?

From an all-round consumer and activist point of view, there should not be any reason why one should hide cannabis-induced red eyes. Although, since cannabis is still not fully democratised, in legal terms as well as in societal ones, visible red eyes is still a legitimate concern to many.

There is no straightforward, immediate solution to red eyes, and the results upon trying one or another of the available palliatives may vary depending on the person. Although, there are ways to soften the vasodilator effect brought by cannabis;

  • Use eye drops; those of the kind that relieve inflammation-related redness can be an efficient and fairly quick answer
  • Turn to vasoconstrictors; caffeine, chocolate, salted foods, etc.
  • Apply cucumber slices or a wet towel on your eyes for a few minutes
  • Stay alert and wait. Red eyes usually don’t last very long, provided consumption is not off the charts.

If your red eyes do not prevent you from performing daily tasks, one thing to know is that they do not harm your eyes, your brain, or anything else. As one grows into being a regular consumer, for medicinal reasons or other, a certain tolerance for the symptom can be observed, making it an issue of a relatively temporary nature.

For those who require all-year-round perfectly porcelain ocular globes for one reason or another (professionals whose industry relies on physical appearance, for instance), certain strains, due to the different balance of their cannabinoids and terpenoids, can be more appropriate as far as the specific red eye symptom goes. As usual, this is a game of trial and error.

Find your own red-eye-free cannabis strain!

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