by Seshata on 29/01/2016 | Consumption

Why do some first-time cannabis users report feeling “stuck” in a high?

Stuck There are multiple anecdotal reports online of people that have tried cannabis for the first time, only to get “stuck in a loop” where an altered mind-state persists for days, weeks, or even months, even if they do not continue to use cannabis. What’s happening here, and who does it affect?


Persistent pros & persistent cons

Some users report that the subjectively positive effects of cannabis stay with them long after normality should have resumed. However, it is more common for individuals who experience a negative first time with cannabis to report persistent, unsettling, and negative after-effects.

First off, it’s important to state that it appears to be a small minority of first-time users that experience this effect. It’s not clear exactly how many, as official figures don’t yet exist on many cannabis-related matters, but in the future as legal cannabis becomes more widespread, a clearer picture should emerge.

People who still feel “high” the next day

It seems to be quite common for new users to use a lot of cannabis during a session, and to go to sleep at night only to wake up the next day still feeling “high”. As the typical duration of a cannabis “high” is almost invariably stated to be 2-4 hours, one would expect that a good night’s sleep would be more than sufficient for the body to process the THC and for normal consciousness to resume.

It is important here to note the difference between people who experience a cannabis “hangover” the day after a session, and those who state that they still feel subjectively high. In the former case, people usually report feeling “groggy”, “burnt out”, and “half-asleep”.

However, this may well be something to do with the fact that cannabis use reduces time spent in REM sleep (an important stage of sleep in which we dream, and thereby refresh and repair various mental processes), and appears to be a different phenomenon from the people that actually claim to still feel high.

In contrast, the people who genuinely seem to experience an extended “high” use descriptors like “in a daydream”, “blazed”, “afterglow”, and “delightful”—generally positive and enjoyable.

How can the “positive” aspects persist for days?

Why do some first-time cannabis users report feeling “stuck” in a high?

Most of these reports are of feeling high the next morning, but there are also reports of people who continue to feel high for several days. One individual reports feeling “blazed” for up to six days after use of cannabis; here, another waxes lyrical about his “delightful” experience the day after his “very psychedelic” first use of cannabis.

It is not clear what causes some new users to feel subjectively high for days after using cannabis. It is possible that for some, the breakdown of THC in the liver into its metabolites (which are then secreted in the urine) occurs at a slower rate than in others, which may then allow the THC to circulate in the bloodstream for longer, giving it an extended chance to reach the brain, encounter CB₁-receptors, and cause psychoactive effects.

Another possibility is the route of administration. Eating cannabis edibles often leads to a delayed peak concentration of THC in the blood, as the cannabinoids are usually dissolved in fat.

Fat releases the cannabinoids slowly into the bloodstream via the gastrointestinal tract, compared with the rapid administration achieved with smoking, vaping and sublingual sprays, which deliver cannabinoids directly to the bloodstream via the mucous membranes of the mouth. Furthermore, as THC builds up in the adipose (fat) tissues, it may also be the case that individuals with more body fat experience a “slow-release” effect of THC.

But what about persistent negative effects?

Why do some first-time cannabis users report feeling “stuck” in a high?

Overwhelmingly, people list the negative effects of cannabis that persist after first-time use as “anxiety”, “paranoia”, “panic”, “confusion”, “disorientation” and “depersonalization”. Again, most of the individuals experiencing these negative effects do so in the days or weeks immediately following use of cannabis, and then find that normality quickly returns.

However, there are also significant numbers of people stating that their intense negative feelings persisted for weeks or even months, and in some cases caused such an unprecedented disturbance to normal life that psychiatric treatment was sought.

Sometimes, anecdotal reports of these persistent negative effects include the experience of suicidal thoughts and desire to self-harm. However, it is problematic to assume a causal link between cannabis use and suicide, as those who report such feelings may well be suffering or at risk of separate mental illness. Some studies have associated cannabis use with an increased risk of suicide, but others have noted that in several U.S. states, suicide rates have dropped since medical cannabis programs were implemented.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Cannabis use may increase suicidal thinking in certain susceptible individuals, but on the other hand, a whole demographic of people whose suicide risk is high due to chronic pain or intractable illness remove that risk when they are able to benefit from medical cannabis.

Why do some people experience these negative effects?

Why do some first-time cannabis users report feeling “stuck” in a high?

This is a complicated question, and it is one that science has been trying to answer for decades. However, it’s also a question that overlaps heavily with the general study of cannabis and its effect on mental health, so it’s an area of research that is muddied by bias and politics. Thus, getting a clear answer is difficult, and it’s arguable that a clear answer doesn’t even exist yet, as we are still far from being in command of all the facts.

It’s interesting to note that in a book written in 1980, High Culture: Marijuana in the Lives of Americans by William Novak, the author states “bad trips on marijuana are statistically minuscule, but they do occur—especially the first time…But the vast majority of first-time experiences are either neutral or pleasant”.

While negative first-time experiences are certainly still in the minority, the sheer number of reports today implies that some increase in their incidence may be occurring. After all, most regular smokers today know at least one or two people who “couldn’t handle” their first time. This phenomenon may correspond to the increase in THC relative to CBD and other cannabinoids and terpenes that has been occurring in commercial cannabis varieties over the last few decades, or may be a result of residual chemicals present in poorly-grown cannabis.

Increased THC levels may be responsible

As the market for cannabis in the Western world has so decisively shifted from imported, outdoor-grown varieties containing relatively little THC (and few pesticides, if any) to indoor crops grown with commercial nutrients and chemicals, there is a definite possibility that both relative THC content and residual chemical traces have increased over these last few decades.

We don’t have any information on the changing levels of chemical residues in cannabis crops over the years, but we do have data on the increase in THC.

It’s pretty much beyond doubt that THC content has risen dramatically in much of the Western world, as we’ve developed strains with higher and higher levels of it over the years, and more and more people are getting access to these high-strength strains. We’re now hearing about strains that have up to 35 or 40 percent THC (although these may be mythical), whereas in 1980 levels that high were unheard of, and the average THC content was more like 2-3 percent.

Nowadays, average THC content isn’t 35 percent, but it’s certainly higher than 3 percent. In 2008, the UNODC stated that average content was approximately 10 percent; in Colorado today, the average is apparently more like 18.7 percent!

THC really does seem to cause short-term psychosis

Why do some first-time cannabis users report feeling “stuck” in a high?

We also have so much evidence connecting THC with short-term psychotic effects that it’s fatuous to ignore it. We have little reliable evidence that it causes long-term psychiatric illness, but we certainly do have evidence that acute administration of THC causes a state ostensibly very close to psychosis in the short term.

It’s likely that some of the more susceptible individuals among us (who may be more susceptible due to genetics, state of health, or various other factors) can experience a THC-induced psychosis-like state, which may persist for some time. For most of these individuals, this state will eventually go away, but for a small subset of these susceptible individuals, this THC-induced state may trigger an underlying mental illness.

This is not the same as THC itself causing the mental illness, as these individuals would probably become mentally ill without any cannabis use, but the cannabis use could speed or possibly exacerbate its onset. But while THC shouldn’t currently be blamed for causing mental illness, its short-term psychosis-inducing effects are extremely important to study.

What’s the evidence for THC causing psychosis?

Let’s just quickly go over the evidence. Most studies that link cannabis use to long-term, permanent psychiatric illnesses fail in multiple ways, most importantly that the studies are often designed to look at a single point in time, and do not well account for confounding factors that could be the true causes of the mental illness in question. On the other hand, we have plenty of direct evidence in the form of studies where THC has been administered, and has caused an immediate, short-term psychosis-like reaction.

From 1972, an Iranian report on narcotics highlights a case of a policeman with no previous history of psychosis who “went into a very violent excitement with paranoic delusions, struggling to get hold of his rifle to shoot his imaginary persecutors” after “a bout of bhang drinking”.

Then in 2005, we have two case studies of “cannabis acute psychosis”; here, the two individuals, both “regular but occasional” users, experienced “depersonalization, paranoid feelings and derealisation” after oral administration of THC. Both individuals felt “well” the next day, with no recurrence.

Another 2005 study states “even the critics have accepted that psychotic symptoms can be induced by cannabis, and that such symptoms generally wear off quickly and with complete remission”. However, this study did find a very strong association between cannabis psychosis and later development of paranoid schizophrenia, backing up the concept that cannabis psychosis can act as a trigger for underlying conditions.

In 2009, an excellent review on the existing literature on cannabis and acute psychosis was published, which states “generally these psychotic symptoms are transitory (minutes to hours) but there have been a few reports of symptoms persisting for weeks…severe or persistent psychotic reactions are rare, and are more likely to occur in individuals with a preexisting psychiatric condition”.

Should you be worried about your own usage?

Why do some first-time cannabis users report feeling “stuck” in a high?

Again, it is crucial to bear in mind that these persistent negative effects are unusual, and that most people have a pleasant time using cannabis at first. Furthermore, even if you find yourself experiencing feelings like those described herein, it’s important to try to remain calm and to rationalize your experience.

Feelings of anxiety, paranoia and depersonalization in first-time cannabis users are usually temporary, and are the result of using a powerful psychoactive substance. Many people who experience these feelings immediately begin to question their own sanity, but if you bear in mind that it is a natural reaction to a powerful substance, you can be reassured that you are not insane and you will feel more confident that normality will return imminently. Whether or not this attitude will speed the return of normality is unclear, but it can certainly make a huge difference to one’s state of panic and fear while the unusual feelings are persisting.

If your altered state continues to persist beyond a few days, it may be advantageous to seek psychiatric help, as it may point to the existence of an underlying condition. Again, if this is the case, it does not necessarily imply that cannabis has caused any such illness; it is also possible that the temporary altered mind-state simply “paves the way” for its onset.

It may be possible to reduce the risk of psychotic symptoms appearing by choosing varieties of cannabis that are high in CBD, which is well-known to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. This is perhaps the most important consideration, but it is also worth keeping in mind the importance of a relaxed environment, a full stomach, a hydrated body and a clear head, when first using cannabis.

Comment Section

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Ruaridh McGeorge

Administering THC is not an acurate method of research, cannabis contains CBD and CBN in different quantities to deliver different effects.

THC alone causes expansion of mind and a deep feeling of lethargy and demotivation aswel as depression like mood changes. These negative effects are countered by the CBD and so both would need to be administered for accurate testing. The evidence and research supplied on this site is extremely outdated.

02/02/2016

Seshata

Seriously? If you have some up to date, valid research into the effects of CBN and CBD on the subjective feeling of being "stuck" in a high, please link us to it. Sensi Seeds Blog doesn't produce original research, so if you feel that the extent of research out there is outdated, that's hardly the fault of the blog.

10/02/2017

Frank

I got deperonalization in 1979 from smoking pot with my older brother. Didn't want to but he harassed me to try it 3 different times. Each time I had strange hallucinations of things flashing like a strobelight and then everything moving in slow motion, and the feeling that my soul was leaving my bosy, and when i walked i felt like traces like my spirit was catching up with my body. It It was a frightenignexperience for me each time, and my brother would just keep harassing me to mkeep doing it. I was 14 yeras old at the time. Also I felt like time was going forever and that I was never going to come out of this state. The first 2 times i tried it I eventually went to sleep and woke up, and I was fine but the last time I tried it, I felt somehting snap, and I felt high in a dream state ever since. Also had flashback on the experience later on thinking about it. Years later everyone many people started getting this. It's called Depersonalization derealization disorder. Marijuana can trigger it in some people though most don't get it. The few like me who do it's a nightmare.This is why I can't conome marijuana's legalization. Young people are very insecure, and smoking marijuana may cause their insecurities to turn into anxiety attacks like me in smoking pot and cause depersonalization disoder. It's 2016 now 27 years later and i have never totally been back to reality since then.

24/05/2016

Lance

I smoked for the thrird time the day before last thanksgiving and the next day started to feel weird and didn't really pay attention until the anxiety kicked in I still get freaked out and have effects. I been praying for a way to fix this

14/09/2016

Jay

Jezzzz... i had virtually the same exper... 30yrs ago, the feelings are still with me.. nothing is 100 % real... i am always somehow removed from real life.. i never could explain this to anyone.. please email me... thx

12/08/2018

Frank Del

Canninis causes depersonalization in some users. It's not completely safe as they say.

24/05/2016

CAN RELATE

I think it would be noteworthy to understand how cannabis can possibly affect the occipital lobe? I was a cronic user of cannabis for many years and also many other psychedelic substances with lesser frequency. I may have had some moments of anxiety before but never DE-realization.

About 3 years ago I had a poly-drug experience gone wrong and I believe I likely impacted my neurological balance for the worse. This was a combo of cannabis, caffeine, mdma, and lsd. I had a blackout experience and could not remember about 6-7 hours of my life. The next day I had strong denationalization which I never experienced before that. The day after I felt OK but about 2 days after that I had terrible anxiety that persisted and just felt off and awful. I'm sure guilt and PTSD has a role to play as well as OCD when you feel this far out of sorts, but it is scary and concerning. I personally blame the MDMA more than anything else on the list for the possible damage to my neurons. I took about .4 in around 2-3 hours time which was probably way too much.

To make a long story shorter and get to my point, I basically lessened my canabis intake ever since and have periods of time when I'm fairly leveled out and back to normal again. I miss the enjoyment I used to have with Cannabis so once and awhile I test the waters to see if I can partake again. I did this last weekend and my DP/DR and anxiety does return from using pot, and I wonder why. It's not always immediate either, sometimes it takes 1-2 days and it comes back and lingers for weeks/months. It sucks really. I wish I could understand why I am triggered by this, I basically consider my mind as compromised at this point. I also ?? how much is physiological and how much might be psychological. The medical community has not been of much help.

For anyone else going through this right now its best not to worry too much, find ways to manage your stress/anxiety if time allows. Exercise and diet are important for me. Proper amounts of sleep is also good. I've been trying to conquer this by building neuroplasticity and sometimes you have to put yourself into the uncomfortable situations to fight against the feeling to avoid everything.

That's my story and I figured I would share so others can consider this. I believe Cannabanoids and CBD to be wonderful. Back when I used frequently it was such a part of my identity though and I definitely in retrospect should have had more balance with it. Now with extracts and concentrates people should be even more cautious. I wonder if butane residue may have started me on a neurotoxic path and lets not even think about the pesticides/ Eagle-20 that I may have ingested with my years of heavy use. Just like any other industry greed for profits is putting people at real risk. In that way legalization and legislation may be a good thing to give us more research and choices as consumers (even if I can no longer consume) ; ) which is a total bummer now that my state has opened its doors for recreational use. Oh well, I can live without it and am no less happy, just miss the social aspect and meditative quality I used to enjoy.

02/06/2017

Chac

"Short-term" psychosis... my short-therm psyhosis now is 7 years old... I used to smoke weed occasionally for 2 years... and I don't know what happened but i smoked like always and i stuck in loop of high... and it didn't end untill now. I'm in a dream for ~7 years... not cool ;(

03/12/2017

MEL

wait when u said u were stuck in a loop until now, has it stopped?

05/04/2019

cale

My name is cale and I am 17 years old. Nine months ago, I tried marijuana for the very first time. I smoked out of a vaporizer made by PAX Labs. I was with two friends on the beach at the time, and all the sudden, the high hit me hard. I would rock in and out of consciousness, almost blacking out and coming to my senses until I would easily dose off again. This was 100% the scariest experience of my life. I had no control over myself and got extremely scared. After that weekend, I told my friend that I still felt weird after smoking(he is a regular), and he said he did too the first time but it goes away after a few days. A few days pass, weeks pass, and now months have passed and I still feel this was. It wasn't until about 3 months ago(so 6 months after smoking) that I came across this article. I saw the name derealization and typed it into YouTube to see if that described what I had - and it did. So since my first time smoking weed, I have been in a derealized state. Words cannot describe how much mental illnesses suck if you have never experienced it. It's an endless loop of horrible thoughts. I am just waiting for the day that I snap out of it, but at the same time, thinking about it can make it even more engrained into your head. If you have any questions, comments, or are in a similar situation, please leave a comment and I would love to talk with you. Thank you.

31/01/2018

Koka

Hello , thank you so much for sharing your story i feel about the same, did it get any better with time?

20/03/2018

ARSHA

My Name Is arsha., I was 17 years old when I first started smoking weed, at first it was cool but the second time I smoked I got stuck in a state of feeling high,,, I tried so many ways to deal with it but I failed,, it was very scary that I was even admitted at hospital,, sometimes I couldn't understand what people around me were saying nor to hear my voice when I talking to people.. sometimes I would feel like someone is talking to me or calling my name. it lasted for about a year and six months... after that duration I started feeling myself but not completely so. then around this year I tried it again and got stuck again but this time things are different because I have experienced this before so it does scare me like the first time but the problem now is I can't reason nor communicate with people. I Can't determine the level of my voice, sometimes I do feel like I'm talking inside my head but talking out, I can't understand what people are saying.

03/04/2018

Tim

Hey Cale,

Firstly, I want to say that you will be OK. I had a similar experience this past December, after smoking what was probably a very potent strain of Marijuana. Though very scary, DR/DP are fundamentally symptoms of anxiety. The first thing I'll recommend to you in treating this anxiety is to stop reading articles, blogs, and webpages about weed induced DP/DR. This will only feed your anxiety, slow your recovery process, and essentially waste your time. You will only begin to recover after you get off these blogs and get on with your life. What you are experiencing is an acute stress reaction to taking the drug; not a symptom of the drug itself. You will begin to recover after you retrain your brain to handle anxiety rationally as opposed to getting stuck in and endless loop of negative stops that doesn't allow your anxiety to go away. Also, consider what other factors in your life might be causing you anxiety (i.e. school, work, relationships). It's often the case that people who get DP/DR, often have suppressed stresses from external factors in their lives. In this sense we project our anxieties on the weed, as opposed to dealing with what is actually causing us anxiety. I will re-iterate that you will 100% ok; just stop reading these blogs and move on. Also, when you do feel better (which you will), refrain from smoking weed again. Contrary to another poster here I think the increase of DP and DR among weed users, should be an incentive to legalize the sustance, as we have no way of knowing the exact potency street marijuana, whereas legal dispenceries are required to print the exact THC & CBD percentages on the cannabis being sold. Anyway, you'll be fine man. Remember you're not alone: take a look at Shaun O'Connor's DP manual. Short of being an MD, O'Connor provides a pretty comprehensive and rational breakdown of what DP is and how you will recover. All the best to you my friend, Tim

01/05/2018

Tijah

Thanks for this , I’m in the same boat .

03/05/2018

Zach

Yo I’m dealing with the same thing

28/01/2019

Josean Rodriguez

Same here man. One day I was smoking with my best friend and cousin, and the pen at over 80% thc, I hit it too many times without noticing and all of a sudden I started getting paranoid and for weeks now, I cant get the thought out of my head still. It sucks.

03/10/2019

Denise

My name is Denise and I'm 62 years old. When I was about 17 I was on a camping trip with a dozen or so friends. One night, a few went off to get high and invited me along. I had tried smoking cannabis several times, but nothing happened. Frustrated, I thought, "What the heck! Sure, I'll give it a whirl...Probably I'll just feel nothing again. This is getting ridiculous"...Determined to try to feel SOMETHING from smoking, I naively took several REALLY long, deep hits-holding it as long as I could in my lungs. A couple of minutes passed and boy! Did I feel something!! I first noticed my cheek was wet. Wiping it away, I wondered how the heck my cheek had gotten wet? Suddenly, I realized... I was crying!! And I tell you, it scared the shit out of me! I looked inside myself and thought, "What the hell IS this?? I'm not sad about anything...what the heck am I crying for"?? Not being much of a cryer, this was VERY weird. My body was crying- all on it's own- which seemed completely disconnected from ME and what I was feeling. Then, I had a frightening, full blown hallucination: I noticed an old man wearing a slicker, standing in the dark, rainy night and holding aloft a lantern. He crossed the arched stone bridge which spanned the river where we were camped, and scuttled up to the window of the car I was in (almost like a quick, creepy spider)! Holding his lantern up, he leered in at me, and telepathically conveyed he was going to arrest me! (Turns out-there WAS a river where we camped. There was NO bridge, old man in a slicker, or lantern anywhere)! This was all in the first 5 minutes of me being high. I won't bore you with the night's further details. Suffice it to say, my one experience of getting high started off in this awful way and just went downhill after that. I finally got to crawl into my sleeping bag, and just kept telling myself to go to sleep...you'll wake up in the morning and all of this will be over. Which it was, thank God! But the experience completely knocked away my sense of self-confidence. And unfortunately, for the next 3 years, or so, I suffered from pretty severe panic attacks. I thought perhaps I was being punished for breaking the "rules" and smoking grass. Went to a Psychiatrist for a year, but that provided no help. He just analyzed my dreams for a year...very discouraging. Still, I mentally kept trying to talk myself back up to a place of confidence again. I kept challenging myself to go places I was scared of, to try to fight the panic that threatened. Eventually, I seemed to "outgrow" it. It felt like I just slowly matured out of it. With age, and having supportive, loving family where I was safe and secure, I got to a place where my disgust and disdain for this panic, (and it's control over me), outweighed the strength of the panic attacks. Finally-they faded away. I never smoked again, or even felt tempted. Now, being older with a lifetime of experience behind me, I suspect I just got WAY too much THC in my system and it knocked me completely out of kilter. Recently, I decided I will try cannabis again. Due to several health reasons I believe it may be able to help with. My health concerns don't fit within the acceptable medical guidelines of my state, but cannabis was just recently made legal for "recreational" use here. And so, with great reverence, I will try the tiniest amount of CBD Critical Cure I can. If I can handle 1 toke without freaking out, I will likely try another toke after 20 minutes. And that'll be it for me...until we see what happens! I also plan to have black peppercorns on hand, along with lemon peels, (to combat panic), water to drink, snacks for any munchies, and my wonderful, experienced Husband by my side (who WON'T be high), to provide a boost of confidence and provide reassurance if needed. Likely will have some really good music on hand and maybe some adult coloring books to distract myself with if necessary. So wish me luck! In spite of everything, I believe Cannabis is a wonderful plant. Just like us Humans, it is "of the Earth" and I believe it is largely beneficial to people when used with respect and high regard. Good luck to us all, whether we ever use again or not. Blessings to you all.

13/03/2018

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Denise,

Thank you for commenting and for sharing your story with us! We wish you the very best of luck with your new adventures in cannabis, and hope it all goes well. It sounds as though you are well prepared, but you may also find this post on things to consider before trying cannabis for the first time, and this post on what happens when you white out on cannabis, interesting too. Please do let us know how it goes.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

14/03/2018

ARSHA

My Name Is arsha., I was 17 years old when I first started smoking weed, at first it was cool but the second time I smoked I got stuck in a state of feeling high,,, I tried so many ways to deal with it but I failed,, it was very scary that I was even admitted at hospital,, sometimes I couldn't understand what people around me were saying nor to hear my voice when I talking to people.. sometimes I would feel like someone is talking to me or calling my name. it lasted for about a year and six months... after that duration I started feeling myself but not completely so. then around this year I tried it again and got stuck again but this time things are different because I have experienced this before so it does scare me like the first time but the problem now is I can't reason nor communicate with people. I Can't determine the level of my voice, sometimes I do feel like I'm talking inside my head but talking out, I can't understand what people are saying.

03/04/2018

Pale

Hi!

I was relatively new to cannabis and smoked 3 days in a row. In the last day I smoked a lot; last hit just before bed. In the next morning I felt normal, eat breakfest and started working. Then 4 hours later something clicked in my brain. I felt like I was high again. Now it has been around 2 days and I still feel this way. I got a little paranoid for a while, but now I have taken control over it. There is basically nothing to do about it. You just have to embrace it and accept it. I feel like it's hard to concentrate and I constantly get lost in my taughts. It's easy to mistake these feelings to the feeling of being high. Still it's not the same. I'm not high. It's just not physically possible. The only cure is time. Wait and relax. I noticed that alcohol is a good way to relax. Drink a beer. I also like to meditate and train my focus/concentration. Just take some thing you need to do and force yourself to concentrate on it. Watch a movie. Something. Just don't overthink it. Now as I write this, I have to confess that I have noticed an increase in creativity. I feel like different languages come's to me more easily. I get new ideas more frequently, etc. So if you just accept the "negative effect" and concentrate in the positive side of things, you can see light in the end of the tunnel.

PS: Still if I feel this away after a week or so, I will go to the doctor and hope I get something that helps me concentrate.

12/05/2018

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