14 Nov 2017
marijuana panic attack

Marijuana Panic Attack: Anxiety from Smoking Weed

Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused illicit substances. Many people use it recreationally without problem, but some people experience problems. Some people become addicted, while others have adverse reactions. The marijuana panic attack is a common side effect of smoking pot that many people experience. With over four million Americans meeting diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder with marijuana, it’s also important to watch out for dependence and addiction. You can find out more about marijuana addiction treatment at http://crownviewci.com/blog/addiction/59-marijuana-treatment.

How Can Marijuana Cause Anxiety?

Marijuana is often thought to help with anxiety, but can also make it worse. According to Medical Daily, marijuana may help with short-term anxiety sometimes, but often has adverse effects with long-term use. There are several reasons this may happen, and research is still being done to investigate the relationship between marijuana, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, and psychosis. Here are a few different ways marijuana may cause panic attacks.

anxiety and panic attacksPre-Existing Conditions

Some people who smoke weed have preexisting conditions like anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or trauma. Although marijuana is often believed by users to help the anxiety caused by such issues, it can actually trigger worse anxiety. There has been quite a bit of research investigating the link between psychosis and marijuana, with many studies finding relatively small but significant links. The interesting piece is that marijuana tends to worsen psychosis in those with pre-existing symptoms of schizophrenia.

If you’re prone to anxiety and panic attacks, marijuana may feel like it’s helping but it’s actually making it worse in many cases. The change in chemicals in the brain and the body can cause some anxiety and panic in many cases. This exacerbation of preexisting conditions can be difficult, as many people don’t realize they have underlying mental health disorders or are at high risk of developing one.

The Relaxed Nervous System

One of the pieces that many people don’t realize is that marijuana can cause panic attacks because the system does indeed become more relaxed. Let’s say you have some underlying anxiety, whether it’s because you’ve experienced trauma, have a genetic predisposition, or any other reason. When you smoke pot, your body and mind may relax due to the dopamine released. When the body and mind relaxes, the underlying anxiety may actually come forth. This is a bit counter-intuitive and paradoxical, but this is one way in which anxiety and panic attacks can arise from smoking marijuana.

Hallucinations and Stimuli

Finally, marijuana can cause hallucinations and overwhelm from stimuli. This comes from the brain’s habit with marijuana to over-emphasize patterns and turn toward hallucinations. Even among those who are chronic users, there may be periods in which individuals experience these symptoms. Panic attacks from edibles are especially common, as edibles may effect the mind and body differently than smoking does. The hallucinations and intense sensitivity to sound, feel, taste, light, and smells can cause panic and anxiety. First-time users often experience this, as do people who use a new strain or method of consumption.

Anxiety in Chronic Users

Some people use marijuana because they think it is helping them letting go of worry. However, chronic marijuana use can actually worsen anxiety. What happens is that marijuana causes an increased release of dopamine in the brain, and over long-term use individuals tend to have depleted dopamine in the brain. Research has suggested that marijuana can worsen both anxiety and depression with long-term use.

Even if it feels like marijuana is helping your anxiety, it’s important to know that longer term use can actually cause worse anxiety than you had in the first place. It can be helpful to find other ways to deal with anxiety that don’t actually make it worse or increase the likelihood of panic attacks.

How to Help Anxiety and Panic

You may find yourself experiencing a panic attack or anxiety in general if you smoke, or while you’re high. Here are a few ideas on working with anxiety and how to stop a panic attack while high.


Meditation is a great way to go, and mindfulness can really help anxiety in some people. Try finding some guided meditations, and maybe have one ready if you’re consistently experiencing panic attacks. There are resources out there specifically for dealing with anxiety through meditation. You may try a practice on One Mind Dharma’s page Guided Meditation for Anxiety, Stress, and Worry Relief, or search the Internet for more guided meditation practices.

Stop Smoking!

This seems rather obvious, and doesn’t require a ton of explanation. If smoking is causing anxiety and panic attacks, stop doing it! Why do something that is causing you pain and discomfort? There are other ways to relieve anxiety, have fun, and interact with others. Although marijuana becomes a fixture in social situations and personal identity, it may be useful to steer clear of smoking for a few months and see if your anxiety improves.

Seek Help

You may try seeking help for your anxiety. Therapy, whether it’s group therapy or individual therapy, can be incredibly beneficial. Trained psychologists and psychiatrists can help treat you anxiety and symptoms of a panic disorder, and perhaps you can find a healthier way to move forward.

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