We've all been there. You weren't feeling the effects of a pot brownie so you ate another. An hour later, you're lying on the floor staring at a ceiling fan. Now you feel like you might need to go to the ER.
The psychoactive effects of cannabis can be scary if you don't expect them or aren't used to them. But in most cases, a trip to the hospital isn't necessary. "Just ensuring someone else is around for support and waiting it out with you will be sufficient," says Dave Gordon, MD, a medical cannabis and Integrative Medicine physician, educator, and advisor based in Denver, Colorado.
Inhalation typically causes these effects to kick in within 5 to 10 minutes, hitting a peak around 20 to 30 minutes and dissipating by 2 to 4 hours, depending on the dose. However, there are often residual positive effects even after the intoxication is resolved.
Ingesting cannabis is much more variable. Classically, effects take 1 to 2 hours after ingestion to kick in, reach a stable peak shortly after that, and last for 6 to 8 hours. But some newer ingestible formulations found at dispensaries can kick in within 30 minutes and only last in the 3 to 5-hour range. There will also be quite a bit of variability between individuals with ingested products due to differences in gut digestion and absorption, as well as liver metabolism of THC.
Few remedies are actually studied, so much of our recommendations are based on experience and what “should” help based on what we know happens physiologically.
- The most important thing is to know that THC/cannabis over-intoxication is not dangerous. No one has ever died from taking too much THC. Thus, my primary recommendation is to have a non-high (or much less high) support person around to give reassurance.
- I recommend that someone create an environment that they can focus on but is also familiar to them. Watching a movie or listening to music you know by heart and don’t have to think about is great. You can just be immersed in that, and then the effects will dissipate relatively quickly, especially if you've been inhaling. With too many edibles, you're going to have longer-lasting effects and the need for continued support.
- While not proven in the research, I think it’s quite reasonable to use CBD to blunt increased anxiety and paranoia that occurs with over-intoxication. CBD may not dampen the psychomotor effects, but most of the research suggests it will help the anxiety and paranoia. Ideally, using CBD without additional THC is best.
- I like using other calming herbs/nutraceuticals. Taking a supplement capsule or drinking tea that includes various combinations of passionflower, camomile, theanine, kava, GABA, or other typically calming agents can help. There is some suggestion that two different terpenes, beta-caryophyllene, and limonene, can counteract the THC effects but not studied at all.
- Some people have found a benefit chewing on black peppercorns (a source of beta-caryophyllene), or eating some lemon rind (source of limonene) can help. There is no downside, but I’d certainly focus on other things first.