While for many people smoking weed can be relaxing or fun, if you’re among the handful who get paranoid, remember that you’re not alone — and that it’s curable. According to a new study, consuming cannabis with lower amounts of THC could alleviate paranoia.
Cannabis is already known to have a biphasic effect — meaning that a low dose could actually have the opposite effect as a high dose. Now researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago have corroborated that notion, having found that low levels of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, can reduce stress, while higher doses increase it.
During the study, 42 healthy participants ages 18 to 40, who had some, but not daily, experience with cannabis, were placed in three random groups. The first group received capsules with 7.5 milligrams of THC, the second received capsules with 12.5 milligrams of THC, and the last group received a placebo with no THC. The double blind study had it so that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which capsules each group was getting. All the participants went through two four-hour sessions, five days apart, during which they swallowed the capsules and waited two hours for the THC (or the placebo) to kick in.
“The doses used in the study produce effects that are equivalent to only a few puffs of a cannabis cigarette,” said Emma Childs from University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine. “We didn’t want to include a much larger dose because we wanted to avoid potential adverse effects or cardiovascular effects that can result from higher doses of THC.”
During the sessions, the participants were also given various tasks. In one of them, they were told to prepare for a mock job interview, to count backwards from a five digit number by subtracting 13 each time, or to do a five-minute interview with lab assistants. The assistants didn’t offer any feedback, but the participants were able to watch a video of their performance. The idea was that some of the tasks be “very reliably stress-inducing,” said Childs.
Before and after these various activities, the participants also had to rate their stress levels and feelings about the tasks at hand. Meanwhile, the researchers measured their blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate at various intervals.
According to the study’s findings, the participants who took the 7.5 milligram dose of THC were less stressed by the given tasks than both those who took the placebo and the 12.5 milligram dose. Moreover, those who took the 12.5 milligram dose reported feeling that the tasks were “challenging” or “threatening.”
Hence, the study supports well-established advice that, in order to have a relaxing, non-stressful cannabis experience, limit your intake of THC. Try a strain that’s high in CBD, the non psychotropic compound, known to relieve anxiety without getting you high. Or start low, and go slow: have just a little bit of a high THC strain, and wait up to an hour, or two hours if you took an edible, before upping your dose. This way, you can execute a greater level of precision in how you measure the way THC affects you personally. You can also check out Jane Street‘s guide on how to not freak out when you get too high.