Although cannabis is a relatively safe substance, there are some side effects that can sometimes leave us wishing we'd done a little less. For example, we've all heard cautionary tales that suggest overdoing it can leave you feeling unpleasant the next day. Termed a "weed hangover," the condition supposedly comes with fatigue, lack of appetite, irritability, and an overall sense of grogginess. But how much of this is just stoner legend?
Plenty of people who use cannabis, either recreationally or medically, approach it with a "more is better" mentality. In truth, "most people will get relief from symptoms at a dose that’s lower than what would cause intoxication," Dr. Sulak says. So, if you're using marijuana to treat a health issue, you don't necessarily need to feel high to get the benefits. And even if you're using it specifically to enjoy a high, there's no real need to go ham — you'll probably be better off the next day if you, well, chill a little bit.
Any time you're consuming cannabis, your body's cannabinoid receptors are being activated and, essentially, overstimulated. To counteract that, the receptors are pulled into the cells and become inactive, Dr. Sulak explains. But that doesn't just make them inactive to the THC you're inhaling, it also means the endocannabinoid compounds that naturally occur in your body aren't going to be able to bind to those receptors, either.
Under normal circumstances, your body can balance this out, and there's no real harm. But, if you ingest enough, you could wake up in a state of cannabinoid withdrawal, Dr. Sulak says. "By using a high dose late in the night, what we’re left with is a feeling of deficiency." That, combined with weed's well-documented dehydrating effects, can make you an extremely unhappy camper the next day.
What can you do about it? Treating a weed hangover is a lot like treating a normal one, it turns out. Your first priority is going to be getting rehydrated. After that, you can either wait your symptoms out or, if your life circumstances allow, consume a small dose of cannabis to counteract your withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, if you wake up and still feel a bit intoxicated, Dr. Sulak suggests taking a some CBD or consuming a high-CBD cannabis strain to counteract the effects.
Beyond that, though, it's worth taking a good look at your long-term cannabis habits. "If you’re having a weed hangover, it’s a sign you’re not using cannabis optimally," Dr. Sulak says. So, he recommends new users try using a dose that produces the most minimal (yet noticeable) effects for about three days before upping their consumption. And, for veteran users, he suggests abstaining from weed for two days before finding their minimal dose. Both of these protocols help your body build up a tolerance to the negative side effects of marijuana while also making you more sensitive to the positive effects, Dr. Sulak explains.
"It's a very forgiving and sustainable medicine," he says. So it's worth taking the time to find the way to use it that works the best for you — without feeling like crap the next day.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.