Why you feel blah after eating that brownie.
If you’ve ever been hungover from drinking, then you already know how one night of boozy indulgence can really mess with your mood, well-being, and productivity the next day. And you might have found yourself in a similar sitch the day after eating both halves of a pot brownie. But are weed hangovers real? Some cannabis consumers swear they’ve endured weed-related hangover symptoms, but the experience is far from universal.
If you’ve experienced weird symptoms after staying away from weed for a while, it’s possible that your body has become used to a certain amount of cannabis regularly, and is having difficulty adjusting. "Marijuana withdrawal would be a more appropriate name for [a weeed hangover]" Dr. Scott Braunstein M.D., medical director of healthcare organization Sollis Health, tells Bustle. But a lot of the research on cannabis hangovers is based on people who use it heavily, seven times or more per month, and there’s not a lot of studies about occasional users and how they feel the morning after a big night.
With all of that in mind, here are four commonly reported symptoms of a weed hangover, why they happen, and what you can do to make yourself feel better if you ever experience one.
Dr. Jordan Tishler M.D., an emergency medicine physician and cannabis specialist, tells Bustle that headaches are more likely to happen while you’re still intoxicated. If your head aches the morning after, you might just be dehydrated. A review of cannabis withdrawal symptoms after heavy use published in Current Addiction Reports in 2018 found that headache was a common symptom, along with chills and shakiness. It’s not really clear why this happens, but it’s possible that it’s to do with brain activity.
"Cannabis binds to neuron receptors, and has a complicated effect on neurotransmitters in the brain," Dr. Braunstein says. "In chronic users, the brain becomes accustomed to a high level of dopamine." Dopamine is is a neurotransmitter that plays a big role in sensations of pleasure and reward. Without cannabis, dopamine levels can crash possibly leading to migraine, as one 2017 study published in Neurology found. But it’s not clear if all these puzzle pieces fit together for weed smokers.
The next time you spend your Saturday night getting baked with friends, just be sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your cannabis adventures.
2. Brain Fog
Of all the reported symptoms of a "weed hangover," Dr. Tishler says brain fog and fatigue are the ones he anticipates. "The mechanism is unknown, but I suspect largely related [to] over-stimulation of the CB1 receptors." These are the main receptors in the brain where cannabis ‘docks’, giving you all its positive effects.
If you smoke regularly and then stop, it could mess with your cognitive abilities. "If marijuana use is discontinued, dopamine levels drop and within about one week, the person can feel a state of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and even depression," Dr. Braunstein says. This is why cannabis is seen as psychologically addictive, he says; it gives you a hard emotional time if you go through withdrawal. An overview of cannabis withdrawal in 2017 in Substance Abuse & Rehabilitation found that irritability, restlessness, disturbed mood, depression, and anger could all appear as symptoms.
Other than coffee, good food, and lots of sleep, one way to deal with brain fog is to get out and exercise. Try going for a long walk or run, then cool down with some yoga, and take a hot (or cold) shower afterwards. It may not make your mental fogginess go away completely, but you’ll definitely feel sharper and more alert.
3. Feeling Dehydrated
While studies show that THC can bind itself to the CB1 receptors on our salivary glands, causing them to dry up — aka, dry mouth — Dr. Tishler tells Bustle that dehydration isn’t directly caused by weed. "Dehydration and dry eyes are really not related to cannabis," he says. If you’re feeling dried out the day after consuming cannabis, it’s probably because you were already dehydrated when you started smoking; or it might be because you didn’t remember to hydrate while you were getting lifted.
Dehydration is pretty easy to avoid. To rehydrate and recover after waking up dehydrated, drink lots of water, and chow down on water-rich fruits and veggies throughout your day.
For the most part, weed can actually help some people fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. But if you smoke weed before bed, it’s possible that your high could be messing with the quality of your sleep, ultimately making you feel fatigued the day after you smoke. A study published in 2017 in Psychopharmacology also found that withdrawal from cannabis meant a rise in poor sleep quality, so if you’re a heavy user going without for a while, you might feel a bit more tired.
Naturally, the best way to remedy this hangover symptom is by getting lots of sleep — but if that’s not an option for you due to work or social obligations, then all you can really do is try to treat your body well throughout the day. Drink coffee and water, eat healthy meals, go for a long walk, and consider taking the day off from weed.
The Bottom Line
Dr. Tishler says time is really all any cannabis consumer should need to get back to "normal," and he advises practicing moderation in all things. "If you’re experiencing weed hangover, likely you’re using too much," Tishler says.
Also worth remembering? Any product that claims to relieve a pot hangover is likely too good to be true. "There are many products claiming to address this problem, or over-intoxication in general, and I’d advise staying away from them," Dr. Tishler says. "There is no science yet to suggest that these products are effective, and since they are not regulated at all, there’s no reason to expect that they are safe to use."
Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.
Dr. Scott Braunstein M.D.
Dr. Jordan Tishler M.D.
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