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How to help a friend who got too high

April 19, 2019
Friend too high? Don't know what to do? We're here to help. (Gillian Levine for Leafly)
It’s not common, but it happens: You share some cannabis with friends, everybody’s having a good time, but then somebody gets too high. Way too high. They’re freaking out.

What do you do?

There are a lot of potential remedies. Some are familiar. Others may surprise you. The main things to remember: Help your friend seek calm, quiet places. Stay with them and offer confident reassurance. Encourage them to nap.

We reached out to professionals and amateurs, all of whom had one thing in common: They’ve been there to help when someone got too high. They told us what worked and what didn’t.

Their answers have been edited for concision.

(Gillian Levine for Leafly)

First, Prevent a Bad High

Michael Backes, the author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana, suggests pre-dosing with CBD. “There’s evidence from scientists in several countries that CBD basically works like the seatbelt for THC,” Backes says. He recommends 40 to 60 milligrams of CBD before smoking to counteract the negative effects of too much THC.

A dose of CBD might help assuage the anxiety of a THC high, but Backes cautions that adding CBD after the fact won’t be so effective. Unless you took it beforehand, “you’re kind of on the rollercoaster.”

Related

Using CBD to tame a cannabis high? Small doses may have opposite effect

We asked amateurs about preventing the freakout. Not all live in legal states, so we’ve blinded their names to allow them to speak freely.

Calvin: Talk to your budtender. “Tell them what you like and don’t like about getting high. Listen to their suggestions. When they say, ‘No, that crispy rice treat is not for you,’ by all fucking means listen to them.”

Good advice: Before you imbibe, have good friends by your side. Check the dosage. Listen to your budtender.

Gina: Stay within the dosage that works for you. “Knowing that 3 to 5mg is my ideal dose gives me a lot of insight into how to actually enjoy an edible. If you’re like me, when you want to hit a mystery preroll at a party, let yourself have one puff. Wait 20 minutes before deciding to take another. Don’t worry about looking like a party pooper or lightweight. Just know yourself.”

Richard: Read the label. “I had a friend who had a cookie with a big bold ‘10mg’ on the wrapper. Okay, no problem, he says, and eats the whole cookie. While he’s hanging out waiting for it to kick in, he reads the info on the back of the label: ‘10mg per serving. Servings per cookie: 12.’ Oops.”

Sheilagh: CBD can rein in the wilder aspects of THC (like paranoia), so stay within a THC:CBD ratio that works for you. “I carefully watch the THC:CBD radio and go for higher CBD content.”

Ned: Before you imbibe, have good friends by your side. “Years ago I was at a house party where Superstar DJ Keoki was spinning. Things were starting to pop off, and a four-foot bong got passed around. I took one hit and promptly passed out. I woke up at 6 a.m. to Keoki spinning to a group of whacked-out ravers. Lesson: Make sure you got people who will watch your back whilst you freak out, or at least won’t fuck with you when you’re vulnerable.”

Related

Can CBD Undo the Anxious Side Effects of THC?

How to Calm a Freaked-Out Friend

What I heard from a lot of people who’ve tended to an overly high friend was this: Stay with them, calm them, talk to them in a soothing voice, encourage them to lie down, give them a comforting pillow and blanket. Continue to assure them that they’re safe and the high will pass in time.

Gently hold, hug, and reassure your friend in a soothing voice. Let them know they're just too high. And it will pass.

Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist and the author of The Pot Book, one of the classic resources on cannabis, spent nine years working the psych ER at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. She advises holding or hugging your friend (within appropriate and consensual boundaries, of course), or stroking their upper arms in a technique known as Havening. “These actions will increase oxytocin, which will help put their parasympathetic nervous system in ‘tend and befriend’ mode instead of ‘fight or flight’ mode.”

Other tactics: Breathe, sing, or chat together with your troubled friend. “Practice exhaling longer than inhaling,” says Holland. “Close your mouth and breathe in and out through your nostrils, or through your left nostril only.”

One remedy that Neil Young swears by is chewing two or three black peppercorns. And science seems to bear it out. A study in the British Journal of Pharmacology by Dr. Ethan Russo, director of research at the International Cannabis Institute in Prague, found that there’s synergy between cannabis and black pepper. The terpenoids in pepper and the tetrahydrocannabinol in cannabis work together in the brain to create harmony—in medical terms, “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effect.”

Related

8 ways to counteract a too-intense cannabis high

Nap Time!

Our experienced amateurs offered other measures of counsel.

Denise: Go home, lie on the couch, and watch comforting sitcoms. “I got too high on edibles one time on my way to an Oakland A’s game. I ate them on an empty stomach. On the way to the stadium, I couldn’t even look out the window. I was hiding in my seat. Finally I said to my friend, ‘I cannot go to a stadium. I have to go home and sit in front of the TV and watch Friends until I feel normal again.” And that is exactly what she did.

Melissa: “Lemon water and crunchy pepper crackers always work best for me. Plus a little quiet.”

Lora: Offer soothing distraction and reassurance. “I worked for a bit in the ‘bad acid’ tent at Woodstock. With one patient, I held her and rocked her and told her she was loved. She finally fell asleep. With another, I distracted her with some wildflowers. Once she began to adore the flowers, we started singing, and eventually walked back to the concert area together.”

Create a Cozy Nest

Amanda: Talk your friend into a comfy little nap nest. “A friend of mine ate too much of an edible before boarding a plane home. She texted. ‘Should I get on the plane? Am I just too high?’ We talked her onto the plane and told her to create a little nest for herself in her seat. ‘Remember that you are a little fish and you are now safe in your nest,’ we told her. She made it home safe and sound.”

Kevin: Focus on breathing together. “Slow, deep, controlled and deliberate breathing. Inhale and exhale.”

Cathy: Calm your friend before she calls an ambulance. “Years ago, my roommate decided to eat an old pot cookie tucked away in the freezer. She got so spacey that she called herself an ambulance. Later she told us she had to move out because she was so embarrassed that all the neighbors saw her taken away on a stretcher.”

Nature Works for Some People

Larry: If your friend is an outdoor person, get them into nature. “Years ago I was losing my shit in LA, high as fuck. A friend took me into the Angeles National Forest. Calmed me right down. True, I ate six pounds of bark. Worth it.”

And finally we have this advice from Tim, who counsels all who are not too high to read the situation and improvise to help the too-high friend.

Tim: “I don’t recall if it was brownies-induced paranoia or acid, but one time an athlete at Reed College freaked out and sprinted across the big lawn toward a busy street. His out-of-shape classmates couldn’t catch him. But one was smart. He shouted, ‘Greg! You have no legs!’ Greg looked down, crumpled to the lawn, and was rescued and comforted.”

Tricia Romano's Bio Image

Tricia Romano

Tricia Romano is the former editor in chief of The Stranger. She previously worked as a staff writer at the Seattle Times, and has been published in the New York Times, Elle.com, Rolling Stone, the New York Post, New York magazine, Slate, Grantland, Spin, and Salon. She covered underground culture in New York City for the Village Voice for eight years in her column “Fly Life.”

View Tricia Romano's articles

  • Kenneth Aaron

    As usual for A Leafly article, lots left out. Few, if any real facts. I offered to write for them years ago, but they decided to go the Fictional route. Cool, now I will write the more accurate piece for myself.

  • The terpenes in Lemonade and Pistachios are a great buzzkill for too much THC.

  • halslater

    I have read many reports of novice user over-imbibing on edibles and going to the ER but they never follow through with what happened afterwards and how they were treated. If they would disclose that there were no deaths or long-term injuries (the LD50 of THC is reported to be 30mg/kg) and the treatment was to lie them down on a cot and sleep it off then send them a bill for $5,000, people would be less freaked out. As it is, a THC overdose is perceived to be as dangerous as an opiod overdose.

  • bill wa

    Huh, I didn’t know folks “get too high.” Maybe that’s why I fall asleep after 6 Marma’s, two 1g bowls, a bunch of VR games, and dinner.

    I’ve found keto dieting, and cannabis work best together. Folks who get “too high” probably eat a high carb, high sugar diet.
    The main reason cannabis stays in the body so long is because it’s fat soluble.
    And fat consists of oils.

    Folks who eat a high carb diet are usually producing high cortisol levels due to stress. The more stress, the more carbs needed.
    Some folks drink alcohol to suppress this.

    Not only is alcohol not good for your liver, sugar and carbs aren’t either. The liver processes both the same. Alcohol replaces water in your bodies, dehydrating you like the germs it’s intended for, just takes humans longer. Alcohol removes oil based substances from your cellular structures, like it does resin out of your pipe. Cell function is imperative for handling stress.

    Can’t enjoy a good buzz stressed out.
    In my mind, all cannabis does is push out the stress like a bulldozer. If ya ain’t prepared, will cause anxiety. Cannabis also rescues you from or prevents, acid trips. Newbies don’t take five hits the first time. Stoners can. Even veteran LSD folks say “don’t smoke pot for a week.”

    In our western society, folks don’t understand what stress is, and for the most part, accept a stressful social life as a reality.
    Cannabis removes stress. Don’t matter how big the stress bubble, Cannabis will pop it like a zit!
    No one is ever prepared for what comes out of a zit, or boil. YUCK.
    No driver likes the passenger slamming on the brakes for them.

    Sugar is our Nations economy. Sugar causes us to have ails where we seek “professional” treatments involving commercialized, brute force, remedies. Even the bible said “All GOD created was good.” Remedies are all around us, just gotta stop to find them.
    Cancer only showed up when bread did.

    Smoke weed, chill out, look around!!!

    • BuckCronkite

      Genesis 1:11 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”

    • Charles Lyons

      Just so you know, God actually created Sugar. It’s called sugar cane. Comes in long stalks and grown in warmer sunny climates ( think Hawaii).

      Maybe don’t write when you are that rocked. It’s a little rambling and you got wayyy off topic.

      Cannabis does not prevent acid trips during acid consumption. Maybe the residual trips following months after consumption as it is stored in the spine when not all used. Trips will still happen while on Acid and shrooms.

      Italian/Sicilian diets have wine as a staple during meals. They have the one lowest occurrences of heart disease behind Chinese and Japanese cultures.

      Finally, ketogenic diets are not good for long term usage. We only follow that eating style for 8-22 weeks pending level of body fat for competition. After such time, we slowly reintroduce carbs back into our eating. I compete as an IFBB Pro and our plans eat very low carbohydrates and then reintroduce then to improve look of muscle pre-stage.

      • bill wa

        Yea, God created sugar. God created all things. But doesn’t mean sugar is a nutrient. Especially nowadays with all the processed food choices, most being full of “empty carbs.”
        Just best to eat what God perfected already: whole foods.

        I didn’t get to trip, that’s the only explanation I have.

        Stress requires extra carbs for energy to counteract and/or tolerate stress. Folks don’t gain weight eating good fats, and actually maintain weights their frames were designed for.
        Everyone who consumes carbs gain weight, beit through sugars or alcohol.
        Moderation of red wine is beneficial. Five to ten bottles a day isn’t good for anyone.
        I don’t know what “IFBB” is, sounds physical though, but keto should increase stamina and strength. Muscle soreness time should also reduce dramatically as well. Need more weight? Drink RO water, and 70% of your body weight in water. Get electrolytes from whole foods.
        Carbs “sticky” things up. The body is 70% fluid and so should you be. Carbs are more like sand paper to muscle fiber and vital cellular structures.

        God made everything that grows, but left it up to us to choose whats best for our bodies.
        Best of luck in your competitions.

  • Jello!

    This could have been way more informative, Hugging and whispering soft comforting words may help a hipster who’s out of his safe space , but if you want to reverse the effects you need a sublingual of cbd under your tounge for at least a minute. Followed by eating. The cbd will slow the bad High and eating will metabolize the thc from your cells

    Sorry I usually don’t bash on people’s writing. But on a serious topic like this I’m floored how little research went into it.

    • Bigindin

      Spot On!.

  • Tell the lightweight to quit getting high if they can’t handle it. Jeeze…. 🙄

    • Cynthia Scott

      People have different body chemistry and brain activity. What’s a little for some is too much for another. Judging someone as a lightweight is not a medicinal perspective, it is a stoner perspective.

      • Exactly. I’m not a doctor, I’m a stoner. There’s no such thing as “too high”. There is however, such a thing as “lightweight”. And lightweights are the primary reason pot has endured a bad rap for so long.

  • viper643

    Eating any food will kill my buzz. Never consumed too much THC. LSD–that’s a different animal. However, OJ helped .

    • doug glasgow

      Thanks, that’s some funny shit!

  • emrsonbiggins

    I have read a while back that CBN drops will counter affect THC. Maybe some new users are unfamiliar with this less known of the three main molecules that comprise the Cannabis plant.
    CBN has no effect on the psychedelic.
    Can’t remember where I saw the article, but I do remember that it said the patient feels relief in a very short time.

  • Brenda Elder

    I have personally found none of these remedies work. Many friends have concluded like wise. More studies are needed.

    • Charles Lyons

      I am a pro bodybuilder. We experiment on ourselves quite often. From our research:

      1. 5-HTP, the active chemical found in turkey has a calming effect pre and post consumption. Remember Thanksgiving Turkey…..

      2. I know, who has 5-HTP on hand? I get it. Try chocolate milk. The chocolate has a calming effect on the muscles of the body relaxing them if they are stiff. We use this post training to speed up muscle recovery.

      3. LAST DITCH EFFORT….this one sucks…I mean really sucks….hence why it’s last ditch. For my younger tokers who have to walk in the house….or you got called into work all of a sudden and you are 2 blunts deep with GSC dab in them ( no judgment please). Shivering increases the body’s ability to metabolize THC fast. Exercise speeds up metabolism. Shivering does the exact same thing REALLY REALLY fast. Please us this as last ditch effort as the victim WILL NOT like this during treatment, but will thank you after 6-8 mins of being cold.

  • Californio

    Is there a way to produce THC from the get-go with strains that are less potent. I would think so. No? If brewers can jack up alcohol content of beers produced why not growers. Would that not at least help the situation somewhat? I would think so. Yes? But then, as to alcohol, one particular human leans toward too much alcohol – or any categorical good thing used reasonably – and the other may lean toward a ganjaic overdose…of sorts. No? Maybe? If nothing else, fodder for thought. True that!

  • Adillinger

    Dim the lights, reassure calmly that he/she/they are indeed fine health wise. Offer plain water and a light snack (have munchies standing by if they do ok with light snack) or offer some good candy (not Circus Peanuts or elderly people hard candies). Put on some ’60’s Top 40 music or Beatles (yes, it’s old fashioned but calming on a quality stereo). Ask them questions about themselves, people love to talk about themselves. And before long the cannibis “OD” will pass. Happy 420!

  • Bill Myers

    All that touchy-feely stuff might be good for those so inclined but as an old med user I keep one of those 2oz bottles of booze handy for those that OD on edibles. A double shot of vodka will take the edge off in a couple of minutes and let the patient enjoy the rest of the ride.

    Even after 50 years of using pot I get anxiety attacks once in a while testing out new batches of edibles. Mostly into hi-CBD strains now so it never happens.

    Stay safe out there folks and ride out a bad wave. Going to ER for a pot buzz makes us all look bad, Put your big boy panties on and wait a while. Chew a peppercorn and wash it down with booze for a quicker fix.

    Happy 4/20!

  • 7JimPalmer

    I’m surprised no one mentioned the surefire antidote to getting through an uncomfortable period of being too high: A stiff drink or glass of wine. The reason being too buzzed is problematic for anyone is they simply cannot relax. Besides paranoia, its common to focus too much on bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate and imagine all sorts of reason you’re unwell or in danger of losing control. The safest and most reliable path to relaxation is to begin sipping an alcoholic beverage. A tasty vodka tonic, gin and tonic, or glass of wine works wonders. Sweet vermouth, brandy, sherry or port are also excellent choices. To achieve faster calming, scotch, bourbon or vodka straight up are particularly effective. Provided one doesn’t drink too quickly or too much which could cause stomach upset, even the most frightening high can be tamed within 5 to 20 minutes when drowned with booze.

  • James Lewis

    This is really informative, thanks. Me and my friends tried new cupcakes with cannabis a couple of month ago and it was awful. I think that I had anxiety attack. But my friend think that I exaggerate. So, after this accident I became interested in different ways to avoid such situations. There are some interesting facts about edibles that I found on Addiction Resource:
    1.Drink lots of fluids and eat well preferably the night before
    2.Begin with a minimal dosage, 2.5 to 5 milligrams for newbies and up to 5 milligrams of THC for experienced users.

  • James Lewis

    This is really informative, thanks. About two month ago me and my friends tried new cupcakes with cannabis and it was awful. I think that I had anxiety attack. But my friend thought that I exaggerate.So, after this accident I became interested in different ways to avoid such situations. There are some interesting facts about edibles that I found on Addiction Resource:
    1.Drink lots of fluids and eat well preferably the night before
    2.Begin with a minimal dosage, 2.5 to 5 milligrams for newbies and up to 5 milligrams of THC for experienced users

  • Yolandus Douglas

    I believe that you know what you have and what you want it to do. I have been there to often and what helps me most is ” Music”.
    Get a tune or a cut you like and play it . Get you and your high into the music, your song ,what sounds good to you. It bring you to where you want
    you want to be with what you like to here. Taking a drink of alcohol, no, no, then you got 2 highs to mess with. Come down with something you like. “MUSIC”.