What to do if feeling unwell?
Using too much cannabis (especially if with a high THC content, or consumed on an empty stomach) could lead to unpleasant results. Someone may suddenly look and feel pale, shaky and ill, (sometimes called pulling a whitey) they may even vomit or collapse. This effect can be a result of a rapid drop in blood pressure. Consider that different methods of consumption have different onset levels and carry different risks. It’s a good reason to smoke at a slow pace, to get a feel for the strength of the cannabis. If someone does feel ill, it usually doesn’t last long and the person may recover faster if they lie down with their feet up. Whatever the drug is, never leave someone alone who is vomiting and intoxicated, as there is a risk of choking. If they are vomiting and intoxicated, make sure their airways are cleared and consider putting them in the recovery position. Offering a sugary drink, keeping the person in a cool atmosphere, and damping their face and wrists helps the recovery time. Combining cannabis with alcohol or other drugs creates a higher risk of feeling unwell and of ruining your experience (Nutt, 2023).
Even people who have enjoyed using cannabis before can unexpectedly find that it gives them bad rather than good feelings. Sometimes people just feel overwhelmed and might need to lie down for a bit, especially if they get more intoxicated than they intended to. Even when taking a typical amount, the same as you might have enjoyed before or the amount that your friends are enjoying, users might find that they feel worried, suspicious, sad, confused or even feel trapped going round in circles of weird thoughts (Nutt, 2023).
Usually, if someone becomes panicked, confused, or behaves oddly when intoxicated on cannabis, they will be alright given time, especially if they are reassured and guided to breathe slowly and relax.
Sometimes, they will feel fine after a few minutes. Sometimes, they will not feel good but will be able to hold out with some friendly support until they sober up a bit. Very occasionally, if someone remains very frightened or paranoid, and does not seem to respond to reassurance, or their behaviour is very alarming, it may be sensible to get help, for example by calling an ambulance. This can be a difficult judgement to make. Remember that the good or bad effects of cannabis usually start to decline on their own after about an hour after inhalation or a couple of hours after eating it (Nutt, 2023).
It can be common for people who are intoxicated on cannabis (especially cannabis with high THC low CBD content) to say things or feel things which are just like symptoms of psychosis, for example to think other people are talking about them or being paranoid. Experiencing some psychotic symptoms whilst under the effects of cannabis isn’t the same as actually being psychotic. However, if you or someone else should have sobered up but are still feeling paranoia or delusional ideas, it is important to get medical help (Nutt, 2023).
Extremely rarely, getting intoxicated on cannabis can trigger a mental health crisis such as a ‘psychotic episode’, which carries on even after the person should have sobered up. This can be a serious situation, and they need to have medical assistance to give them the best chance of getting better fast without any lasting effects. This usually only happens to people who already have a vulnerability to mental health problems. Most people who have a psychotic episode triggered by cannabis (or anything else) recover well over the next few days with treatment. However, having this type of reaction to cannabis even once is a strong indication that continuing to use cannabis could be very harmful (Nutt, 2023).