Getting paranoid is unfortunately, one of the more common side effects of smoking cannabis. The chances that you could feel paranoid is usually more when you consume high-THC pot. Though not everyone is prone to it, there are just some people who can’t seem to escape it, and it can make the experience of getting high unpleasant.
Why This Happens
There are many reasons why some people are more vulnerable to paranoia on pot than others.
In a 2019 animal study, researchers discovered that some people’s brains are wired to be more sensitive to THC in the back area of the brain. On the other hand, those people who feel relaxation from high THC have a more active front part of the brain, which is responsible for our reward mechanisms.
There’s another explanation: the biphasic response. To say it simply, when you microdose or consume THC in smaller amounts, it will result in a relaxing effect but the more you smoke, the more anxious or paranoid you’ll be. In a 2017 study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, they analyzed the effects of THC on 42 consumers who were tasked to undergo stressful situations. They discovered that the participants who consumed 7.5mg of THC felt much less stress compared to those administered with a placebo. However, those who were given 12.5mg of THC said that they experienced negative emotions, and they were also more likely to report a task as threatening or challenging.
Another possible reason why some get paranoid when high and others don’t boils down to our tolerance. Everyone reacts to cannabis and its compounds differently especially THC – some people simply have a much higher tolerance and can consume more of it without responding negatively, while others can’t.
Black Pepper as an Antidote
If you’re one of those people who gets paranoid from THC, the answer may lie in your kitchen: black pepper. For those who are surprised by this news, it’s actually been known for a while now.
In fact, it was none other than Neil Young who made it famous when, during a 2014 interview he had with Howard Stern, he mentioned: “Try black pepper balls if you get paranoid. Just chew two or three pieces,” he said, about paranoia and anxiety caused by THC.
He isn’t wrong.
Black peppercorns, when chewed or smelled, can actually help provide relief from paranoia and anxiety. How? Well, black pepper, just like cannabis and other plants, contain terpenes. In cannabis, we know around a few hundred different terpenes that have its own special properties and therapeutic effects, though they also contribute to its unique aroma. Terpenes also play a role in the cannabis strain’s effects on the individual user.
Black pepper contains caryophyllene and pinene, two terpenes that have been proven to have calming effects and can particularly negate the highs brought about by THC.
If you aren’t a fan of eating black pepper straight up, then you can also of course just add it to certain foods so that you can enjoy its therapeutic benefits. We understand that not everyone can take the strong taste of consuming black pepper straight or even chewing it up.
Dr. Ethan Russo, the Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, has authored many books about cannabis. He has also touched on this topic in a study entitled, “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effect,” where he explains how the terpenes in peppercorn “tame the intoxicating effects of THC.”
Here’s a little bit more about these helpful terpenes:
Pinene: Pinene is a terpene that is associated with the smell of pine trees or pine forests. Of course, it’s extremely abundant in pines but it’s also found in many other herbs and plants, such as dill, parsley, and cannabis. Pinene has a woodsy and earthy smell.
When it comes to effects, pinene is known to be lightly energizing, and can induce calmness and tranquility. Some people report pinene to enhance creativity and even uplift your mood. Medicinal benefits include bronchodilation, which is why it’s beneficial for people who suffer from respiratory conditions including asthma. Pinene also has anti-inflammatory properties, and it can aid in memory retention.
Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene is found in concentrated amounts in black pepper as well as cotton and cloves. It has a unique spicy, peppery, and woodsy aroma which contributes to the smell of black pepper.
Caryophyllene is famous in the terpene world for its sedative and calming effects. It also does a terrific job at calming anxiety, and it probably does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to why people can report significant relief from chewing peppercorns to come down from THC-induced paranoia. It’s also interesting that caryophyllene and THC bind to the exact same receptors within the brain. Researchers have found that when people consume them both, it results in a relaxing, calming effect — another reason why we feel so much calmer when we consume pepper after getting too high on THC.
Consuming or smelling black pepper is just one of the many safe ways that you can easily come down from a high. Other techniques include eating food, going for a walk, taking a nap, or focusing your energies on something else.