Forget Indica vs. Sativa, or Kush vs. Diesel.
If you want to start a heated debate among a group of stoners, bring up the topic of “weed hangovers.”
You’ll probably find that half vehemently deny that it’s even possible to get a hangover from smoking too much, while the other half insist that they’ve had night-after hangovers more than once.
Evidence is limited, but anecdotal evidence comes down firmly on the side of those claiming that weed hangovers exist. In addition, many experienced health care professionals believe you’re at risk for hangover symptoms the morning after you’ve over-indulged.
There’s a good reason why many regular smokers think that cannabis hangovers are a myth: the symptoms aren’t always the same as you the ones you suffer after a long night of drinking.
Let’s demystify weed hangovers.
Science Explains Weed Hangovers
We have to be honest; there hasn’t been much research examining the “hangover effect” of cannabis. Meanwhile, the studies that have been done used small sample sizes, so they have to be taken with a grain of salt.
However, the reality of weed hangovers has become accepted in treatment and rehab circles.
A large-scale survey of medical marijuana users asked what they liked least about weed, and one of the common responses was “the hangover.” And a reputable review of literature on the effects of cannabis advises clinicians to warn clients of marijuana’s potential to cause a hangover effect after “acute” intoxication.
Let’s consider the research. It began in 1985 with a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Half of the dozen male participants were given joints to smoke, the other half smoked “placebo cigarettes” containing no THC.
The next morning they took tests involving memory, cognitive function, and their ability to judge the passage of time. Those who smoked the placebos performed noticeably better than those who’d smoked weed.
2006 research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology measured the effect of cannabis smoking on employee performance and found declines in alertness, response time, cognitive function, and memory as the workweek progressed. The researchers theorized that a “hangover effect” was at least partly to blame.
For the sake of fairness, other reports published in 1990 and 1998 found only minimal difference in participants’ performance on tests the morning after they’d smoked.
One caveat for those studies, though: participants only smoked the equivalent of one joint. So there’s no way to know whether a more intense smoke sesh would have led to a hangover.
What can you make of contradictory research like that?
Well, if you read through those two “no noticeable hangover” studies, it becomes clear that the problem may stem from the definition of “hangover.” One specifically concludes that “marijuana smoking was not associated with a hangover syndrome similar to those reported after use of alcohol or long-acting sedative-hypnotics.”
So as it turns out, those researchers may have been searching for the wrong hangover symptoms.
Symptoms of Having A Weed Hangover
Some symptoms of a cannabis hangover are very similar to the familiar, painful reminders that you partied too hard at the bar or club. Marijuana and alcohol hangovers can each be characterized by headaches, fatigue, nausea, and/or light sensitivity.
However, weed hangovers are unlikely to produce the severe thirst, sweating, stomach pain, and irritability that can lead drinkers to temporarily promise themselves, “I’ll never do that again!”
Those who’ve smoked more than they should have? They may instead wakeup with some or all of these additional symptoms not commonly associated with alcohol hangovers:
- Itchy eyes
- Brain fog
- Cottonmouth without being dehydrated
- Overall lethargy
- A feeling of still being somewhat high
Many smokers don’t feel any ill effects the next morning, though. Why would they get off easy?
What Are The Causes of Marijuana Hangovers
We’ve discussed study findings and expert opinions on weed hangovers, but you don’t need academic research to figure out that only some smokers experience hangovers. Just survey your friends.
And if you analyze your results, you may find it fairly easy to determine who may still be suffering the next morning.
Overconsumption or THC Content
Most people who wake up with a weed hangover have simply smoked too much.
That may mean they’re normally a social smoker but decided to prove they could hang with the big boys for once. Or they may be regular smokers, but this time they partied much longer and harder than usual.
Another common cause: they may have been smoking much stronger flowers than they’re accustomed to. Weed with 20-30% THC content can overpower people who aren’t used to it – and they’ll pay the price the following day.
The best advice: be cautious if you’re not an experienced smoker, or risk the consequences.
This goes hand-in-hand with overconsumption and THC content. The cannabinoid simply hits some people harder than others; those with high THC tolerance may be less susceptible to hangovers.
User tolerance commonly builds up gradually through long-time, heavy use. But it also can be caused by genetic factors or the user’s body mass index.
Somewhat paradoxically, some long-time, heavy users may also be more likely to develop hangover issues. It’s similar to the “rebound” headache problem that some people experience after repeatedly using painkillers.
Tolerance and rebound can both be reset by a period of reduced usage or abstinence.
An unhealthy lifestyle can leave your body with fewer defenses against weed hangovers. Needless to say, there’s no quick fix for lifestyle choices.
Edibles usually hit harder than smoking, because their THC is converted into even more potent 11-hydroxy-THC before being released into the body. The high from edibles also last longer, which makes a weed headache more likely the next morning.
First-timers are always advised to go slow with edibles because their effects can be unpredictable. The risk of a hangover is another good reason to start with a small piece of cookie or brownie. Once you know how it affects you, you can adjust and eat more the next time.
Weed Hangovers FAQ
Q: Can you cure a weed hangover?
A: No more than you can cure one of alcohol – but there are ways to recover more quickly. They include having coffee (for the caffeine) and a healthy breakfast, drinking plenty of water, taking a walk in the fresh air if you’re up to it, doing some deep breathing if you’re not. Ibuprofen can help with headaches, and ginger tea can soothe a nauseous stomach.
Q: Are some strains more likely to cause hangovers than others?
A: Smoking any strain with high-THC content is putting you at greater risk for a hangover the next day. If you’re regularly feeling the aftereffects of smoking up, try switching to a strain with lower THC and higher CBD content.
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