Just about every medical expert (except those with a political agenda) will tell you that smoking weed isn’t hazardous to your health and that it has very few – if any – adverse side effects.
Then how do you explain this?
You’re partying or relaxing with a group of friends, and all of a sudden, one topples to the ground after taking a big hit. It doesn’t happen often, but if you’re a long-time smoker, you’ve probably seen it at least once. In fact, there’s actually a name for it: a “green out.”
In virtually every case, the person turns out to be fine and recovers quickly. Needless to say, though, it’s a scary thing to witness. It’s even scarier if you’re the one who passed out during a smoke sesh.
Let’s try to make it a little less scary, by explaining exactly why weed might make someone pass out – and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Getting Dizzy When You Smoke
It’s not unusual for people to get dizzy when they’re smoking up.
It doesn’t happen to everyone, of course, and you may never have experienced it. But one small study (there’s not a lot of research on the subject) claims that six out of ten people have experienced noticeable dizziness at some point after smoking weed.
There are several possible explanations for that woozy feeling, but here’s why it’s important: pot smokers occasionally pass out for the same reasons they might get dizzy. Fainting is simply the rare “next step” after a smoker gets shaky or extremely light-headed.
So physical reactions to weed, which might occasionally lead to someone passing out, aren’t uncommon. The big question is exactly what’s happening inside the body that causes those reactions.
The Possible Reasons For A “Green Out”
Casual, recreational cannabis users are at extremely low risk for fainting while they’re indulging. There’s usually some other factor that comes into play when someone passes out for no apparent reason while smoking.
Most people think there has to be something wrong with their supply if they get dizzy or experience a “green out.” That’s certainly possible, especially if the weed came from an unfamiliar or non-trustworthy source. However, that’s usually not the cause.
It could be that your flower is much, much stronger than what you usually smoke. It could be that you’ve just taken an enormous hit on a bong when you usually just take small tokes on a pipe. It could be your first experience with a vaporizer, or you could have been hotboxing a joint.
Anything that quickly puts a much greater amount of THC than “usual” into your system increases the possibility that you could feel dizzy or even pass out. This is most likely to happen in inexperienced or very casual users, but the effect can also cause a “green out” in those with low tolerance levels.
Time for a little science.
THC acts as a vasodilator in the body, which means it causes blood vessels to expand. That causes a chain reaction.
Wider blood vessels mean a decrease in blood pressure because there’s more room for the blood to flow. Low blood pressure induces a faster heart rate, in order to quickly force more blood into the brain. And the combination of “not enough blood” flowing in the brain, and a rapid increase in heart rate, can cause some people to faint.
Once again, this isn’t very common. But there’s something else that may happen simultaneously, which makes a “green out” more likely to occur.
There’s an actual medical condition called postural hypotension, which is a fancy way of saying “when you stand up too fast, you get dizzy.”
Here’s the quick-and-dirty explanation. When you stand up, gravity pulls blood toward your feet and away from your heart and brain, causing blood pressure to fall and cerebral blood flow to decrease. Those changes are supposed to signal the body to make quick adjustments in heart rate, in order to return blood pressure to normal levels. This explains why you may briefly feel a little light-headed if you jump to your feet way too fast; the feeling goes away as soon as your body adjusts.
But in some people who are elderly or have other medical issues, their bodies are no longer able to quickly adjust their blood pressure when they stand up. As a result, they may get extremely dizzy or even faint.
So what? Well, as we’ve just explained, THC use can also cause a drop in blood pressure and blood flow to the brain. If you combine the effects of pot and standing up, there can be a very rapid drop in blood flow to the brain – with a “green out” possible result. One study has shown the issue is even more likely in people with existing heart disease.
In other words, it’s more likely that weed can make you pass out if you stand up while you’re in the middle of smoking.
Medical Conditions/Drug Interactions
There are several “medical” reasons why you might feel faint or pass out when smoking weed.
Those with cardiovascular issues are at risk, as we’ve just mentioned. Other conditions like low blood pressure or low blood sugar can also upset the body’s metabolic balance and make a “green out” more likely.
Additionally, there are medications that can interact with cannabis and cause dizziness or fainting as a result of smoking pot. Some of the most notable are blood pressure medications like beta-blockers, blood thinners like Warfarin, sedatives, and opioids.
How To Avoid Passing Out When Smoking Weed
There are several common-sense steps you can take to make sure you don’t experience a “green out.”
- Don’t get careless: If you’re new to smoking don’t start out with a powerhouse strain, or try to prove that you can hang with your experienced friends; go slow and build up a tolerance. If you’re a long-time user, know your limits and don’t go too far; you should also go slowly if you’re trying a new and potent strain.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking lots of water before, during and after you smoke can prevent rapid changes in blood pressure, and reduce the possibility of passing out.
- Don’t fight the urge to find munchies: Boosting your blood sugar can make sure your blood pressure remains stable.
- Don’t stand up quickly: We’ve already explained this one; the rapid change in blood pressure when you stand can make dizziness worse.
Most of all, pay attention. (We know that can be difficult when you’re stoned.) If you start to feel dizzy, a “green out” could be on the horizon. Put the joint down, stay calm, drink a little water – and don’t stand up until you’ve regained your equilibrium.
Passing out from weed isn’t pleasant, but it doesn’t mean there’s a bigger problem to worry about – and a “green out” is usually avoidable if you watch for the warning signs.
Can Weed Make You Pass Out? FAQ
Q: Are some people more likely to pass out when smoking?
A: Yes, those who have certain medical conditions like low blood pressure or heart disease, those who take meds that lower their blood pressure – and the elderly.
Q: What should you do if you’ve passed out from weed several times?
A: Other than quitting smoking? A number of “green outs” probably means that your body has less tolerance to rapid changes in blood pressure and cerebral blood flow. The best approach is to smoke something less potent. The more THC that’s in your flower, the greater the chance that it will cause an imbalance in your body that can cause you to get dizzy or faint.
Q: Will edibles reduce the chances of passing out?
A: Actually, they might increase the possibility. Many people consume too much THC since edibles don’t take effect an hour or two for an hour or two. You have to be even more careful when you’re eating your weed instead of smoking or vaping it.