Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
After smoking or ingesting a large amount of cannabis – in particular, strains (cultivars) containing high amounts of myrcene – you may experience intense physical sedation that makes you feel as if you are locked to your chair and unable to function. This is called “couch lock.”
Although it can be challenging to do so once couch lock sets in, there are ways you can deal with it and potentially prevent it from happening in the future. Also, it is worth remembering that couch lock is not always a negative!
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What Is Couch Lock?
Couch lock is the colloquial term for the overwhelming sedation and deep relaxation often experienced after consuming cannabis.
It is a common effect of being high, but it doesn’t always occur. In fact, for some people, it’s not desirable as it can impair their daily functioning. For others, however, it can be a welcome reprieve from pain, insomnia, or the feelings of stress that pile up after a long day.
What Causes Couch Lock?
The effects of cannabis are typically caused by a combination of compounds found in the plant, so it hasn’t been determined what exactly leads to couch lock. However, you may notice that you’re more susceptible to couch lock based on the type of cannabis strain you consume.
For example, Cannabis indica strains are more likely to contribute to the couch lock sensation than other strains like Cannabis sativa due to their relaxing properties.
That said, while Cannabis sativa strains are more known for their uplifting and euphoric properties, there are often more similarities than differences between sativas and indicas. Some sativa strains may also contribute to couch lock.
Strains aside, other compounds like myrcene may come into play when that couch-lock effect takes hold.
Myrcene is a terpene found in many cannabis strains, which has also been speculated to play a part in causing couch lock. This is because it has relaxing and sedative effects. Strains with a myrcene concentration greater than 0.5% are likely to induce the couch-lock sensation, regardless of their sativa or indica designation.
Some of the best couch lock strains include:
How to Tell if You’re Experiencing Couch Lock
Couch lock is more than just the typical tiredness you may experience daily or after consuming other cannabis strains. If you’re experiencing couch lock, you’ll likely feel:
- Tired and sleepy
- A heavy feeling in your limbs
These sedative effects come together to produce a sensation that makes you feel glued to your seat and unable to get up or move around. For some, this may be an uncomfortable feeling; for others – like those who may be in pain or have trouble sleeping – this sense of deep relaxation may be enjoyable.
How Long It Lasts
The length of a couch lock can vary, but it will likely wear off when the cannabis high wears off.
The time frame of a cannabis high depends on a few factors, including the chosen method of ingestion. For example, smoking, inhaling, or vaping cannabis typically results in a high that lasts between one and four hours. Consuming edibles may cause the high to last longer, usually eight hours or more, although it will also take longer to set in.
Taking a higher dose of cannabis will cause the psychoactive THC to stay in your system longer, which may extend the length of these deeply sedative feelings. Also, remember that cannabis affects everyone differently, so the length of the high and the associated couch lock can also depend on individual factors, such as your tolerance for cannabis.
Potential Side Effects and Risks of Couch Lock
Couch lock is usually harmless, but it may indicate that you have consumed too much cannabis for your tolerance. Feeling like you cannot get up or move around can be scary or frightening for some people, and you may even feel trapped.
Couch lock could also negatively affect your day-to-day life, as you can’t be confined to your couch all day if you have important things to do and don’t want to rest. Once the couch lock has set in, it can be difficult to do anything about it until the cannabis passes through your system.
Tips for Handling Couch Lock
Some people enjoy experiencing the intense sedation that couch lock provides, so they may embrace it and wait for the sensation to pass.
However, if you find it to be unpleasant, you could try the following tips to reduce the impact of couch lock and potentially prevent it from occurring in the future:
- Consume a lower dose of cannabis, so you don’t feel the effects as intensely.
- Avoid cannabis strains with high THC concentrations to reduce the psychoactive effects it has on you.
- Avoid strains more likely to cause couch lock and choose more energizing strains. Cannabis varieties higher in THCV, CBD, CBG, and terpenes like pinene, limonene and terpinolene may provide a more stimulating effect.
- Eat food, ingest caffeine or drink a fizzy drink (careful with the sugar, though).
- Only use strains that cause couch lock when you want to relax.
- Stay active as much as possible before the couch lock sets in. For example, you could get some fresh air and walk around your house.
- Use low-to-moderate doses of CBD. CBD can block the CB1 receptors from binding with THC, which in turn reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. Higher doses of CBD (200 mg and more) may have more sedative effects that can combine with and synergize THC.
- Keep your mind active by engaging in a conversation with someone.
The Bottom Line
Before you smoke, inhale or ingest cannabis in any way, it’s essential to be aware of the possibility of couch lock. Although it’s not harmful, couch lock is something that you may not necessarily want to experience. Learning how to handle a couch-lock high can help minimize the effects it has on you.
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