What Does “Greening Out” Mean?

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Table of contents

  1. What Does It Mean to Green Out?
  2. What Causes a Green Out?
  3. How to Tell a Green Out Is Happening
  4. How Long It Lasts
  5. Potential Risks and Side Effects
  6. Tips for Handling a Green Out
  7. The Bottom Line
  8. Frequently Asked Questions

Greening out, also called “whiting out,” is the term for experiencing distressing conditions such as nausea, unease, and paranoia following the consumption of cannabis. Like weed shakes, this phenomenon is believed to be caused by consuming too much cannabis.

Aside from nausea and paranoia, individuals experiencing a green out may also vomit, feel dizzy, and start sweating profusely. This is usually quite scary for new cannabis users who may panic or experience bouts of anxiety.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that greening out is generally preceded by eating highly potent edibles like brownies or mixing alcohol with cannabis. Whichever the case, whiting out is nothing to worry about. Most users have reported that the symptoms pass with time (usually a few minutes to a few hours) or simply lying down.

What Does It Mean to Green Out?

Greening out is essentially a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) overdose. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, which is responsible for the altered state of consciousness, feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and heightened senses often associated with cannabis use.

It is hard to imagine THC can be responsible for the adverse effects associated with greening out, in part because of the role of THC in medical marijuana use cases.

High doses of cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) may also cause nausea. The anti-emetic (anti-nausea) properties of cannabis are usually experienced by taking your time with cannabis, dosing carefully, and slowly building tolerance to THC.

So what happens in our body during THC overdose that causes this potentially beneficial compound to affect our bodies negatively?

Our bodies possess an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that includes cannabinoids such as anandamide and CB1 and CB2 receptors that bind with cannabinoids in a lock and key system that helps improve physiological functions throughout the body.

Some of the biological systems regulated by the endocannabinoid system include brain function, blood sugar levels, reproduction, the nervous system, and metabolism.

Since THC is a cannabinoid, it can bind with CB1 receptors in the brain and affect serotonin levels. This interaction is what makes THC able to alter the state of consciousness.

Serotonin is usually known as the happiness hormone. However, that is not the case when the compound is produced in large quantities. Greening out occurs when THC is taken in large amounts, leading to overstimulation of the brain and prompting the production of serotonin in large quantities.

Serotonin overdose may lead to a severe medical condition known as serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of this condition are similar to the greening-out phenomenon and include confusion, vomiting, hallucinations, increased heart rate, nausea, and vomiting. However, suffering from serotonin syndrome due to cannabis use alone is highly improbable.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is another medical condition that can cause a green out. CHS usually results from long-term cannabis use. In common with greening-out symptoms, patients may experience abdominal pain, recurring nausea, and dehydration. Again, CHS is a relatively rare occurrence, so you are more likely to suffer from a green out than CHS. CHS is also a recurring condition where symptoms occur when cannabis is used, so a single episode of greening out should not necessarily be construed as CHS.

Greening out is more common in people who consume alcohol before using cannabis and in new cannabis users because their systems have not yet built up a tolerance for cannabis. Edibles may also increase the chances of experiencing a green out as eating decarboxylated cannabis is a more potent administration route.

You may experience a green out by inhaling too much cannabis too quickly. However, with inhalation and tinctures, it is simpler to go slow and low to reduce the chances of a negative side effect.

Alcohol in your system will increase the absorption of THC, thus aggravating greening out symptoms.

Download Free Guide to the ECS

What Causes a Green Out?

Even though it is new cannabis users who generally experience greening out, it rarely occurs in general. When it happens, symptoms are apparent to the person experiencing it or an observer.

It’s worth noting that the mode of consuming cannabis doesn’t affect whether or not greening out occurs. Whether you dab, smoke, or eat cannabis, you may experience greening out if the THC levels are high enough.

That said, ingested cannabis takes longer to take effect, and when the effects set in, they usually last longer. It’s also possible to green out on cannabis edibles, especially because the effects take longer to begin, potentially resulting in a more prolonged green-out effect.

Vaping, smoking, or dabbing cannabis results in a faster uptake of cannabis, leading to a quicker onset of effects.

How to Tell a Green Out Is Happening

Symptoms of greening out include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Limb heaviness (lack of mobility)
  • Dizziness and lack of focus
  • Chills or sweats
  • Breathing problems
  • Hallucination (rare)

How Long It Lasts

The duration of adverse effects will vary the same way a cannabis high does. Usually, you’ll experience greening out for the entirety of your high.

A cannabis high lasts anywhere from one to 24 hours. Factors such as how much cannabis you consumed, the level of THC in the product, your body weight, tolerance level, whether you ate before, and your metabolism can all affect the high length. Those who consume high amounts of THC (especially via edibles) may experience longer-lasting effects, sometimes up to 24 hours.

Here is a breakdown of how long cannabis effects last depending on the method of consumption:

Cannabis Mode of Consumption

How Soon Do Effects Kick in (In Minutes)

How Long Do Effects Last (In Hours)

Dabbing

instantly

1 to 3 hours

Smoking and Vaping

2 to 10

1 to 3 but can linger for up to 8

Eating

30 to 60

24

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Even though greening out likely won’t lead to long-term health effects, users with an underlying health condition should beware.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition, avoid THC. The compound may lead to thinning of blood vessels, leading to an increased heart rate and a drop in blood pressure, causing a potentially lethal medical emergency.

THC may also interact negatively with other prescription medications, so always talk to your medical care provider about drug interactions before consuming THC and/or CBD.

Another side effect common with greening out is hyperventilation. As your heart rate increases, thanks to high doses of THC, your body struggles to provide enough oxygen, making breathing hard.

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Tips for Handling a Green Out

Removing yourself from an overstimulating environment is always best if you’re greening out: Find a quiet place to lie down and ride the wave out.

If you experience panic and feel that you are out of touch with reality, a friend can help you get through this situation. A friendly face can reassure you that things will soon return to normal.

Some users have reported that sugary drinks have helped them manage greening out.

If you prefer a science-backed solution, give some CBD oil a try: CBD oil may subdue the paranoia and anxiety caused by overconsuming THC.

Terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene are found in black pepper, rosemary, and cloves, and limonene, located in lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, can also soothe psychoactivity. Both of these terpenes can also be found in cannabis.

For more information, check out our tips on counteracting a negative cannabis experience.

Pro Tip: Limonene is highly concentrated in the outer rinds of oranges, lime, and lemon, not in the inner fruit.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, prevention is better than a cure, which also holds for greening out.

Though greening out doesn’t lead to health risks unless you have a pre-existing condition, it can cause those who have experienced it to associate cannabis with adverse effects. This can be problematic if you take marijuana to manage a medical condition.

The best way to prevent greening out is to build up your tolerance regarding THC dosage. Start with small doses and observe how your body reacts. Eventually, this will give you an idea of what you can handle.

Another way to avoid greening out is to be careful with edibles. These take longer to take effect, so you might keep consuming, unaware that your THC dosage increases with each bite. CBD-rich edibles may be less likely to cause a green out, but it is still possible for some people to feel nauseous after consuming too much CBD.

Edibles from legal sources generally list THC amounts and the recommended dose per session. When learning your tolerances and limits, stick with these guides as much as possible, and speak with a doctor to further understand your body’s cannabis limitations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prevent greening out?

Yes, greening out is a preventable condition. Always have food in your stomach before smoking cannabis, beware of the THC dosage, ensure you are hydrated while smoking and avoid mixing cannabis with alcohol or any recreational drugs.

What to do when you’re greening out?

A green out will usually pass with time. Try to find a pleasant, calm environment and sleep it off. If you’re experiencing paranoia and anxiety, find something to distract you, like music or TV. Ultimately you want to stay hydrated, calm, and comfortable.

Also, CBD oil and terpenes, such as limonene and beta-caryophyllene, can help soothe paranoia and anxiety.

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Article written by

Samuel Njoroge

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