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‘Greening Out’: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

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Last Updated - 06/24/2024

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Key Takeaways

  • Greening out refers to the adverse effects of consuming too much cannabis, with symptoms like nausea, dizziness and anxiety.
  • THC overstimulation of CB1 receptors in the nervous system is a primary cause of greening out.
  • Edibles can lead to more pronounced greening out effects due to delayed onset and longer duration.
  • CBD may offer protective effects against the anxiety and discomfort associated with greening out.
  • Immediate management of greening out includes staying hydrated, resting and deep breathing exercises.
  • Prevention strategies involve starting with low doses, avoiding mixing substances and understanding one’s tolerance.
  • While greening out is typically not life-threatening, it can be distressing and may pose health risks with repeated episodes.
  • Medical treatment for greening out is supportive and symptomatic, focusing on patient safety and hydration.
  • Education on cannabis effects and responsible consumption is crucial to prevent greening out.

What is Greening Out?

The term greening out refers to the uncomfortable or adverse experience individuals may encounter after consuming an excessive amount of cannabis. The phrase is believed to have been derived from ‘blacking out,’ which describes a similar overindulgence in alcohol. 

The usage of greening out in popular culture has grown since its introduction in the 1970s and 1980s, with its first documented definition appearing in Urban Dictionary in 2004. It has since entered the lexicon of cannabis consumers to describe a state where one experiences intense and often unpleasant physical and psychological effects due to high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) consumption.

The cultural understanding of greening out is important as it highlights the potential risks associated with cannabis use, especially for inexperienced users or those experimenting with higher doses. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial for ensuring safety and seeking appropriate care or intervention when needed.

Causes of Greening Out

The causes of greening out include the method of consumption, with edibles often leading to more pronounced effects due to their delayed onset and longer duration. Additionally, mixing cannabis with alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of greening out. Individual differences, such as a person’s metabolism, overall health and even psychological state, can also influence their susceptibility to greening out.

While greening out can be a highly uncomfortable experience, it is typically not life-threatening. However, it can be particularly distressing and potentially dangerous for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Education on the proper use of cannabis and awareness of one’s limits are crucial in preventing greening out episodes.

The Role of THC in Greening Out Episodes

THC is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis responsible for its mind-altering effects. When THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the nervous system, it can overwhelm the body’s endocannabinoid system, especially if the individual has low tolerance or the cannabis consumed is highly potent. 

This phenomenon is characterized by an array of symptoms ranging from physical discomfort to psychological distress. It is essential for users to be aware of their personal thresholds and to consume cannabis responsibly to prevent such episodes. Education on the effects of THC and responsible consumption practices play a crucial role in managing and preventing greening out.

The Role of CBD in Greening Out Episodes

The role of CBD (cannabidiol) in greening out is less clear. Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive effects that lead to the ‘high’ commonly associated with cannabis use. While research is ongoing, preliminary evidence suggests that CBD may not directly contribute to greening out. 

The therapeutic effects of CBD, such as its anxiolytic properties, could potentially counteract some of the psychological distress associated with greening out. However, the relationship between CBD and greening out is complex and requires further investigation to fully understand the interactions between CBD, THC and the endocannabinoid system.

How to Identify the Symptoms of Greening Out

The symptoms of greening out are both physical and psychological and they can vary in intensity and duration based on individual factors such as tolerance and the amount of cannabis consumed. 

Physical Symptoms of Greening Out

These symptoms can occur singularly or in combination and their intensity may range from mild to severe. Recognizing these signs is crucial for timely management and care during a greening out episode.

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Feeling sick to the stomach, which may lead to vomiting.
  • Excessive Sweating: Sudden onset of cold sweats or hot flashes.
  • Rapid Heart Rate: An accelerated heartbeat, which can be alarming.
  • Physical Immobility: A feeling of being ‘locked’ to a place, such as a couch, unable to move.
  • Abdominal Pain: Discomfort or sharp pain in the stomach area.
  • Palpitations: An unusually rapid or irregular heartbeat, often described as heart ‘racing’ or ‘pounding.’

Psychological Symptoms of Greening Out

These symptoms are typically distressing and can significantly impact one’s mental state. They can be quite alarming, especially for those who are inexperienced with cannabis use.

  • Anxiety and Paranoia: Intense feelings of unease, fear, or mistrust of one’s environment.
  • Altered sensory perceptions: In some cases, individuals may experience hallucinations or an altered sense of time.
  • Dizziness: A sensation of unsteadiness or vertigo, as if the world is spinning.
  • Panic Attacks: Severe anxiety that peaks in episodes of intense fear or discomfort.
  • Memory loss: Trouble recalling events or short-term memory lapses.
  • Confusion: Trouble concentrating or maintaining focus, often accompanied by a sense of disorientation.

Strategies for Managing and Preventing Greening Out

Understanding one’s limits and responsibly navigating cannabis consumption is key to avoiding the adverse effects of greening out. It’s also advisable to avoid consuming cannabis on an empty stomach and to recognize early signs such as increased anxiety or a rapid heartbeat to take appropriate action. 

For those who experience frequent episodes of greening out, seeking professional medical advice is recommended. Health professionals can provide guidance tailored to individual circumstances, including assessing underlying health conditions that may contribute to adverse reactions. 

Immediate Strategies to Manage a Greening Out Episode

There are several immediate strategies that can be employed to manage the symptoms of greening out. It’s important to note that while these methods can provide relief, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice if symptoms are severe.

  • Find a safe and comfortable space: Move to a quiet and secure area away from stimuli that can worsen anxiety or discomfort.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water can help to prevent dry mouth and dehydration, which can occur with cannabis use.
  • Focus on breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help to reduce feelings of panic and regulate heart rate.
  • Consume food: Eating a light snack may help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which can be affected by cannabis.
  • Rest: Allowing the body to relax and, if possible, sleep can help to pass the effects of too much cannabis more quickly.
  • Seek reassurance: Having a calm and supportive person present can provide comfort and reassurance during the experience.

It’s also important to avoid consuming any more cannabis and to avoid other substances that might exacerbate the situation. If symptoms persist or worsen, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Long-Term Strategies to Prevent Greening Out Episodes

Long-term prevention strategies are equally important and focus on responsible consumption practices. It’s also advisable to avoid mixing cannabis with alcohol or other drugs, which can increase the likelihood of negative reactions.

  • Understanding Tolerance: Recognize personal tolerance levels and start with low doses, especially when trying new cannabis products.
  • Slow Consumption: Avoid rapid consumption of cannabis, which can lead to over intake before the effects are fully felt.
  • Quality Control: Opt for cannabis products from reputable sources to ensure accurate information about THC levels.
  • Education: Stay informed about the effects of cannabis and the signs of overuse.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise, which can improve overall body resilience.
  • Stress Management: Engage in stress-reducing activities, as high-stress levels can amplify the adverse effects of cannabis.
  • Monitoring Intake: Keep track of cannabis consumption to identify patterns that may lead to greening out.

Implementing these strategies requires a commitment to personal health and responsible use. It is also advisable to consult with healthcare professionals if greening out episodes continue despite these preventative measures.

Medical Concerns on Greening Out: Health Risks and Treatment Insights

Concerns within the medical field extend to the potential for long-term health risks associated with repeated greening out episodes, although more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions. Treatment approaches are generally supportive and symptomatic, with an emphasis on ensuring patient safety, providing hydration and managing anxiety or panic symptoms in the acute setting. 

Professionals advocate for education on safer consumption practices and the importance of understanding individual tolerance levels to prevent greening out. The integration of patient perspectives and experiences into treatment protocols is also gaining traction, which could lead to more personalized care strategies for those affected by greening out.

As the medical community continues to evolve with technological advancements, such as the application of AI in healthcare, future research may benefit from these innovations to better understand and manage the effects of cannabis use and greening out episodes.

Health Risks of Repeated Greening Out Episodes

The long-term health implications of greening out warrant closer attention. Research has highlighted that persistent episodes could potentially lead to more severe health concerns.

  • Chronic nausea and vomiting could result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Repeated bouts of intense anxiety or panic attacks may contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.
  • Frequent dizziness and impaired coordination increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Continual use of cannabis at levels that lead to greening out might also be indicative of underlying substance use disorders.

Treatment for Greening Out

Treatment for greening out focuses on alleviating symptoms and ensuring safety. No standard medical treatment exists for greening out but several supportive measures can be taken. In cases where cannabis use is problematic, contacting a healthcare provider or a specialized treatment facility like SAMHSA’s National Helpline can provide guidance on treatment options and support.

If you or a loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, Orlando Recovery Center is here to help. Our physician-led, evidence-based rehab programs include medical detox, inpatient and outpatient rehab and a full continuum of care in between. Our compassionate team will help you start life fresh with the tools, coping strategies and resources you need to succeed. Don’t wait — contact a Recovery Advocate today to see how we can help.


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