Don't miss

Why Does Weed Make You Paranoid?

By on April 23, 2013

Summary (click to view)

  • Paranoia is a common side effect of marijuana
  • Paranoia is a natural human response to stress factors 
  • The amygdala is a part of the brain responsible for emotional aspects of fear
  • Research shows that THC can increase activity of the amygdala and enhance fear
  • Experts say that marijuana is not a major risk factor for schizophrenia  
  • “Dude, is that a cop?” Image source – Although marijuana has been shown to reduce anxiety in many instances, a significant portion of users report that it can have the opposite effect as well.

    Feelings of paranoia are common to both casual cannabis users and patients with schizophrenia, which has led many health experts to wonder of a possible link between the use of cannabis and psychotic disorders.

    However, while evidence of marijuana causing schizophrenia remains controversial, recent research has revealed how marijuana use can cause paranoia by acting on a specific part of the brain known as the amygdala.

    What is Paranoia?

    Paranoia by itself is not considered a mental disorder. Rather, paranoia happens to be a natural thought process that all humans will experience at one time or another.

    Paranoia can range from feelings of anxiety and fear to more extreme thoughts of delusion and irrationality. The latter may be a cause for concern, since they represent symptoms of a condition called psychosis.

    Common paranoid delusions include negative beliefs that friends or family are conspiring against an individual as well as feeling spied on or followed by greater forces that wish harm.

    Paranoia and Your Brain

    Feeling anxious or paranoid are basic emotional responses that are wired into the human brain, specifically in a region known as the amygdala. These feelings are part of the body’s overall process of responding to factors of threat or stress.

    While environmental threats or stresses can cause a variety of adaptive responses within the human body, the amygdala is what influences your emotions. Specifically, the amygdala is responsible for fear conditioning – the process of learning what to fear and how to respond to those fears.

    Marijuana’s Effect on the Amygdala

    Based on anecdotal evidence of marijuana’s ability to induce paranoia, a team of researchers at the University of Western Ontario decided to investigate the role of the endocannabinoid system in paranoid feelings. The study was published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

    Using rats that were trained to fear certain smells, the researchers tested the effect of blocking CB1 receptors – cannabinoid receptors found primarily in the brain – in the amygdala region of the brain.

    What they found seemed to explain why cannabis users have a tendency to feel paranoid. By blocking CB1 receptors, the rats failed to respond to the scents that they were trained to fear. On the other hand, when researchers gave the rats a synthetic version of THC and unblocked their CB1 receptors, the rats exhibited enhanced fear responses, demonstrating that marijuana could increase fear conditioning in the rats that were studied.

    What This Means For Your Health

    The results of this study might not come as much as a surprise to anyone who has used marijuana before, as paranoia seems to be an all-too-common side effect of the drug. However, what the results do tell us is that cannabis seems to enhance fear-based learning, explaining why users tend to overreact in stressful events while high.

    Still, the greatest fear of many marijuana users comes from studies which suggest that marijuana use may lead to permanent psychosis and schizophrenia.

    But for those who remain paranoid of developing a psychotic disorder, it may be a relief to know that evidence of a link is highly controversial. Experts have firmly stated that there are many other factors involved with developing schizophrenia, most of which are based on genetics.

    • Paranoia Management Coaching

      If there was a sound link between marijuana and paranoid schizophrenia or psychosis you would have seen a dramatic uptick in diagnoses for these illnesses in the 60s and 70s when cannabis use skyrocketed. Schizophrenia use during these decades remained static, hovering at 1-1.5% of the population

      • juan

        Hi.i really wanted to ask you smth and share my story to you. I used to smoke weed sometimes before 2 years. 2 years now i got paranoid and its still on me. I feel tired,i cant sleep,affraid that im gonna die or im gonna become silly,i have really weird feelings and seeing that i cant explain.will it ever overcome or how long it may last. Please help. Thank you

        • Paranoia Management Coaching

          Hi Juan! You can definitely overcome this. Some of the chronic anxieties and paranoias that I dealt with were utterly insane. If you’d like some help, please email — I’ll send you an automated intake form that you can fill out online that will give me a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with.

          • IheartLife

            I’m having the same exaxt problem just recently, and I’m trying to figure out what to do… I feel like every single person on earth is out to get me and its the scariest feeling ever

          • alienated

            I have a cousin that not only smokes marijuana on a daily basis but combines her smoking grass with medical marijuana as well. It has caused her to alienate and ostracize her entire family and she thinks every one of us is conspiring against her in some way. This makes rational conversations and discussions about this subject absolutely impossible so I have decided to no longer have any further dealings with her but also for other personal and family legal reasons as well. This is unfortunate because we used to be good friends and I admired her sense of humor and our ability to share almost anything until her paranoia made things extremely difficult. The sad thing is, like most drug users, they are unable to recognize the fact that they actually have a problem because of the paranoia which overwhelms all sense of reason.

        • lovely

          I have been feeling the same way, I feel like people or out to get me all the time

    • Pedro

      “Schizophrenia “use” during these decades remained static, hovering at 1-1.5% of the population” LOL that is hilarious ,great point though !

      • Paranoia Management Coaching

        Yes, schizophrenia use is a big problem these days.

    • Nightmare-Rex

      i’m not skizo and smoke weed sometimes i get paranoid other times i don;t artical makes no sense.

    • Kenny Rucka Jarvis

      I am a paranoid schizophrenic who has tried to smoke on a few occasions and i usually just find my self walking around trying to get rid of the buzz because it makes me fear for my life. I know going into smoking that it’s just the weed but once i get high it doesn’t matter it’s always the same effect i get super paranoid and end up pacing trying to wear off the high quicker. So all in all i cannot smoke and enjoy the high like my friends which sucks but i can live without it.

      • Mary

        That happens to me too.. Can a professional message me? I want to know how to overcome the paranoia and get back to smoking weed the way i used to..

      • Tanner

        Yea same thing happens to me sometimes but it really depends on the strain. I’ve also found that smoking outside at nighttime is really peaceful for me. I’m calmer

    • 420

      This article is created by anti marijuana campaigns. Let’s be truthful, now that it’s become popular big companies are starting to mess with the natural balance. Buy your own seeds and grow your own weed. We’d isn’t for everybody do if you don’t want to some it or like to be high than leave it alone. Fear mongering isn’t working to well for the incompetent article.

    • lov khatra

      hi helo,
      i want to ask you about my fear for life and death , i see everything bright like sharp pictures and i got afraid. i smoke Hash rarely but i am addicted to alcohol. tell me how to get rid of this phase of life.

    • George O

      The initial paranoia after smoking wears off after 20 or 30 minutes for me. It’s not pleasant at all but after it wears off I feel great.

    • Jebra! The Mexican Impregnator

      This is why I can’t smoke pot. The paranoia after the initial hi boost is not very comfortable.

    • RM

      I’ve had extreme anxiety (panic attacks), impulsivity, anger, and depression for my whole life and tried medical marijuana for awhile as a possible remedy. I found that small amounts of THC did nothing at all, and moderate-to-large doses (from edibles) sent me into panic overload, something way beyond paranoia. I wish someone could understand marijuana’s effect on the brain a little better but until then I’m done with it. :-/

    • Tony Montana

      Drinking is a lot more addictive and causes brain damage!!! Some pediatric DRUGS are worse!!!!!