Ultimate Guide on How to Relax with Cannabis and Avoid the Paranoia

Matt Weeks October 26, 2020 2 comments

Finding that sweet spot with THC can lead to a relaxing afternoon. Go past it, and you could be in for a ride.

If you’re taking cannabis to unwind, know your limits. Research has illuminated one of the fundamental paradoxes of the plant: while it’s consumed to be relaxing, too much can produce the opposite effect. For consumers who want to learn how to relax, it’s essential to understand a little bit of the science behind the de-stressing effects of cannabis. 

The golden rule of weed consumption is to start low and go slow. People who take too much cannabis can experience feelings of paranoia, increased heart rate, and even mild panic. For newcomers, it can be tricky to find that sweet spot. The idea is consume only enough cannabis to help you relax, without reaching the tipping point into bad vibes. And now, thankfully, science has evidence-based advice to aid in beating stress and learning how to relax.

Science Says Dosing is Important

To find this sweet spot of cannabis dosage, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers recruited healthy volunteers who regularly consume cannabis but don’t take it every day. 

They randomly dosed the volunteers with different amounts of pure THC and then monitored stress levels and gut feelings during and after completing stressful tasks. Since this was a double-blind test, participants did not know the dose of THC. Each person received a dose of THC that was either 0 mg, 7.5 mg, or 12.5 mg. 

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After the participants consumed the substance, researchers waited two-and-a-half hours. They then asked them to complete high-stress tasks. One was giving a five-minute speech and another was taking a five-minute oral math exam in front of two interviewers.  Before, during, and after the experiment, researchers surveyed the participants. Through this they monitored their feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear, and monitored vital signs like perspiration and heart rate.

How Much THC Should I Take?

The findings, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2017)[1]Childs, Emma et al. (2017). Dose-related effects of delta-9-THC on emotional responses to acute psychosocial stress. Drug and alcohol dependence vol. 177: 136-144. … Continue reading, show that the low dose of THC (7.5 mg) significantly reduced the duration of negative emotional responses to stressful tasks. This worked both in terms of hard, physical science and according to the participants’ subjective appraisals. This was in comparison to the participants who took a 0 mg dose — the control group.

In contrast, volunteers who were given the 12.5 mg dose of THC reported higher levels of stress. They also reported negative emotions, and anxiety both before and during the tasks. 

This agrees with previous research published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2008), showing that 7.5 mg of THC actually reduces the amygdala’s reactions to social threats and lessens the brain’s reaction to negative images. In other words, a dose of THC can dampen the brain’s over-reactions to negative modern stimuli, lessening our feelings of fear and anxiety.

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Low Dose THC Doesn’t Work for Everyone

So, what dose does this? It’s one thing to say that cannabis consumers who wish to understand how to relax should take 7.5 mg of THC. However, it’s a much harder thing to measure that amount. 

For consumers in legal states who have access to measured and regulated THC capsules, taking a 7.5 mg dose may be easy. For everyone else, it’s a harder target to hit. 

A typical joint contains about 33 mg of THC. So, taking only 7.5 mg may be just a couple puffs. But then again, a typical joint doesn’t contain only THC. It also includes CBD, which has been shown to counteract the effects of THC.

So, the practical applications of this research are not as easily applied to real life. Still, they provide some good guidelines on the amount of THC a person should ingest: A pretty small quantity.

If you want to learn how to relax with cannabis, it’s best to lay off the concentrates. Even joints rolled with cannabis high in CBD should be smoked with caution. Start with a couple of puffs and wait a bit (10 or 15 minutes should do) to see how you feel.

When it comes to edibles, it’s advisable to take even more caution. These creep up slowly due to the trip through the digestive system. Many a cautionary tale has been written on the floor after impatiently consuming more edibles before the first batch kicked in. So, inexperienced consumers should begin with very small portions and wait the full two hours before deciding to take more. Additionally, they could eliminate some unknowns by buying edibles from reputable cannabis stores that list THC and CBD potencies on the label. 

Other Ways to Relax

Of course, all of this data is still on a spectrum of individual experience. Cannabis is subject to tolerance effects, meaning the more you regularly consume, the more you’ll need to achieve the same results. 

Newcomers should opt for less than the research-mandated 7.5 mg of THC because the study employed regular cannabis consumers. Meanwhile, more experienced consumers may want to up their magic number to 10 mg or even higher. Go slow to see if this produces the desired relaxing effect. 

For those looking to start with a low dose, there are ways to make low-dose cannabis cocktails, and don’t forget to pick the right strains formulated for ultimate relaxation. 

Another option for consumers at all levels is to forget about THC and opt for CBD. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a high nor does it lead to feelings of anxiety and paranoia. If you’re only concerned about how to relax, starting with or switching to straight CBD is a good way to achieve an easy mellow. Plus, it’s legal (nearly) everywhere and readily available. 

Just be sure to pick a good brand that’s been third-party tested. CBD oils with low quality control methods may contain THC that could ruin your relaxation. 


Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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  1. Hello! Thank you very much for such an informative article. This is really a very important thing that should not be forgotten or underestimated. After all, paranoia is a very serious matter. I am of the opinion that if you have at least one person with mental disorders in your family, then you should not use THC, because you are already more predisposed to such things. It seems to me that in this case it would be the best solution to replace THC with CBD or CBG, it will be safer for your psyche. Take care of yourself and be healthy

  2. CBD is much safer these days in every sense. Is it worth smoking marijuana if you can consume delicious hemp oil? I think the answer is obvious.