Moments after you feel the effects, your heart begins to race to the point where you can see your chest rising rapidly. You can feel your heart beating throughout your body and suddenly the left side of your chest starts feeling heavy. For many, especially new smokers, these symptoms can induce a full-blown panic attack.
There are a couple of reasons you could be experiencing heart palpitations, so let’s explore those and ways to avoid it in the future! The first culprit is probably the thing you like best about your cannabis: THC. THC is known for increasing your heart rate. This cannabinoid is actually a vasodilator, which means that it makes the blood vessels expand. In turn this will lower blood pressure and cause the heart rate to increase to make up for low pressure. So, a little “buzz” going in your heart when you smoke is to be expected, but ideally, it shouldn’t be so fast or strong that it makes you freak out.
But before you lose hope, there are several things that can be done to lessen the increased heart rate and the associated panic attacks without quitting cannabis.
Check THC Levels.
If you find that this happens to you way too often, all you need to do is switch to check the THC levels of the pot you’ve been smoking. Opting for strains that contain lower amounts of THC may be effective in reducing palpitations or eliminating them completely; try smoking strains with 10% THC or less.
If you don’t think the THC levels are the culprit, next you should next check the strain.
There is no strain that will completely negate the racing heartbeat caused by cannabis. But, there are some that are better than others. If you can chose, smoke a heavy indica. Indicas give a much more relaxed high due to their high CBD content, a compound, which can counteract THC. Make sure you’re in a relaxing environment when you smoke, whatever that may be for you. Sativa strains are more energizing and uplifting which can cause some users to experience anxiety or panic, which will then lead to palpitations and paranoia. If you’ve been smoking sativa strains often, try switching to indica or indica-dominant hybrids and see how it goes. If you’re looking for a strain that will negate this effect entirely, you’re looking for a strain that won’t get you high.
Drinking water increases blood pressure by adding to your blood supply – 55% of blood is plasma and 92% of plasma is water, in principle the more water you drink the less your heart will race (but don’t overdo it). Water can also help with panic attacks. Panic attacks are defense mechanisms of our body, we feel intense fear and our body goes into panic mode, releasing adrenaline for a fight or flight response. By drinking water, we give our body the all clear signal – your body realizes that you’re probably not running from a tiger if you’re taking a nice long swig of cold water. Make sure you’re well hydrated before and during your next high.
Don’t Smoke as Much at One Time.
Microdose by taking a hit or two and give your body some time to adjust to the THC. You can always smoke more, but you cannot put back what you’ve already inhaled. Remember that your high won’t develop until around 15 minutes, so the best thing you can do is sit and wait it out before you decided to reach for another puff.
Get Some Rest.
A healthy sleep schedule has shown to exponentially decrease one’s risk for heart disease, and sleeping in general is good for blood pressure and heart health. Plenty of sleep will also help one become less prone to panic attacks.
Don’t Let the Panic Consume You.
The mind is a powerful thing, and when your mind is overwhelmed with fear it will cause your heart to race whether your blood vessels are dilated or not. If your heart begins to race, don’t overthink it! This will only worsen the situation and can ruin your entire experience.
The most important thing you should remember is that this is normal. Palpitations are also more common among novice smokers; once you start getting used to marijuana eventually you’ll also increase your tolerance to its heart-rate accelerating effects. As long as you don’t have existing cardiovascular problems, palpitations will not have a permanent effect on your health nor is it a cause for concern. Humans have been consuming cannabis in all forms for millennia now and no one has died from it; our ancestors may even have smoked much more potent stuff and also worked through the same anxiety that we experience today. Remember that cannabis is a natural non-toxic plant, and hundreds of millions of years of evolution have made both humans and cannabis fit for each other. But still, respect your body’s limits and be careful!