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Why Does Smoking Cannabis Make You Feel Tired?

Several studies could point towards a more complex link between cannabis and the feeling of tiredness experienced after smoking.

Every regular cannabis smoker has experienced drowsiness, lethargy, or a general lack of motivation after or while smoking weed. Many will shrug this off as the nature of a specific strain, while some may find these attributes desirable—especially if insomnia is an issue. Newly published research may point to excessive cannabis consumption as a cause of long-term feelings of drowsiness or laziness. For those choosing to use recreational cannabis to avoid the hangover or comedown of other drugs, this strategy may prove somewhat ineffective.

DOES SMOKING WEED MAKE YOU LAZY?

A strong indica strain will undoubtedly knock you down onto the sofa, where, let’s be honest, not a lot gets done. For a vast majority, this is a desirable trait, and the reason users choose indica strains to begin with. If you enjoy smoking cannabis and live an otherwise active lifestyle, then smoking will not suddenly make you lazy or lethargic for the long-haul. The answer to why marijuana makes us feel drowsy and in turn, less motivated, could actually come down to the way THC is absorbed and subsequently interacts with the neurotransmitter dopamine.

IS THC TO BLAME?

Published by The National Institute For Biotechnology Information, the following research points to an apparent reduction in dopamine levels as a result of excessive cannabis use. In summary, the study found that heavy smokers of cannabis, those who were borderline dependent, produced significantly less dopamine than that of non-smokers or light users.

Using a sample group of 19 frequent cannabis smokers and 19 non-smokers, this study stands out because, although similar tests have been undertaken before, none have included active smokers. Importantly, the frequent cannabis smokers had all admitted to suffering from psychotic-like symptoms when smoking, a sign of excessive use.

Michael Bloomfield, PhD stated that “After a period of time, your brain cells aren’t able to make as much tyrosine hydroxylase, an important enzyme that’s a key component in making dopamine”.

This stunting of chemical processes is a result of the way the cannabinoid THC interacts with our body’s natural endocannabinoid system.

WHY IS DOPAMINE IMPORTANT?

With heavy THC consumption seemingly impacting dopamine levels, what does the release of dopamine mean to our bodies? Dopamine acts as a regulator for effort threshold—how much effort is required to complete a task and what the rewards are. Those with higher levels of dopamine are more likely to undertake functions that require energy. Dopamine also plays a role in giving us that “rewarding” feeling when taking part in pleasurable activities like sex, eating, and exercise. If the level of dopamine released during these activities is reduced, then it stands to reason that motivation to perform would also decrease.

ARE TERPENES AS IMPORTANT AS CANNABINOIDS?

Cannabis is a complex organism. Alongside key cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBN, cannabis contains terpenes. These molecules provide the vast array of aromas we have come to love. More than that though, theorists suggest that terpenes work in unison with cannabinoids to boost or enhance the relative effect.

A 2011 study examined the impact of the terpene myrcene. Myrcene is known for giving cannabis a musky, mango-like aroma. Furthermore, myrcene was found to induce a hypnotic effect, as well as display muscle-relaxant properties. Combined with THC, these two compounds work in conjunction to make individuals feel tired. Previous studies have found similar attributes with the terpene linalool, although this time, linalool partnered with CBD to produce a drowsy effect.

DOES CANNABIS IMPACT HOW WELL WE SLEEP?

Playing a potential role in reducing dopamine levels, what else can smokers expect THC to impact? Well, the answer may reside in the land of Nod. Anecdotal evidence from users would suggest we sleep better after smoking cannabis. Many have reported that we sleep so much better that the feeling of drowsiness can be hard to shake the morning after. With so many swearing by cannabis as a sleep aid, what scientific research is there to support this thesis?

Two studies, the first conducted in 1975 and more recently in 2004, delivered relatively inconclusive results. Both noted a decrease in REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep phase), but our deep sleep phase remained roughly the same. It could be surmised that a reduction in REM sleep could result in the feeling of increased tiredness experienced the morning after smoking cannabis.

Both investigations have something in common—the vast number of variables yet to be explored. The results are still too inconclusive to draw a satisfactory conclusion. Instead, further studies will be needed, in which sample size, age of participants, strains smoked, and any previous medical issues, etc are taken into account. One thing is for sure; there does seem to be some correlation between smoking cannabis and the feeling of tiredness. The exact cause of this phenomenon is still unknown.

HOW TO COUNTERACT TIREDNESS AFTER SMOKING

What does that mean for us? Well, for now, the usual rules apply. Enjoy cannabis as you usually would, while being aware that every user will experience symptoms differently. If you do find yourself having periods of drowsiness or lethargy the morning after smoking cannabis, then a few simple steps can be taken to counteract this.

These include selecting a strain with less THC, smoking less, and hydrating. And of course, exercise, a healthy diet, and good ole coffee can help shake the fatigue as well; be it a result of smoking weed or not.

Numerous users will have experienced drowsiness when smoking cannabis. Is this a natural reaction, or is there a long-term impact on our bodies?

How to Conquer a Weed Hangover

Despite some debate over their validity, weed hangovers are likely real. While research on the subject is limited, anecdotal reports suggest that smoking marijuana can trigger next-day symptoms in some people.

Despite the similar names, weed hangovers aren’t quite the same as those brought on by alcohol. And for many, weed hangovers tend to be more tolerable than alcohol-related ones.

Common symptoms of a weed hangover include:

  • fatigue
  • lethargy
  • brain fog
  • dry eyes and mouth
  • headaches
  • mild nausea

Read on for tips on how to deal with these effects and to learn more about the debate within the medical community over whether weed hangovers are indeed a thing.

A weed hangover will typically go away on its own. There isn’t much you can do for an immediate fix, but these tips can offer relief:

  • Stay hydrated. The most important thing you can do before, during, and after weed use is drink enough water. This will help relieve symptoms such as headaches, dry mouth, and dry eyes.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast. Opt for a healthy, balanced breakfast the morning after weed use. Try a small serving of whole-grain carbohydrates along with a lean source of protein and healthy fat.
  • Take a shower. A shower can help you to feel refreshed and hydrated the morning after smoking weed. The steam from a hot shower can open your airways.
  • Make some ginger tea.Ginger can help with digestive symptoms, such as nausea. Add a bit of grated ginger to hot water with lemon and honey to soothe an upset stomach.
  • Drink caffeine. A cup of coffee or caffeinated tea can help you feel more alert.
  • Try CBD. Some anecdotal reports suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) can counteract some of the symptoms associated with a weed hangover. Just steer clear of any preparations containing THC.
  • Take a pain reliever. For a persistent headache, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

If you can, try to take it easy for the rest of the day. With a good night’s rest, you should wake up feeling like yourself again.

If you’re feeling a little off after using weed, it may not necessarily be a hangover that you’re experiencing.

Here’s some other potential culprits:

  • Drinking alcohol or using other drugs while using weed. If you tend to consume other substances while smoking marijuana, they might affect how you feel the next morning.
  • Marijuana withdrawal. If you smoke weed on a regular basis, it’s possible to experience withdrawal symptoms when you aren’t smoking. Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include changes in mood, insomnia, and difficulty focusing.
  • Lingering effects of weed. How long a weed high lasts depends on factors such as dose, concentration, and delivery method, in addition to your own tolerance and metabolism. Most of the time, a marijuana high lasts between one and four hours.

If at least five hours have passed since you last used weed, and you haven’t had any alcohol or used other substances, you’re likely just experiencing the after effects of weed.

There isn’t much evidence surrounding weed hangovers. Existing studies are often outdated or have major limitations.

Older studies

One well-known study on weed hangovers dates back to 1985. In the study, 13 males participated in a series of sessions that involved smoking either a weed cigarette or a placebo cigarette and then completing a series of tests.

The tests included sorting cards and judging time intervals. When the tests were repeated the following morning, the group that smoked weed cigarettes judged time intervals to be 10 or 30 seconds longer than they actually were.

The authors concluded that, although the day-after effects of smoking weed may be subtle, they probably exist. However, this study’s small sample size and all-male participants are significant limitations.

A 1990 study had similar limitations. It involved 12 male marijuana users who smoked marijuana over one weekend and a placebo over another, then completed a series of subjective and behavioral tests. But these authors concluded that weed didn’t seem to have much of an effect the following morning.

Recent research

More recently, a 2017 study explored perspectives toward medical cannabis among people with chronic pain. One of the self-reported undesirable effects of marijuana was a hangover described as a foggy, non-alert feeling in the morning.

However, the authors of the study did not indicate how many participants reported this effect.

A 2015 review on the use of medical marijuana recommends that healthcare professionals teach patients about the hangover effect. It also recommends describing it as lasting at least one day after the last time marijuana was used.

more research is needed

There are, of course, numerous anecdotal reports of marijuana hangovers, suggesting they are possible. More research needs to be done to understand causes, symptoms, and risk factors associated with weed hangovers as well as recommended self-care.

In addition, most of the studies described above focused on the morning-after effects of smoking a small amount of marijuana. Research exploring the effects of overconsumption is also needed.

The only way to guarantee you won’t have a weed hangover is to avoid weed. Still, there are plenty of things you can due to minimize the negative effects of weed.

  • Avoid smoking weed the night before an important activity. If you tend to experience weed hangovers, try to avoid using marijuana the night before something important, such as an exam or stressful day at work.
  • Take days off. If possible, avoid using weed on a daily basis. Continuous weed use can build up your tolerance, which might eventually trigger withdrawal symptoms in the morning.
  • Limit your use. You might be more likely to experience a weed hangover if you overconsume. Decide on an appropriate quantity before you get high, and stick with that.
  • Try low-THC marijuana. THC is the active ingredient in weed. No one’s totally sure how THC affects weed hangover symptoms, but it’s worth trying low-THC strains to see if they help prevent morning-after symptoms.
  • Use caution when trying a new product. You might find you react differently to weed depending on the dose, concentration, and method of delivery. When trying something for the first time, start with a low dose.
  • Don’t mix it with other substances. The morning-after effects of weed might be more intense if you tend to smoke weed while also drinking or using other drugs.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about the effects of weed and medication. Remember that any over-the-counter or prescription medication you take can interact with weed. This could affect how you feel in the morning.

Contrary to popular belief, weed can be addictive. The more often you use it, the more likely you are to become dependent on it.

If you regularly experience weed hangovers, they could be a sign that you’re overdoing it. If you’re having a hard time curbing your use, it may be time to reach out to your doctor for help.

Other potential signs of weed misuse include:

  • using it on a daily or near-daily basis
  • experiencing cravings for it
  • spending a lot of time thinking about it or obtaining it
  • using more over time
  • using more than you intended
  • continuing to use it despite negative consequences
  • keeping a constant supply
  • spending a lot of money on it, even when you can’t afford it
  • avoiding situations or places where you can’t use it
  • driving or operating machinery while high
  • trying and failing to stop using it
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop

"Weed hangover" is a casual term used to refer to the lingering effects of weed. We'll offer some tips for relief, take a look at the research behind this phenomenon, and give you some guidance on how to prevent them in the future.