Picture this scene:
You’re smoking some after-work weed with your friends & colleagues on Friday night. It’s been a long work week, and you barely had any time to eat something quick before making it to this last-minute shindig. There is some drinking going on as well as smoking, edibles, dabbing and all the cannabis fun you’re used to. Because you arrived late, you immediately light up a big blunt to try and catch up to your fellow stoners. You’re having fun and feeling good until…
You wake up, dazed. You’re laying on a couch with a bunch of concerned friends crowded around you. Apparently it’s been almost an hour since you passed out after a bong hit. You’ve never fainted while high before… You’re worried about what caused you to faint after smoking weed…
Even if you’re the most seasoned stoner, this can happen to you. Sometimes no matter how much dro you’ve smoked, dabbed, dropped or rubbed on, a certain strain or batch of buds can take you down a rabbit hole - such is the nature of psychoactive substances. Although many people’s tolerances can change over time - which can be affected by weed withdrawal symptoms - we can usually maintain a strong grasp on how weed makes us feel.
If you’ve ever passed out after a bong hit or taken too many edibles and fainted while too high, you know it can take you a day or two to overcome the mind fog of getting blitzed. What are the most common occurrences of fainting after smoking weed? Can weed make you pass out even if you’re experienced? What are the signs & symptoms of fainting while high? Let’s wake up to the facts of why marijuana makes some people faint.
It might come as no surprise to anyone who has eaten way too many pot cookies, or passed out after a bong hit big enough to choke an elephant, but yes weed can make you pass out. Even if you’re the most experienced stoner in your group of friends, or you always consume the same strains, same doses for consistent reasons, cannabis can sneak up on you from time-to-time. Tolerances to cannabinoids & terpenes can shift with each new crop, fluctuate between different batches within the total harvest, or change alongside your fitness, diet and other personal, biochemical factors.
Cannabis comes in so many forms and in so many varieties that it’s nearly impossible to catalog how each kind will make you feel. Not only does each cultivar exhibit unique formulations of phytocompounds, what we know of cannabinoids & terpenes is limited to the small amount of research we’ve been able to compile thus far. So to recap:
We don’t know enough about how/what/why active compounds in cannabis form the way they do, AND we’re largely ignorant of the true interactions between our brains, bodies and cannabinoids & terpenes.
Suffice it to say, we’re in the early stages of developing understanding of how cannabis affects human health & wellness. Yes cannabis can be of great benefit to your wellbeing by fighting pain, easing swelling, helping you to sleep and calming nerves. Yes we know some information about cannabis genetics, cultivation and processing to the point where we can achieve significant potency & variability of weed products. Yes we are looking into further exploring the benefits of cannabis & hemp derived phytocompounds.
Another “yes” surrounds the fact that we know some surface reasons for why fainting while high can be so common. Fainting after smoking weed isn’t particularly common, but among newbie cannabis users it can happen enough to be concerning. Just like with your first experimentations with alcohol, you have to be extremely careful how much, how often and how quickly you consume mind-altering substances.
Some of the most common symptoms of passing out from weed are:
Paleness, loss of blood in face and/or extremities
Blurred/loss of vision
Loss of short- and long-term memory
Surges or nausea, can lead to actual vomiting or diarrhea
Lightheadedness, weakness, muscle atrophy
Changes in body temperature (hot to cold, vice versa)
Cotton mouth/dry mouth
The risks to your health from fainting after smoking weed or consuming edibles can vary, but generally speaking these encompass the negative effects from passing out after a bong hit or dab:
Physical trauma to your head such as concussions, musculoskeletal injuries, scrapes, cuts and bruising to any parts of your body that come into contact with surrounding constructs, objects or terrain.
Mental health conditions like anxiety or depression are common after episodes of lost consciousness, in addition to physical damage to your brain or spine which in-turn can greatly impact your mood & mental wellbeing.
Post-fainting, many people feel overwhelmed and go through mood swings, periods of fear or sadness, and experience difficulties processing emotions.
For these reasons in particular, it’s never a good idea to take what a person who fainted while high says or does too seriously. If you’ve ever been around someone who passed out you’ll know that they come to in a whirl of confusion, anger, frustration, sadness or even panic. Fainting is essentially an overload of mental or physical stress that causes your brain to enter ‘shutdown mode’, leading you to collapse instantaneously as your body’s motor functions short-circuit for a brief period of time. Being over-intoxicated or experiencing intense psychoactivity can cause these similar ‘short circuits’ in your brain’s ability to cope with how you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing.
Simply put, cannabis doesn’t cause you actual harm that stops your mind or body from working, but it can overwhelm your senses, your cognition and your motor skills if you get too high, too quickly, or too frequently.
Now that we know some of what’s going on when someone faints after smoking weed, we should spend a bit of time trying to figure out what causes fainting while high on cannabis. Have you ever passed out after gymming while high on cannabis? Or did you pass pass out after a bong hit that you've done a hundred times before? What’s actually going on inside your head when loss of consciousness occurs.? On top of the disruptions in your normal functionality, we’ll look at what kinds of things contribute to people fainting from weed, such as nutrition, sleep and mood.
There are three major types of fainting from weed. For each of the following conditions associated with passing out after a bong hit, we’ll also provide some solutions to avoiding fainting after smoking weed.
Vasovagal syncope occurs whenever you are confronted with something truly shocking, frightening or otherwise negatively impactful. This could be the sight of a bloody injury, or the news that a loved one has been gravely injured. Everyone’s triggers can be unique to them, but generally speaking a vasovagal syncope episode is your body’s response to traumatic stimuli. This kind of fainting spell is much like the others - your nervous system responsible for cardiovascular functionality can shut down or experience a glitch, hence the loss of consciousness.
Vasovagal syncope isn’t considered to be a serious condition, so when it occurs it’s best to hydrate the person, help them to calm down and get back to their senses. Guiding a person who has recently fainted while high can be corrected by leading them to a dark, quiet room and getting them to drink some water while maintaining conversation with you.
Carotid syncopes involve your carotid artery, like its name suggests. When this primary artery becomes constricted or obstructed it can lead to severe bouts of unconsciousness as the carotid vessels are responsible for significant volumes of blood throughout the brain/body. People with arterial or cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, hypertension, blood sugar (diabetes) or epilepsy/seizure disorders are typically on high-alert for these kinds of associative fainting spells.
Carotid syncope episodes can be more serious than vasovagal ones because of the potential for more serious, short- and long-term symptoms of other conditions - i.e. heart failure, organ failure, blood clots, strokes, etc.
Situational syncopes aren’t any more complicated than their name suggests - it’s situational. Depending on your stress-levels, hydration, nutrition, fatigue, or other factors on your mental & physical health can contribute to situational fainting. Blockages in your urinary tracts, constipation or cramping, extreme nausea or pain in the abdomen, lack of nutrients like iron or protein, or a variety of other extraneous factors can cause this wide range of situational syncopes.
Although these aren’t considered to be serious to your health, these kinds of fainting spells are so common and easy to fall victim to. It goes without saying that even though they may be minor, passing out after a bong hit can cause some serious damage to your brain if it happens frequently.
Vasovagal, Carotid and Situational syncopes are also greatly influenced by what a person has eaten (or not eaten), how energetic they are (or how tired they are) in addition to general levels of calm (or stress). These diet, fitness, sleep and mood factors can be as simple as getting more rest in a day or as complicated as requiring medication to correct. Fainting is on a wide spectrum of seriousness, especially when you’re considering the influences of cannabis and how they can complicate how you’re feeling vs what you’re experiencing. Vasovagal syncopes can sometimes just feel like couch lock - dizz
Vasovagal syncopes can sometimes just feel like couch lock - bouts of dizziness like with vertigo, or serious seizure episodes such as is the case with epileptics. These episodes of loss of consciousness shouldn't be too frequent, so you don't have to worry too much about fainting after smoking weed. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand the causes of fainting while high on cannabis and you should have an understanding of fainting, seizures and other conditions that cause you to lose consciousness because they can collectively lead to more serious health effects.
Here are a few simple things you can do to avoid passing out after weed, whether you want to prevent these kinds of syncopes from happening or at least reduce their impacts on your health:
After you’ve passed out, or before you feel the lightheadedness coming on too strongly, it’s always a good idea to lie down, sit in a comfy chair and just relax. Proactive relaxation can stave off a number of undesirable states of being, fainting among them. Whether you actually fall asleep or just give yourself a chance to re-orient, forcing yourself to sit or lie down can save you from a lot of literal & figurative headaches.
Hydration is such an important, and yet overlooked, component of your daily health & wellbeing. Whether you need to drink more water, could use some soothing herbal tea, or require a jolt of energy from a warm cup of coffee, staying hydrated is key to avoiding bouts of fainting while you’re high on cannabis. Obviously, drinking alcohol and ingesting cannabis don’t mix, so when we say “keep drinking” we don’t mean beers, cocktails or glasses of wine.
In many ways variety is the spice of life - but it can also be the very thing that helps you to overcome issues with passing out from certain kinds of weed. If you’ve experienced losses of consciousness from a particular strain, edible, concentrate or any kind of cannabis product, switching to a new product can be just what the doctor ordered. Always pay close attention to the cannabinoids formulation of the last product you consumed before passing out - maybe a switch from high-THC to high-CBD is in order until you get your feet back under you.
Speaking of switching it up, dose strength is often to blame for a stoner’s recent spell of dizziness or fainting. If you get too high, too quickly you’ll be at risk of fainting after smoking weed. Even if you feel okay after a particularly high dose of THC, it can creep up on you and cause a number of health issues - like with the delayed effects of edibles and how they can wreak havoc. Next round, take a lower dose and wait & see how it makes you feel before continuing on with your usual marijuana intake
Sometimes sobering up from weed is the only thing you can do - even if you feel okay before, you just might not be ready for a party full of pot, people and a plethora of fun. There are times when the best thing you can do for your health is to just skip the festivities, get some shuteye and try again the next day. Medicine - and cannabis, in particular - can only do so much for you; if you’re beyond exhausted and you’re fighting to stay up and enjoy a hangout, you run the risk of causing your brain & body to shutdown to force you to get some proper sleep. Don’t let yourself get to this point by getting sufficient sleep - it’s so important for so many aspects of our health.