weed hangover

De-Mistifying Cannabis: Is the “Weed Hangover” a Thing?

Long before the renaissance era of legit canna-connoisseurs we’re currently living in, the fact is that marijuana was hard to separate from counterculture. And while those early days were beautiful in many ways, they also birthed a whole scroll of marijuana myths, rumors and tall tales, from “weed is legal in Holland” to “marijuana is a gateway drug.” 

The concept of the weed hangover exists somewhere in between hearsay and fact. The studies we have are limited, so much of what we know about whether or not it exists relies on anecdotal evidence. Briefly, while some people do report feeling hangover-like symptoms after smoking, there’s not much hard evidence to suggest that cannabis itself causes those feelings. Still, there are a few precautions you can take to make sure you have a great high and still feel great the next day.

Marijuana Hangovers: The Studies

Largely because federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, vetted research on this specific subject is slow and spotty. The first notable study we have comes from 1985, a Drug and Alcohol Dependence trial that examined only 13 marijuana users and concluded that “marijuana smoking can produce residual (hangover) effects the day after smoking,” but that “the precise nature and extent of these effects […] remain to be determined.”  

In 1990, the same lead researcher returned with a study in Psychopharmacology, this time administering 40 “standardized puffs” to 12 cannabis users over the course of the weekend. That researcher, L.D. Chait of the University of Chicago, suggests here that “marijuana smoking was not associated with a ‘hangover’ syndrome similar to those reported after use of alcohol.”  More recently, a 2006 study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology specifically investigating weed hangovers at work reported that hangover-like symptoms may occur, but concluded that those effects depend on how frequently an individual uses cannabis.  

Takeaways From the Evidence

Essentially, the evidence we’re dealing with falls into two categories: scientific studies and self-reported, anecdotal evidence from individuals. As we’ve seen, the studies basically contradict themselves, but the anecdotal evidence doesn’t seem to suggest that cannabis is the direct culprit behind hangover-like symptoms that a handful of users may experience.

Speaking to Ember in 2021, cannabis researcher Dr. Tory Spindle of Johns Hopkins University says, “I’m just going to be honest: I haven’t really heard many cannabis users speak about how they’ve experienced a weed hangover. In fact, it’s more likely that people say that they use cannabis because they don’t like getting hangovers from alcohol.” In terms of the studies, Dr. Spindle points out, “It seems like some people have a mild cognitive impairment the next day. Some people don’t, and it really depends on the study and it probably has a lot to do with the dose given and just the characteristics of the people in the study.”

Best Care Practices

If you are one of the folks who experience hangover-like symptoms after using cannabis, your experience is valid — and there are a few tried-and-true steps you can take to help mitigate these next-day feelings. Because the reported symptoms are often dose-based, regulating the amount of THC in your intake is a safe bet. Try a strain with a lower THC concentration or use a vape pen so that you can easily control the dosage of each pull (our Mistifi pens, for instance, dole out about 200 draws per pen). 

Eating well while smoking can help mitigate lethargy (check out our guide to healthy munchies for a kick of inspiration), while staying well-hydrated throughout your high can also help prevent dry mouth. Likewise, simple dehydration is often the cause of weed headaches (and just plain old headaches), as High Times reminds us. For an even better morning after, avoid mixing cannabis with alcohol and focus on getting a healthy night’s sleep. Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding light disruption with masks or curtains, sticking to a fixed wake-up time and sleep amount as best you can, and winding down for at least 30 minutes before you cut out all those blue-light devices and hit the hay. 

If you’re prone to these feelings, it’s possible that using edibles may heighten them. While not necessarily what we’d call a traditional, alcohol-like “hangover,” the fact that edibles first have to metabolize in your liver not only means it takes them longer to kick in, it also means that the high lingers in your body significantly longer — sometimes up to eight hours after ingestion. Inhaling cannabis makes for a quicker onset and typically has you back at ground zero in no more than five hours. 

The simple acts of taking a walk in the fresh air, soaking in a tub or shower, eating a good meal, having a bit of caffeine or an over-the-counter pain reliever and drinking lots of water (or ginger tea, as Healthline recommends) can also help alleviate hangover-like feelings when they occur. And of course, this old sage wisdom almost always applies to cannabis use, but it applies doubly so here as we’re directly dealing with how dosages affect your experience — so say it with us: Start low, and go slow.

Dan Ketchum is an LA-based freelance lifestyle, fashion, health and food writer with more than a decade of experience. He’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as FOCL, Vitagenne, Livestrong, Reign Together, Out East Rosé, SFGate, The Seattle Times and more.

References:

Ember – Are ‘Weed Hangovers’ Real? We Got an Expert To Weigh In

High Times – Can You Get a Hangover From Weed?

NIH National Library of Medicine – Drug and Alcohol Dependence: ‘Hangover’ Effects the Morning After Marijuana Smoking

SpringerLink – Psychopharmacology: Subjective and Behavioral Effects of Marijuana the Morning After Smoking

NIH National Library of Medicine – Cannabis Use, Cognitive Performance and Mood in a Sample of Workers

Healthline – How To Conquer a Weed Hangover

Sleep Foundation – Healthy Sleep Tips

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