“I was reading one of your articles online about ‘greening out’ or what happens when you smoke too much weed. I am overseas and have no health coverage and don’t know how I can get this question answered. Long story short I had never smoked weed and decided to try it. I took two hits of a bong and greened out. Experienced nausea, anxiety, cotton mouth
and a loss of time. Things such as looking around became strange as well and my body felt light and different. Safe to say it was the first and last time. That was three months ago. I do have this fear that I have ‘destroyed’ my brain as a result of this or caused some sort of permanent damage. Is that a known side-effect? It really is giving me great anxiety …”
To be honest it sounds as though you simply experienced a cannabis ‘high’ rather than actually ‘greening out’! Many people who experiment with a drug for the first time, including cannabis, are not completely prepared for the experience and when it starts to have an effect it is not always what they expected. They then try to fight the feeling and this results in anxiety and panic. That’s what this sounds like … This is why so many people try cannabis once, find out that it doesn’t agree with them and choose to never use it again.
‘Greening out’ (also known as ‘whiting out’) is often described as a ‘cannabis overdose’ and is a term used to describe a situation where a person feels sick after smoking cannabis. They go pale (turning ‘green’ or ‘white’) and start to sweat; they feel dizzy and nauseous, and may even start vomiting. The experience can be quite frightening and users can become very anxious and start to panic. In extreme cases, the person may experience prolonged vomiting and even hallucinations. Cannabis users often report that the only way they can alleviate these symptoms is to lie down.
Greening out is much more likely to occur if the user has been drinking alcohol before they start smoking. Research evidence shows that because there is alcohol in the bloodstream, the THC (the part of cannabis that gets you stoned) is absorbed much faster. This can result in a much stronger and often far more unpleasant effect than usual. First-time cannabis users can often report similar experiences, although not quite so extreme (but still very unpleasant nevertheless) – they just weren’t prepared for the effects of the drug.
This can be a traumatic experience, whether you were on your own or if it happened at a party or gathering with other people around, and for some people, it can take them some time to completely recover. Have you ‘destroyed’ your brain or caused some permanent damage as a result of this ‘one-time’ experimentation? That is highly unlikely. As I said in a previous posting ‘Can smoking weed once have a lasting effect?’ – you would have to be incredibly unlucky for this to happen as it appears to be regular use that causes the greatest problems. That said, a one-time use can lead to a terrifying experience, usually associated with anxiety or a panic attack, and it may be something you never forget! Most importantly, if you continue to feel anxious about what happened it is most probably best if you speak to a health professional about your concerns. Your growing anxiety could become a bigger problem than the actual experience you had …
First published: April 2017
Reviewed and updated: March 2018