Weed Makes You Paranoid? Good.


One of the biggest complaints I hear about cannabis is that it makes people feel “paranoid”. Well, sure. But I want to officially come out and say that I don’t think this is a bad thing. 

Cannabis paranoia gets a bad wrap, and yet we can leverage this elevated perspective for greater awareness and the promotion of self and others

Cannabis paranoia gets a bad wrap, and yet we can leverage this elevated perspective for greater awareness and the promotion of self and others

Weed paranoia gets a bad wrap, and I get it. Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable. That said, I’m a firm believer that occasional discomfort can provide utility to our lives. Without discomfort, we stay in the same, repeating patterns. It is through moments of discomfort that we are pushed to analyze our lives and make beneficial, thoughtful decisions about how we want to live our lives moving forward. Additionally, experiencing discomfort when reflecting on how our society treats others can spur positive activism and change.

Oftentimes, the people I meet who express an aversion to cannabis paranoia are those of the baby boomer generation. This makes sense, as many of them experienced cannabis paranoia when they were teenagers or young adults at a time when cannabis consumption was illegal. Any association with cannabis, pre-legalization, could have put someone’s livelihood and reputation at stake. People knew there was always a risk of police at the door. These anxieties were particularly heightened for people of color who smoked cannabis pre-legalization, as they were more likely to be targeted by police and incarcerated for their cannabis use.

I can personally relate to the terror associated with pre-legalization paranoia. I started smoking cannabis in 2006 at the ripe old age of 16. On occasion, I did experience pangs of fear and paranoia after smoking because I knew that, in the eyes of the law (not to mention my parents!), I was doing something that was deemed to be WRONG. 

However, the law is (slowly, painstakingly) starting to change. For instance, in my home state of Washington, I can freely and openly consume cannabis, as long as I am purchasing it legally and smoking in my own home. As a result, any paranoia I feel after consuming cannabis no longer has this prickly, crippling feeling. I have found that cannabis paranoia actually serves a greater purpose in my life.

Bouts of paranoia can be small or large. For instance, a paranoid thought might be as simple as “do I have something stuck in my teeth?”. Or paranoid questions may be more grave, such as “does our economic system keep poor people poor?”. Regardless of the scale of a paranoid thought, paranoia forces us to question and then encourages us to find the answers and information that we really need.  

Paranoia is simply the experience of thinking that something might be “amiss” in either our personal lives or broader societal realm. This pattern of thought can be healthy as long as it doesn’t dominate our entire perspective. Some have coined healthy paranoia as “prudent paranoia”. Being paranoid is basically heightened awareness; it is the opposite of naiveté. 

You see, the thing is that the cannabis plant will show you what you need to see. If you smoke and experience a touch of paranoia, then consider that the plant is showing you a little bit of tough love. It’s telling you that there may be something amiss and is arming you with a critical perspective rather than a reliance on blind trust.

Life in the modern world presents many challenges and potential pitfalls. And unfortunately, the truth is that the systems designed to support modern life are occasionally flawed and corrupt. 

Some examples: 

  • While I am so thankful to live in the United States, it is also true that there are some government agencies that are not protecting people in the ways they should be (ie: promoting corporate and lobbyist interests over human interests, seizing migrant parents away from their children and ignoring Constitutional rights, waging wars in pursuit of economic gains, etc.)

  • The internet is an amazing tool, and yet it opens us up to the risk of identify theft and is giving large corporations nearly free rein over our personal data

  • Banking institutions and credit card companies are crippling the poor and middle class through an endless cycle of credit offerings, high interest rates, and significant penalties when credits aren’t paid on time

With all of this going on, we need to stay on our toes to avoid potential pitfalls in order to promote our health and happiness. We need to be aware of risks that could put our family in danger. We need to be careful about who we trust, how we spend our time, and how we operate our lives. With a healthy dose of paranoia (and cannabis!), we are better primed to navigate these realities and walk around with eyes wide open

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So, if you experience paranoia the next time you smoke cannabis, I challenge you to view this feeling this as a beneficial opportunity to reflect as opposed to an undesirable nuisance. No tin foil hat required :)

Heather DagleyComment