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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?

What Happens To Your Body The Morning After Smoking Weed

Why you feel blah after eating that brownie.

If you’ve ever been hungover from drinking, then you already know how one night of boozy indulgence can really mess with your mood, well-being, and productivity the next day. And you might have found yourself in a similar sitch the day after eating both halves of a pot brownie. But are weed hangovers real? Some cannabis consumers swear they’ve endured weed-related hangover symptoms, but the experience is far from universal.

If you’ve experienced weird symptoms after staying away from weed for a while, it’s possible that your body has become used to a certain amount of cannabis regularly, and is having difficulty adjusting. “Marijuana withdrawal would be a more appropriate name for [a weeed hangover]” Dr. Scott Braunstein M.D., medical director of healthcare organization Sollis Health, tells Bustle. But a lot of the research on cannabis hangovers is based on people who use it heavily, seven times or more per month, and there’s not a lot of studies about occasional users and how they feel the morning after a big night.

With all of that in mind, here are four commonly reported symptoms of a weed hangover, why they happen, and what you can do to make yourself feel better if you ever experience one.

1. Headaches

Dr. Jordan Tishler M.D., an emergency medicine physician and cannabis specialist, tells Bustle that headaches are more likely to happen while you’re still intoxicated. If your head aches the morning after, you might just be dehydrated. A review of cannabis withdrawal symptoms after heavy use published in Current Addiction Reports in 2018 found that headache was a common symptom, along with chills and shakiness. It’s not really clear why this happens, but it’s possible that it’s to do with brain activity.

“Cannabis binds to neuron receptors, and has a complicated effect on neurotransmitters in the brain,” Dr. Braunstein says. “In chronic users, the brain becomes accustomed to a high level of dopamine.” Dopamine is is a neurotransmitter that plays a big role in sensations of pleasure and reward. Without cannabis, dopamine levels can crash possibly leading to migraine, as one 2017 study published in Neurology found. But it’s not clear if all these puzzle pieces fit together for weed smokers.

The next time you spend your Saturday night getting baked with friends, just be sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your cannabis adventures.

2. Brain Fog

Of all the reported symptoms of a “weed hangover,” Dr. Tishler says brain fog and fatigue are the ones he anticipates. “The mechanism is unknown, but I suspect largely related [to] over-stimulation of the CB1 receptors.” These are the main receptors in the brain where cannabis ‘docks’, giving you all its positive effects.

If you smoke regularly and then stop, it could mess with your cognitive abilities. “If marijuana use is discontinued, dopamine levels drop and within about one week, the person can feel a state of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and even depression,” Dr. Braunstein says. This is why cannabis is seen as psychologically addictive, he says; it gives you a hard emotional time if you go through withdrawal. An overview of cannabis withdrawal in 2017 in Substance Abuse & Rehabilitation found that irritability, restlessness, disturbed mood, depression, and anger could all appear as symptoms.

Other than coffee, good food, and lots of sleep, one way to deal with brain fog is to get out and exercise. Try going for a long walk or run, then cool down with some yoga, and take a hot (or cold) shower afterwards. It may not make your mental fogginess go away completely, but you’ll definitely feel sharper and more alert.

3. Feeling Dehydrated

While studies show that THC can bind itself to the CB1 receptors on our salivary glands, causing them to dry up — aka, dry mouth — Dr. Tishler tells Bustle that dehydration isn’t directly caused by weed. “Dehydration and dry eyes are really not related to cannabis,” he says. If you’re feeling dried out the day after consuming cannabis, it’s probably because you were already dehydrated when you started smoking; or it might be because you didn’t remember to hydrate while you were getting lifted.

Dehydration is pretty easy to avoid. To rehydrate and recover after waking up dehydrated, drink lots of water, and chow down on water-rich fruits and veggies throughout your day.

4. Fatigue

For the most part, weed can actually help some people fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. But if you smoke weed before bed, it’s possible that your high could be messing with the quality of your sleep, ultimately making you feel fatigued the day after you smoke. A study published in 2017 in Psychopharmacology also found that withdrawal from cannabis meant a rise in poor sleep quality, so if you’re a heavy user going without for a while, you might feel a bit more tired.

Naturally, the best way to remedy this hangover symptom is by getting lots of sleep — but if that’s not an option for you due to work or social obligations, then all you can really do is try to treat your body well throughout the day. Drink coffee and water, eat healthy meals, go for a long walk, and consider taking the day off from weed.

The Bottom Line

Dr. Tishler says time is really all any cannabis consumer should need to get back to “normal,” and he advises practicing moderation in all things. “If you’re experiencing weed hangover, likely you’re using too much,” Tishler says.

Also worth remembering? Any product that claims to relieve a pot hangover is likely too good to be true. “There are many products claiming to address this problem, or over-intoxication in general, and I’d advise staying away from them,” Dr. Tishler says. “There is no science yet to suggest that these products are effective, and since they are not regulated at all, there’s no reason to expect that they are safe to use.”

Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.

Dr. Scott Braunstein M.D.

Dr. Jordan Tishler M.D.

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This article was originally published on Oct. 14, 2015

Cannabis withdrawal can feel like many different things, but people commonly report these four symptoms of a weed hangover.