Growing up, you might have heard adults warning teens about the dangers of marijuana. One popular belief that was often used to keep people from using weed was that it causes hallucinations. But is this actually true? Can weed make you hallucinate?
Hallucinations are sensory experiences that exist only in your mind but feel very real while you’re going through them. They often involve all of your senses, meaning you can hear, see, smell, touch, or taste things that aren’t really there.
Marijuana is known to sometimes make you imagine things or cause you to think of things that you normally wouldn’t. But is this the same thing as hallucinating? Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms and causes of hallucinations and their connection to cannabis.
What Causes Hallucinations?
Hallucinations can be caused by a number of things, including drugs and alcohol consumption. In terms of marijuana use, the cause of weed hallucinations is the compound tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC. This is the substance in marijuana that causes psychoactive effects and triggers a release of dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is the chemical that we associate with pleasure and happiness since it makes us feel good. Some ways that you can get a hit of dopamine without THC are through exercise, meditation, or listening to music that you enjoy. Once released, dopamine induces feelings of peace, relaxation, and euphoria.
Dopamine and THC together can cause changes in the brain, particularly in the occipital lobe — the part of the brain that processes vision. The interaction of these chemicals can result in visual hallucinations or seeing things that don’t exist.
Signs and Symptoms
As you probably already know, some drugs have hallucinogenic effects. People choose to use these substances specifically for this purpose. Signs and symptoms that can occur while using drugs with psychedelic effects include:
- Feeling detached from yourself or the environment around you
- Slow reaction time
- An altered perception of time and space
Keep in mind that hallucinations can make you perceive things that aren’t real, but they shouldn’t cause you to feel suspicious of your surroundings or that you’re in danger. These feelings are symptoms of paranoia rather than hallucinations.
Paranoia is a negative feeling that increases your anxiety and may cause you to have irrational thoughts. Not every cannabis user experiences paranoia, and those who do probably won’t experience it every time they use a product with THC.
Is Marijuana a Hallucinogen?
Hallucinogens are drugs that can make you experience an altered reality. There are a wide variety of them — some of which are found in nature. This includes substances derived from mushrooms, cacti, and cannabis. Cannabis is considered a hallucinogen because of the possible side effects that some people may have when they use products with THC.
Besides hallucinations, psychedelic drugs can cause other side effects. This includes:
- Dry mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Blurred senses
- Raised heart rate
- Reduced control of fine motor skills
Because of this, you should never use these substances if you plan to drive or do other activities that require focus and coordination.
Psychedelics are notoriously unpredictable. Just because you had a good experience once doesn’t mean the next time will be the same. People may even experience both “good and bad trips” in the same session.
Using too much at one time can cause symptoms like muscle spasms, nausea, psychosis, or aggressive behavior. If you or someone you are with has taken too much of a hallucinogen, seek immediate help.
Does Cannabis Really Make You Hallucinate?
While paranoia and hallucinations on weed can occur, hallucinations aren’t very common. Users may feel some effects similar to hallucination, like loss of time or an altered perception of the things around them, but real hallucinations while using cannabis products rarely happen.
A few variables can explain why some people experience hallucinations. One of the most significant factors is something that you can’t control — your biochemistry. Your body’s natural makeup and how you interact with substances can determine your reaction to them.
However, you can control other factors if you want to avoid the risk of hallucinations. The first is the potency of the strain. The higher the potency, the more likely you are to experience hallucinogenic effects. The second factor is how often you use cannabis and the duration of use per session. Knowing these things, you can start to learn your limits to avoid any unwanted effects.
Psychedelic drugs that provoke hallucinations have long-term effects. Some of these are:
- Memory loss
- Speech issues
- A rare condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
Cannabis does not have the same long-term effects that psychedelics do. However, there are mixed experiences with marijuana when it comes to depression and anxiety. For some, using cannabis products helps to alleviate the symptoms of these conditions. Others find that cannabis is the cause of them.
It’s just like how some people use cannabis as a stimulant to feel more awake and alert, while others use it to relax or sleep. Our bodies are unique, so you may react differently to different strains or products.
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