Using cannabis can have unpredictable effects

Some of the unwanted physical and psychological effects that may be experienced by a person when they are “high” on cannabis may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Anxiety, panic and paranoia.

If you are with someone who is affected by cannabis in this way, you can help.

What can you do if someone is physically sick?

Some people feel sick after smoking cannabis. They can go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy, nauseous and may even start vomiting. They usually feel they have to lie down straight away.
You can assist them by:

  • Taking them to a quiet place with fresh air;
  • Sitting them in a comfortable position;
  • Giving them a glass of water or something sweet (such as juice or a piece of fruit).

If the person feels so sick that they start to vomit:

  • Stay with them;
  • Lie them down on their side, not on their back, so they don’t choke on their vomit;
  • Keep them in a safe, quiet place where you can monitor them.

If someone is physically sick it is important that you never leave them on their own, not even for a little while.

What can you do if someone is experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, or paranoia?

Unwanted psychological effects can range from depression to anxiety, which can go on to produce panic attacks and paranoia. Although this can be frightening for the person, most of the time these effects can be managed through reassurance.
If someone you know experiences these problems after they have used cannabis, here are some things you can do to assist them:

  • Try to calm the person down.
  • Reassure them that these feelings will pass in time.
  • Take them to a safe and quiet place and stay with them.
  • Let them know that you are there to help them. If there is something you can do for them, do it.
  • As they calm down, try to distract them with other things that may take their mind off things.

If nothing you try seems to help and the person continues to feel bad or their condition gets worse, it is important to get more help. Call the Washington Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) or take them to get medical help so that they can be treated quickly and safely.

How you can help prevent this from happening again

After the effects of cannabis wear off, talk to your friend about what happened, how it affected you and those around you, and how this can be prevented in future:

  • If your friend has a mental illness like depression, anxiety or schizophrenia, encourage them not to use cannabis or any other drug, unless prescribed by a doctor.
  • Encourage your friend to seek help from their doctor or a counselor about their cannabis use if this happens regularly.
  • Remind them what happened the last time they used cannabis.
  • Suggest they avoid bingeing or polydrug use, or anything that will intensify the effects of cannabis.
  • Become involved with other activities with them that do not involve drug use.

Updated 2013. This information adapted with permission from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre in Australia.