This groggy feeling is common among smokers and has come to be known as a weed hangover. But while anecdotal evidence might suggest otherwise, scientifically speaking, the notion that weed can actually cause a “hangover” is surprisingly controversial. Let’s talk through the research!
One of the more famous studies, published back in 1985, concluded that “marijuana smoking can produce residual (hangover) effects the day after smoking. The precise nature and extent of these effects, as well as their practical implications, remain to be determined.” The study, though, was notably limited: They randomly gave just 13 men either a placebo joint or one that contained cannabis with 2.9 percent THC, and then performed several behavioral tasks after they all smoked. Then, the participants were tested again after nine hours of sleep, which is where the researchers claim they noticed those residual hangover(ish) effects.
But in 1990, one of the same authors from the 1985 study performed a very similar weed hangover study, this time concluding, “No evidence of residual subjective intoxication was found, and most of the behavioral tasks and mood scales were unaffected the morning after.”
Another comparable study, published in 1998, agreed, “No effects were evident the day following administration, indicating that the residual effects of smoking a single marijuana cigarette are minimal.” Again, though, the study only involved 10 men who smoked various placebo and cannabis-containing joints.
In short, as with much scientific research, studies are all over the place when it comes to whether weed hangovers are actually real. One thing worth noting, though, is that all these studies involved weed that was much less potent than the weed we have today. The joint from the first study, for instance, contained cannabis with only 2.9 percent THC, whereas legal weed nowadays can easily sit around 20 percent. This is important to consider, since many anecdotal accounts of weed hangovers involve eating highly potent edibles or smoking, like, 10,000 radical-ass bong rips.
However, as this Tonic article points out, unlike with alcohol, the body seems to be able to recover from THC just as quickly, no matter the dosage. In fact, their expert — Barth Wilsey, an associate physician who works with the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis research — suggests that weed hangovers might actually be a symptom of weed withdrawal, which could explain why tokers feel anxious, irritable and perhaps sleep deprived (groggy) the morning after a big smoke sesh: Their body is simply asking for more.
There are other, competing explanations out there, too. On Quora, for instance, cannabis scientist Michael Backes explains that heavy THC consumption can leave residual metabolites in the body, which means you might feel some lingering cannabis effects (like grogginess) the morning after eating a heavy-duty edible.
And before you go wondering if all these scientists have weed hangovers, since they can’t seem to reach a solid conclusion, remember that research is difficult when it concerns a substance that’s still federally illegal.
Still, whatever the truth, something seems to make our head feel foggy the morning after a personal weed party, so what can be done to bring us back to normal? “I prefer adding 10 milligrams of CBD to my coffee, but to each their own,” says Jake Browne, former strain critic for The Cannabist and founder of the Grow-Off cannabis cultivation competition.
He’s not alone with this approach: Backes also recommends both CBD and caffeine in his Quora post. “CBD tincture is an excellent choice, since CBD appears to act as a general endocannabinoid system tonic and it specifically counteracts many of the adverse effects associated with THC alone,” he writes. Meanwhile, one of the experts from the above-mentioned Tonic article says that “plenty of fluids and an extra dash of caffeine will likely undo what little effect there is.”
Frankly, I agree. As an avid smoker, I’ll say that I might wake up with a little extra grogginess after smoking more than I usually do, but it’s really nothing that a cup of coffee and a little water can’t fix.
If you want to avoid that morning malaise altogether, though, Backes writes that consuming CBD with THC can reduce those “hangover” effects. So maybe consider asking your budtender for a high-CBD strain (I highly recommend Harlequin) or get yourself a CBD tincture that you can drop in your mouth while toking.
Alternatively, you can just smoke another joint and ride that wave, duderoni.