Weed Shakes: Is It Dangerous?

Have you ever been in the middle of a smoke session with a group of buddies and all of a sudden, your arms or legs start to shake uncontrollably? While this doesn’t happen every day, the weed shakes are somewhat common and if you or a friend has had this experience before, you aren’t alone. It is a well known phenomenon within the 420 community and is believed to be completely harmless, though it may be scary at the time for you and those around you. If you’re a regular smoker, this article will help you understand a few of the causes behind the cannabis shakes and what you can do the next time you or a friend starts shaking after smoking weed or vaping.

What are “weed shakes”?

With cannabis not as taboo as it once was, more and more people feel comfortable opening up about their experiences with the green goddess. One phenomena that used to be kept a secret is weed shaking, also referred to as the cannabis shakes. There is a lot of first-hand evidence from recreational and medical marijuana users to suggest that the weed shakes are completely legit. Maybe you have even experienced it yourself. The weed shakes look similar to the shakes when people come down with the flu. Even though it may not be cold, the body’s muscles are repeatedly expanding and contracting, which leads to involuntary tremors and spasms, typically in the extremities such as the arms and legs, but the entire body can shiver and shake as well. Unlike the shakes from the flu or from alcohol withdrawal, shaking after smoking weed only lasts for a short time and will go away along with other negative side effects of THC as the person comes down from being high.

What can cause weed shakes?

What can cause weed shakes?

Since marijuana is still considered a Schedule I substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), there are extra hurdles that researchers have in order to study the plant. With that said, there are very few published scientific studies about the cannabis shakes, so much of the “data” including how common it really is and potential causes are simply educated guesses based on real life experiences from smokers. If you feel uneasy about this and want more information, you can always reach out to a healthcare professional that has studied cannabis as a treatment. Potential causes that trigger the weed shakes have been narrowed down to a few key things that should be avoided just prior to, during, and after lighting up. These are:

  • Extra potent THC - The most common cause of shaking after smoking weed is thought to be from the THC itself. When a smoker is hit with a super strong high, it can be overpowering and negative side effects such as paranoia and increased anxiety may set in. Remember that this doesn’t just happen to newbies, even seasoned tokers may have these intense feelings with a dab of extra potent wax. If this seems to be the culprit behind your weed shakes, keep in mind that these feelings and your high won’t last forever. Remain calm, hydrate, and keep your mind from going down the rabbit hole by watching a movie (maybe something fun) or playing some relaxing music like country, reggae, or classical. Taking a hot shower can also help.
  • Indulging in too many stimulants - Cannabis is already associated with a few negative side effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and nervousness, and can be a stimulant itself, so when marijuana is combined with too many other stimulants, it can lead to extra jitters. Most people think this all ties into the real cause of the weed shakes, anxiety, fear, paranoia, and nervousness. Certain smokers are more susceptible to these negative side effects than others, so if you fall into this category, steer clear from tobacco, caffeine, and tea when you know you’ll be lighting up. This means no blunts, spliffs, cigarettes, nicotine vapes, espresso shots, energy drinks, or black tea. If you believe this may be the cause behind your cannabis shakes, just know that it will pass with time.
  • Feeling anxious or nervous - As you well know, both of these are already associated with cannabis consumption and are more likely to happen when taking ultra potent hits such as those from strong dry herb or dabbing concentrates. Anxiety from weed can be anywhere from mild to very overpowering, leading to involuntary tremors. This is the same as shaking when you’re very angry and upset or scared and is a natural part of human emotions. If your weed shakes are coupled with these intense feelings, try to stay calm by doing something to help you relax such as breathing exercises, speaking with a trusted friend about what’s happening, or listening to music.
  • A sudden drop in temperature - This may be an obvious one, but any drop in body temperature may result in tremors or shaking. Stoners are more susceptible to the cold due to THC-induced hypothermia, which has been observed in rats during a 2008 study and is dangerous, but almost unheard of in humans. However, it’s known that cannabinoids do lower the body’s basal temperature, making smokers feel colder than usual and can potentially trigger weed shakes if the environment is already chilly. Put on a warm hoodie and grab a blanket prior to lighting up just to be safe. If you’re feeling cold when the shakes start, try taking a hot shower, drinking a warm camomile tea or hot chocolate, or turning on the heater if you have one.
  • Low blood sugar - There are very few scientific studies to confirm this theory, but some smokers and researchers feel that there is a connection between blood sugar levels and weed shaking. The body’s endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors help to balance glucose levels. A 2013 study found that weed smokers didn’t produce as much insulin and were more sensitive to insulin’s effects than nonsmokers, which could cause issues if you already have low blood sugar and smoke marijuana.

How long does it last?

Like other negative effects of marijuana and the high itself, it won’t last for long. 420 enthusiasts say that the average length of the weed shakes is just 30 minutes. Vaping may result in even shorter negative effects. It will last for roughly an hour if you got the cannabis shakes after consuming weed edibles, so you’ll need to hold tight for a bit longer. These average durations are just estimates and can change based on a few factors such as the potency of the flower, strain type, the way it was consumed, amount of CBD, and environmental factors such as the air temperature and if the setting is calming.

How to avoid weed shakes?

How to avoid weed shakes?

The cannabis community has suggested a few best practices to be sure that no one is shaking after smoking weed. These are generally good tips to keep in mind whenever you’re lighting up, whether you’re affected by the cannabis shakes or not.

  • Always start out slowly and never take consecutive bong rips or hits. Psychoactive effects are typically delayed, so take at least 10 minutes between bong rips to see if you actually need another one or not. Edibles take much longer to set in and it’s easy to underestimate the potency of an edible, so take a very low dose (this may be just a quarter of a gummy) and wait at least 45 minutes to one hour before taking a second dose. 
  • If it’s chilly out, be sure that you have enough warm and comfortable clothes on. Keep a blanket nearby and use it if you start to feel like you’re too cold.
  • Remain calm throughout your smoking session by taking a few deep breaths and if you begin to feel nervous or paranoid, remind yourself that these feelings will quickly pass. Keep your cell phone and earbuds nearby so you can put on some calming music.
  • Refrain from using other types of stimulants like caffeinated drinks and tobacco prior to your some sesh.

What to do during weed shakes?

Even if you’ve followed all the steps above, it’s still possible to get cannabis shakes. If this happens, the best thing to do is remain calm. Just like getting too blazed, the shakes aren’t serious or life threatening. In addition to keeping warm, try to appease the munchies if you have them with a snack and drink water to stay hydrated. You can also take a hot shower or change your environment by taking a walk or moving to another room. This can help to reset your mindset and mood. While it may sound counterintuitive, CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects and is known to reduce some of the negative side effects of THC. Take a few puffs on a CBD vape pen or put a little bit of CBD oil under your tongue to see if it helps stop your tremors.

What to do after weed shakes?

There’s really nothing specific to do after experiencing the weed shakes. At this point, you’ll probably still be blazed as the THC level in your body begins to level out. You may get drowsy or hungry, which is completely natural. Just go with the flow and if your body is saying it needs a hot shower and a nap, do it.

Is it dangerous if you shake after using marijuana?

As mentioned previously, for the most part, it is not dangerous if you or a friend ends up shaking after smoking weed. It has happened to many marijuana users and is nothing new. Remember that cannabis is considered to be safe and no one has ever overdosed from marijuana or died from the plant alone. Those that have had serious complications with the drug had unknown underlying health issues or were dehydrated. Experts agree that there is a very low risk of dying from cannabis use alone. With that being said, it is important to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional if you continuously get the weed shakes despite using the methods above, feel that your health or safety is at risk in any way, or if you have questions about the effects of cannabis on the body.

Should you call an ambulance?

There is no need to call an ambulance for the weed shakes or simply getting too high. There is nothing a doctor can do for someone who is too blazed. If someone you know accidentally gets too high, calm them down, tell them that it will soon pass, and let them sleep it off. Cannabis shakes are somewhat of a common occurrence amongst the cannabis community and will go away on its own after roughly 30 minutes. Try to warm the person up by having them take a hot shower and covering them with a blanket, keep them hydrated, and allow them to rest and relax. Do seek medical attention if you or a friend has other more serious symptoms along with tremors such as vomiting or if the weed shakes happen regularly despite using the precautionary measures mentioned above.

Visit the PPPI blog for more information regarding cannabis and pick up a few smoking accessories while you’re at it.