As much as it pains me to admit it (because KiNE Magazine is for recreational marijuana), I have been shocked by a frightening occurrence that has happened multiple times in my circle of acquaintances in the last few weeks:

People have flat-out passed-out from smoking weed.

Not the slurring, stumbling messiness of black-out drunks, or the slow-fading of a heavy-drinker; we’re talking about the fact that they took a couple hits off a joint or pipe and within half-an-hour had fallen face-down on the floor, eyes open, not-breathing like they just went 9 rounds with a heavy-weight and got knocked-the-fuck-out.

Let me say that again: one minute they were fine, the next, they were face-down on the floor… out.

This is terrifying to me and many occasional smokers for a multitude of reasons:

  1. These people were not “pot-heads”. They were occasional, recreational weed smokers. Which happens to be the fastest growing group of new users of marijuana in Colorado.
  2. Straight-up passing-out from smoking pot is rare. Like, I’ve-never-seen-or-heard-of-it-before-rare.
  3. None of these people had been drinking a lot before they passed out. One had a White Russian a few hours earlier, the others were cold-sober before they smoked.

Needless to say, something was really wrong, and we had a number of initial theories here at KiNE:

  1. Something was wrong with the bud. It had been laced, or tampered with in some way? Yet, no one else who had smoked that night had any similar symptoms or experiences.
  2. Something was wrong with the person. Maybe there was some underlying physical condition, yet unknown, in each of these cases that had led to them being affected by marijuana in such a way?

I wasn’t there personally, but some of our staff members said it was terrifying for at least a minute on these nights, so we’ve made it our personal mission to get to the bottom of this.

Why? Because KiNE is a supporter of the legal and responsible use of marijauana, and as such, we cannot turn a blind-eye to the risks of marijuana. True activism has making the world a better place at it’s heart, and we’d be hypocrites to promote only the benefits of marijuana while ignoring the potential down-sides. There’s a name for those people: snake oil salesmen, and we refuse to be unfaithful to our overall activism.

So in the spirit of true, responsible activism, here is what we found:

You CAN pass-out / faint from smoking weed

While my initial suspicions were that the weed was laced or tampered with in some way, through our research we found that the real culprit was most likely the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) itself. Although a rare occurrence, you can pass out / faint (also known as syncope) from smoking weed, even just a couple of hits. How?

Marijuana is a vasodilator, which means that it causes the blood vessels of the body to dilate, or expand, and results in lower blood pressure. Consequently, the heart rate increases to try and compensate for the lower blood pressure (how many times has your heart raced when you smoked? That’s a result of the lowering of your blood pressure). However, in a small population of people, it can lead to such a severe drop in blood-pressure that all the blood to pools in the legs, which leads to dizziness and fainting (orthostatic / postural hypotension).

Effects on the Heart and Blood Vessels

The cannabinoids exert quite profound effects on the vascular system. In animals, the main effect of THC and anandamide is to cause a lowering of blood pressure; in man, the effect in inexperienced users is often an increase in blood pressure, but after repeated drug use the predominant effect becomes a lowering in blood pressure. This is due to the action of THC on the smooth muscle in the arteries, causing a relaxation that leads to an increase in their diameter (vasodilation). This in turn leads to a drop in blood pressure as the resistance to blood flow is decreased, and this automatically triggers an increase in heart rate in an attempt to compensate for the fall in blood pressure. The vasodilation caused by THC in human subjects is readily seen as a reddening of the eyes caused by the dilated blood vessels in the conjunctiva. The cardiac effects can be quite large- with increases in heart rate in man that can be equivalent to as much as a 60% increase over the resting pulse rate (Fig. 2.9). Although this presents little risk to young healthy people, it could be dangerous for patients who have a history of heart disease, particularly those who have suffered a heart attack or heart fai lure previously. Another feature commonly seen after high doses of cannabis is postural hypotension; that is, people are less able to adjust their blood pressure adequately when rising from a seated or lying down position. This leads to a temporary drop in blood pressure, which in turn can cause dizziness or even fainting.

- Leslie L. Iversen, The Science of Marijuana p. 57, Oxford University Press

So, is this dangerous? The fainting itself isn’t necessarily dangerous (you should consider getting checked out by a doctor because it can be a sign of other cardiovascular problems), but what about falling and hitting your head? Or fainting while driving a car?

That could be tragic.

The bottom line regarding passing out / fainting after smoking weed.

If we want the liberty to enjoy cannabis recreationally, then we have to be honest about the risks, and even more so, responsible for our choices. Marijuana’s potency is through the roof, and the likelihood of this happening to more and more occasional smokers is increasing. So? Don’t be stupid. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation.

If you feel the least bit dizzy/lightheaded after smoking/ingesting marijuana:

  • Sit down. Don’t stand.
  • Don’t drive.
  • Don’t attempt extreme activities (skiiing, climbing, hiking difficult trails).
  • Breathe deeply and regularly. Don’t panic.
  • If you do faint / pass-out you should probably go see a doctor because it could be a sign of a more serious cardiovascular condition.

Overall, the research seems to show that these orthostatic hypotension events from smoking/ingesting marijuana are short-lived. They will pass quickly and you will be fine, as long as you and your friends have made smart choices.

Before we freak out about the “dangers of pot”, consider this…

Is passing-out/fainting from smoking pot dangerous? Yes it can be. Very.

But let’s keep all of this in perspective: On Monday, the World Health Organization  (WHO) released a report stating that there were over 3 million deaths related to alcohol in 2012. That’s 1 in 20 of all the deaths in the world that were directly related to alcohol consumption.

Is fainting /passing out from the onset of orthostatic hypotension after smoking/ingesting marijuana a very serious issue? Absolutely, but that’s exactly why I think we need to be real about it and be aware of it.

As marijuana is legalized in more states, the potency of the strains continues to increase, and more people participate in recreational use, we are going to see more instances of passing out/ fainting. I think if people know this information and watch out for themselves and each other, there shouldn’t be any serious health threats from this.

However, if we ignore it, or worse deny it, then there will be ample opportunities for tragic accidents to happen that could have been avoided with just a little awareness and a little information.

If you enjoy our new-found liberty to partake in recreational marijuana, please consider sharing this article and talking about it to your friends.

 

 

m4s0n501

About The Author

Trig
Executive Editor
Google+

Trig is an artist, a lover of all things philosophical, and a well-rounded screw-up. For him a late night of discussing politics, philosophy and spirituality over wine and great music is the pinnacle experience of life. Better than the Super Bowl, better than food... maybe not sex... Trig believes in a compassionate self-giving lifestyle and sometimes ponders politics or becoming a pastor. But then he remembers that his home is simply with people, fellow seekers and troubadours. Feel free to write him at trig@kinemagazine.com.

15 Responses

  1. cody wildgust (cjwild)

    I feel like there is more to it… I happened to have passed out after smoking a personal joint once. HOWEVER, I’m of the believe it was due majorly to outside factors and merely triggered by syncope or the dilation of blood vessels. I hadn’t properly hydrated myself all day, it was hot and dry out and I had been outside all day without drinking enough water [instant problem if you smoke weed after, as it only further dehydrates the body].

    ALSO, my diet was seriously lacking and I hadn’t gotten enough food/good sugars that day.

    I think the problems are moreso underlying from outside factors and smoking marijuana just helps to reach those problems sometimes.

    Reply
  2. WG

    Personally, I can’t smoke weed because of this. I would either pass out stone-cold, or more often I would experience seizure-like tremors in which my whole body would twitch uncontrollably. Pretty uncomfortable.

    Reply
  3. yay

    I used to smoke alot, for about five years, and the last three times ive smoked ive fainted. I dont know if its the new weed or what but I have also gotten on a new adderal and have hypoglycemia. I have been smoking a long time so I dont know why its happening now. so the first time I was in my garage and started to feel weird so I told my friend I dont feel good, and hes like ok well chill out (ok). then my arms got heavy and I felt like I couldnt stop staring or control my eyes or blink, then things started to go black so I stood up ( first mistake) went to the door and felt really weak then my vision went black and I woke up and holding the door way my friend was like you gotta get up. So he got me back up and started walking me to the house and I fainted again and he caught me and I was unconscious with my eyes rolled back for about a minute till I woke up to my mom screaming and running towards me and I didnt know what happened so I started freaking out then had a panic attack lol so that was a good. Second time was at my friends friend house and woke up to them hovering over me. Third time I went to the bathroom went to open the door and then woke up on the ground and no one even knew I fainted. All three times have been incredibly terrifying for me and the people there and can be embarrassing and since they have happened I find myself almost fainting like once a day just because I know what it feels like now. If someone does faint in your presence make sure they DONT stand back up because they can faint again, check pulse and make sure to calm them down cause there gunna be confused.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I rarely smoke, like a couple hits every couple months. But I have passed out on multiple occasions. My boyfriend who is a regular smoker says I’m the only one he had seen do it. I am fine for a while then I start getting dizzy and can feel it coming. I usually slur out to him I’m gonna pass out and he grabs me before I fall down.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    This actually just happened to me a few days ago… I’ve been a recreational smoker for about the last 6 months, took a couple bong rips then went out to dinner. At dinner, I started to get dizzy then passed out while standing, face first into the counter top, knocked out a couple of my teeth and gave myself a concussion. I had been dieting so there wasn’t much in my system and I had smoked weed about 30 minutes prior. I had never heard anything like this before seeing this article after the fact. No one I know who is a smoker has ever seen this either. The dr. told me that it was caused by something different but I did not disclose that I was using weed just before it happened so idk what to think now… obviously i’m concerned due to the damage i’ve inflicted myself. Not sure that I want to smoke anymore….

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    It happened to me… For me I just took a monster hit and the next minute I woke up on the ground. I think my brain didn’t get enough oxygen because of the hit so I passed out.

    Reply
  7. Heavy Smoker

    I am a VERY regular smoker (several times a day), and this just happened to me the other day. I didn’t full out faint, but I started to get really dizzy and see stars so I had to lie down to avoid fainting. It also happened once when I was a teenager. I assumed it was due to low blood pressure, as it felt like the blood was leaving my head and it got better as soon as I lay down for a few minutes. Thanks for making this article and confirming my suspicions!

    Reply
  8. J

    Just happened to me for the third time went to ER my girlfriend drove me. They said I was dehydrated and low on potassium I told them I was smoking prior.

    Reply
    • anonymous

      I have smoked pot for 40+ years, and not until about two ago had this ever happened to me. It has now happened to me about five times, twice where I fainted and then could not stand up or sit up for several hours. I believe there is a significant orthostatic hypotension that can occur with smoking pot, and I wonder if it can be clarified if certain strains are more likely to cause this. I have some “weak” pot and I can smoke that without getting faint. I personally know about ten other people that this has happened to. I would love to find certain strains of pot that don’t cause this. I do believe that it is the much stronger THC content and various new strains of pot that are causing this. If anyone has clearer information about ths, I would love to know.

      Reply
  9. Jenn

    this happened to me last night. I am a very rare smoker and took two hits off my boyfriends joint after taking a shot of fire ball. We started making Kraft macaroni in the kitchen and I started feeling light headed. I grabbed the pot of hot water but couldn’t lift it up (thank goodness). My boyfriend dumped the noodles in the strainer for me and the steam hit my face and i blacked out after that, fainted and hit my head on the kitchen floor. Woke up a few seconds later and voices felt really distant. Ive smoked our weed before and never experienced anything like this.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    This happened to me last night. I’ve been a regular smoker for about 8 months now and I’ve only ever had one experience similar to this, but it was a little different. Last time, my boyfriend and I had just smoked a bowl of kief from his bong. I started feeling a little weird, so I sat down on the kitchen floor and kinda started shaking, like, seizing. I tried to stand up and just fell right back down. I was aware of what was going on this whole time. I believe I was just too high. Last night, however, was different. I had only taken 2 hits. From here, I don’t remember anything so this is all my boyfriend interpretation. I was standing up, I took a hit, and then I started to fall back. He said he didn’t know what was happening or else he woulda reacted quicker, but next thing he knew my head was hitting the stand-up mirror and the bong flew out of my hands. Apparently I was just lying there on the ground and and was kinda shaking again and still trying to talk to him. only thing I rememeber is him helping me up and me asking him why I was all wet (I was covered in bong water). I felt completely normal after I got up. Not light headed or high or anything, I felt fine. This is the only time I have ever fainted like that under any circumstances, and the fact I can’t remember any of this just freaks me out..

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Thank you for writing this article- I have seen very little about fainting from smoking weed on the web, which honestly alarms me. I’ve fainted several times from just a few hits, and once got a nasty gash on my head from hitting a table. Prior to these episodes, I had never heard of such a thing happening and remember the first time I started getting nauseous and losing my vision, I thought I was going to die (in the moment you have no control of your body, very unsettling). This should be something everyone is aware of.
    I have a question, if anyone has an answer/speculation please reply: From the times I’ve fainted, I have never smoked a large amount or been noticeably hungry/dehydrated. These episodes seem to happen randomly and I’ve been forced to stop smoking because it’s impossible to predict when I’m going to pass out. Is there any explanation as to why this happens sporadically?

    Reply
  12. daryl

    No big deal. Everybody is affected differently. I have a low resting heart rate & am prone to fainting after lots of exercise when standing after sitting for a while. When smoking pot [2 times a week on average] I am more likely to faint as well. It will be pronounced on whether I’ve exercised a lot or have had a couple of drinks. For me, I feel it coming on & just sit back down & it goes away within 20 seconds. I know of some people that it is more severe & they don’t smoke as it makes them sick. Like any drug, it works for some and not for others. Side effects on all drugs govern whether you should use it or not.

    Reply
  13. Joe

    Happened to me about an hour ago, but I certainly had taken too many hits. It was taking forever to kick in for some reason so I hit it again and again until it finally kicked in. When it did I went from ecstatic to being awoken by my pal in about 3 minutes. Before fainting I had started to get extremely fidgety and anxious and started to lose my vision.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    The only thing I can tell u guys is check ur weed man people be doing some strange thing to where weed to make it better fo
    r there pocket worst for ur health

    Reply

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