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What Are The Cannabis Shakes And Why Do They Happen?

Ever started shaking uncontrollably after smoking a large amount of weed? Well, you’re not alone. The “cannabis shakes” have numerous causes and are most likely nothing to worry about.

Contents:

Breaking down the cannabis shakes: what they are, why they happen, and how to deal with them.

So, you’re relaxing, enjoying a smoking session with friends, when suddenly your leg starts to twitch, then your shoulder, and your eyelid. You start to freak out and the tremors get worse. Panicked, you wonder what’s happening to you. Don’t worry, it’s probably just the cannabis shakes (and you should be fine in a few minutes).

What are the cannabis shakes?

“The shakes” are involuntary muscle twitches and tremors. This phenomenon can sometimes occur after consuming weed. If you typically associate the shakes with alcohol withdrawal or more serious health conditions, don’t stress. When it comes to cannabis, the shakes are generally no big deal.

Cannabis has a very good safety profile [1] . While no formal studies have been conducted on cannabis shakes, a plethora of anecdotal reports tell us they’re relatively common and typically harmless. Like other symptoms of consuming too much weed, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and nausea, they tend to subside as quickly as they began.

Why do you shake after smoking cannabis?

So, what causes the cannabis shakes? Are they just a side effect of getting too high for your own good? There are actually a variety of factors that could contribute to the shakes, including:

• Cold environment
• Over-stimulation
• Anxiety
• Too much THC

Let’s break it down:

Cold environment

You might be shaking or shivering because you’re cold. Cannabis actually lowers your body temperature [2] —an effect known as “THC-induced hypothermia”. Before you start imagining yourself freezing to death as your couch morphs into a snow-covered mountain, take a beat. THC-induced hypothermia only causes a slight drop in basal body temperature. You might shiver and shake what your mama gave you, but it isn’t dangerous or life-threatening.

Over-stimulation

In a lot of places, it’s common to roll a little tobacco into your joint. Nicotine is a stimulant: it excites the nervous system and boosts dopamine levels. While this boost is the reason a lot of people like to add a pinch of tobacco to their weed, it can cause twitching and anxiety in higher doses. If you’ve been enjoying this combo and find yourself with a case of the shakes, the problem could actually be the tobacco, not the cannabis. Likewise, if you’ve been drinking a lot of coffee, tea, or soda, caffeine could be contributing to your tremors.

Anxiety

It’s well-known that weed can cause acute anxiety and paranoia, and some people are more susceptible to it than others. If you’re one of those people, or if you just caught a bad break, nervousness could be at the root of your shakes. Of course, your body acting in ways that feel out of your control can amplify anxiety. If you get the shakes, try not to panic. Instead, keep calm and carry on.

Too much THC

To go back to the original question: Are the shakes just a side effect of getting way too high? Often, the answer is yes. The cannabis shakes are commonly due to a mild THC overdose. Don’t let the word “overdose” freak you out too much, especially if you’re young and healthy. We’ve all flown too close to the sun at some point, but nobody has died from overdosing on cannabis alone [3] . Freaked out and embarrassed yourself in front of all your friends? That’s another story.

What can you do if you get the cannabis shakes?

To recap, the cannabis shakes are not life-threatening, but they can leave you feeling alarmed and uncomfortable. While time is a key factor, waiting for them to subside on their own isn’t your only option. Here are some quick harm-reduction tips to help combat the shakes:

• Adjust your environment
• Move around, distract yourself, breathe
• Stay away from stimulants
• Consider switching strains
• Try some CBD

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Adjust your environment

Regardless of the precise cause of your shakes, sitting there and panicking or focusing on how uncomfortable you feel won’t help. Instead, take control of the things you can.

Environment plays a huge role in our emotional state, especially when psychoactive substances are involved. Feeling comfortable, warm, and safe is key. That could mean going to a different room or a more relaxing place. It could mean leaving an overwhelming social situation. It could be as simple as adjusting the lighting and putting on your favourite tunes. And, if your shakes are actually shivers, crank the heat. Cosy blankets are a chilly stoner’s best friend.

Move around, distract yourself, breathe

If you feel yourself starting to panic, switch gears from straight up shaking to shaking it off. Get up and move around. Distract yourself with a simple task, even if it’s counting steps. Take slow, deep breaths to calm down, or try some other strategies to calm anxiety. Movement and breathing help you recenter yourself in your body and focus on something other than your anxiety. Walking or moving around also gets you to stretch and warm up your tense, twitching muscles.

Stay away from stimulants

If you’ve been rolling your joints with tobacco or drinking caffeine, it’s time to try less-stimulating alternatives. Switch to non-caffeinated beverages and limit the amount of tobacco in your joints. If using pure cannabis feels too basic, spice it up with something different. A number of herbs make great tobacco alternatives. Just avoid anything with strong stimulant properties. You don’t want to end up back where you started, with the shakes (version 2.0).

Switch strains

A few of the factors that cause the shakes—anxiety, over-stimulation, too much THC—could boil down to the strain you’re smoking. There are hundreds of cannabis strains out there, each with its own unique mix of properties. In general, sativa-dominant strains tend to be more stimulating (and possibly anxiety-inducing) than indica-dominant strains.

Many people love the boost they get from a good sativa. But, if you’re prone to anxiety or paranoia, look for indica strains that tend towards relaxation. Of course, the indica/sativa split isn’t a hard rule. The best choice is an informed one, so don’t be afraid to check strain reviews from other users or ask your budtender for a recommendation.

Try some CBD

It’s also possible that the THC content of your strain is simply too high. Instead, look for a strain that’s high in CBD (cannabidiol). CBD isn’t psychoactive, and scientific studies [4] have found that it mitigates some of the side-effects of THC. Research also suggests it has potential as an anxiolytic, meaning it may help to combat anxiety. Depending on your preference, choose a strain with a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD, or one that’s higher in CBD and lower in THC. These popular high-CBD strains are an excellent starting point.

What if it’s too late to switch strains and you’re already high? If you find yourself caught in the midst of those twitches and tremors, CBD could still help. You probably don’t want to add more THC to your system, so choose CBD oil or isolates with quick delivery mechanisms. A few drops of high-quality CBD oil or tincture under the tongue is your best bet.

How long do the cannabis shakes last?

Luckily, the cannabis shakes usually don’t last too long. Of course, this depends on a few factors, including the amount of cannabis you took (and how you took it). If you vaped, smoked a joint or indulged in one too many bong rips, you should feel better within 15–20 minutes. If you overdid it on the edibles, you might be in for a longer haul.

If you experience truly alarming symptoms, have underlying health conditions, or suspect something more is going on, check with your doctor or a cannabis-informed healthcare provider. Beyond that, a few key adjustments and a little bit of patience (or CBD) should do the trick.

Twitches and tremors after smoking weed are generally harmless. Here's what causes the cannabis shakes and how to combat them.

What Is Shake?

Shake. Like a lot of cannabis terms, it means different things to different people. And how people define shake does a lot to determine whether they love it or hate it.

“Leftovers” might be the simplest description. Shake consists of small pieces of cannabis flower that break off of larger buds, generally as the result of regular handling. But just like leftovers, shake can be delicious or disgusting. Knowing what to look for in shake can mean the difference between a cool, clean smoke and a coughing fit.

Rather than fall back on old stereotypes, we talked to budtenders, dispensary managers, and cannabis connoisseurs to determine what exactly shake is and when (or whether) it’s worth buying.

Where to Find It

You’re most likely to encounter shake at a medical dispensary, especially one that keeps its flower in large jars. As budtenders shift the nugs, bits break off and collect at the bottom of each jar. The shake is collected and then either sold on its own or used to make pre-rolled joints.

If you buy shake separately, it’s almost always cheaper than flower that’s still in bud form. So the question becomes whether the discount is worth it. The answer depends largely on what you’re looking for in cannabis — and how you plan to consume it.

If you’re someone who regularly grinds your flower before using it, shake might be worth considering. Joint, blunt, and spliff rollers are an obvious audience, but even fans of glass might be interested if the quality is good and the discount is deep enough. Bakers and other edible makers should also take a look: If you’re making cannabutter, it doesn’t matter much if there are even a few small stems and leaves mixed in — just be sure to strain the butter well before using.

A Key Pre-Roll Ingredient

Another place you might find shake is in a pre-rolled joint. Using shake in pre-rolls allows dispensaries to use every last bit of cannabis, but it can also raise doubts about quality.

Why? Think in terms of leftovers. Say you have a steak dinner and you’re planning to roll the remnants into a burrito later on. If you save the best pieces of meat and make the burrito the next day, you’re in for a solid meal. But if you save just bits of gristle and forget about them at the back of the fridge for a week, you might be in for a nasty surprise. It’s less about the fact you’re using leftovers than it is about the quality of those leftovers.

Because pre-rolls come wrapped in paper, the meat (as it were) is already in the burrito — it’s hard to know what’s inside.

Sometimes businesses will fill pre-rolls with sub-par cannabis simply because they think they can get away with it. “A lot of the pre-rolls that are out there are made with a combination of plant material, and sometimes that includes smaller stems,” said Lauren, who spent three years working in a Seattle medical dispensary. That can make for harsher, less potent, and less flavorful smoke — and sometimes a headache, to boot.

Pre-roll experts say the surest way to know what’s in your pre-roll is to cut it open and examine its contents. “If you were to take a nice bud and put it through a grinder, dump it out, and then open up a pre-roll and dump it out, it should be the same,” said Patrick Rooney of Vashon Velvet, a Washington grower that makes premium pre-rolls.

Good? Bad? Both?

Does shake deserve its often poor reputation? As it turns out, yes and no.

By definition, shake is just smaller pieces of flower. If the nugs are of good quality, it’s reasonable to expect the shake that falls off to be good, too. But that’s not always the case. There are a few common reasons why shake gets a bad rap.

First, shake can be dry. Usually this is the result of jars being left out too long, but sometimes it’s simply because the shake itself is old. With more surface area than tightly packed buds, shake oxidizes much faster. (So if you do pick some up, be sure to store it properly.)

Another problem with shake is that it can contain stems and other bits of unwanted plant matter — the result of picking apart bigger nugs. Sometimes dispensaries or pre-roll producers will spread shake over screens and remove all that junk, but other times they don’t.

Worse still is when growers try to pass off trim as shake. People sometimes use the words interchangably, but trim is not shake, and shake isn’t trim. Trim is the unwanted plant matter that’s cut away from cannabis buds before curing. It’s not a pleasant smoke — it can smell like a campfire and taste “planty” — and it’s far less potent than actual shake.

Another consideration for medical patients: Sometimes shake is combined from various strains, so it’s important to be clear on what you’re getting. Ask questions and explain your needs to dispensary staff. If strain-specific effects are important for your treatment, you may want to avoid so-called mystery or rainbow rolls, pre-rolled joints made from a mix of different strains.

Ultimately, however, shake shouldn’t suggest low-quality cannabis any more than leftovers should suggest low-quality food. In certain circumstances, such as rolling joints or making edibles, shake can be a perfect choice, increasing convenience and cutting cost.

Extra Credit: The Doritos Principle

Going in to this article, I wanted to uncover a phenomenon I hoped to dub the Doritos Principle. It would go like this: Just as the bottom of a bag of Doritos contains smaller, uglier, but incredibly flavorful chip-bits, shake should be smaller, uglier, more powerful pieces of cannabis. Right? You’re familiar with how Doritos flavor dust works. Isn’t shake just little bits of flower rolling around in bottom-of-the-bag kief, the potent gold dust that coats cannabis buds?

Not everyone I talked to saw it that way. But some did.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to call it more potent,” said Corey Schwartz, manager of Los Angeles dispensary Coast to Coast Collective. “I would call them the same.” I explained the Doritos Principle, but he pushed back: “It’s still the same Doritos.”

Rooney at Vashon Velvet, on the other hand, thought there might be something to the idea.

“Oh totally,” he said. “That could definitely happen. I’ve had some bags that are just kief at the bottom. It might be nice to smoke.” He even went so far as to say the remnants might have an “excellent cannabinoid profile,” but then added, “I just don’t think it’s consistent enough to market as a product.”

Besides, Rooney said, that much kief would take time to accumulate, and time dries out cannabis. “The stuff on the bottom might be potent,” he said, “but it’s going to really burn your throat.”

Is it a bad thing? We talked to budtenders, dispensary managers, and cannabis connoisseurs to find out.