After a long smoke sesh or multiple vape hits during the day, many people are familiar with the fuzzy, heavy-headed feeling called brain fog. This temporary experience usually happens from smoking or eating too much marijuana in one sitting, but it can also occur from daily, long-term use.
Confusing as it may seem, certain marijuana strains have the opposite effect and may create a sense of hyperfocus on an unexciting task, such as chores, for instance—possibly even boosting motivation.
Still, there are many factors at play here, as marijuana strains elicit different effects based on terpene expression, trichomes, delivery form, and ultimately, the individual.
This article explains what brain fog from marijuana feels like, the reasons it happens, and ways to wake up your brain after you smoke too much.
First, What Does Brain Fog Even Mean?
Medically speaking, brain fog is a way of describing cognitive difficulties associated with sleep disorders, poor nutrition, and some medications, such as antidepressants. From a biological perspective, when someone says they have brain fog, what they’re really experiencing is low levels of inflammation in the brain.
It’s possible to go through a temporary bout of brain fog, after, say, a long night of studying for a test. For some, brain fog can be chronic. Patients with chronic pain, fatigue, or both have been known to report attention and memory problems. Newer research suggests a link between brain fog and COVID-19, possibly from the dual effect of inflammation on the mind and body.
While you may be tempted to blame your brain fog on marijuana, there are many conditions and medical situations that cause brain fog. When in doubt, take steps to seek out a doctor to rule out non-marijuana causes of brain fog.
If you know your brain fog is from smoking too much marijuana, let’s make sure your symptoms match up to the list below.
Marijuana-Induced Symptoms of Brain Fog
People who tolerate marijuana describe brain fog in many ways:
- Not being able to temporarily recall information
- A cloudy “weight” on your mind
- Time and spatial disorientation
- Slowed physical and mental capacity
Brain Fog vs. “Greening Out”
Similarly, some people use the term “greening out” to describe dizziness, head spins, increased sweating, and physical discomfort from consuming too much marijuana. It’s been compared to the experience of “blacking out” from too much alcohol.
Although “greening out” and brain fog share overlapping symptoms, they are different experiences. Brain fog is probably not as intense as “greening out.” Meanwhile, someone who enters a “green state” may not be able to physically move until their high subsides.
Marijuana has the potential to lift your spirits, inspire creativity, and tone down anxiety and pain. The plant will let you know if it agrees with your system, so if you feel edgy, anxious, or “greened out,” these are signs you may want to switch to CBD or take a tolerance break.
Reasons Marijuana Causes Brain Fog
Besides smoking too much at one time, marijuana causes brain fog because of its THC content. The psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) famously provokes the associated “high” of marijuana.
That’s pretty basic stuff, to be clear, and not the direct answer you’re probably looking for. The list below offers a deeper explanation:
- You don’t know your tolerance: Clouded thinking that creeps on gradually could very well happen from being too high. If brain fog affects your ability to function normally, you may need to downsize your dosage. Pro tip: Don’t accept a homemade edible from someone who can’t tell you its potency (unless you trust this person and are in a safe environment).
- Your tolerance is too low: According to a 2022 scientific review, there is a correlation between long-term exposure to THC, memory impairment, and neuroinflammation. Repeatedly feeling mentally drained could be a sign that your tolerance isn’t as high as it used to be.
- Your ECS needs a break: Otherwise known as your endocannabinoid system, the ECS is directly involved in learning and memory retention. When you flood your ECS with too many phytocannabinoids (from cannabis), over time, cannabis may change the natural functioning of the ECS. Researchers believe this is more pronounced in adolescents.
- You’re dehydrated: Dehydration contributes to brain fog, perhaps more so when you’re high and have “cotton mouth.” Using marijuana dries out your mouth, which explains why people feel dehydrated when they have brain fog.
- You just need sleep: Finally, brain fog from smoking marijuana could mean you’re overtired. People who vape specifically for sleep can also experience brain fog for the reasons listed above.
How to Come Out of a Marijuana Brain Fog
The intensity of brain fog varies from person to person, but if you’re feeling up to it, consider trying one or more of the following:
- Chugging water
- Taking a nap
- Learning how to microdose
- Smoking CBD
- Standing up, stretching, and moving
- Controlling your dosage with a customizable vape pen
- Going outside and getting in touch with your senses
- Eating a healthy, nutritious snack (stoner-approved)
- Setting up your ideal environment for 7-9 hours of interrupted sleep
Your best bet for brain fog from weed is to rehydrate, close your eyes, and rest. Maybe even consider not smoking again until the brain fog subsides. Brain fog accompanied by a headache can make matters worse.
Another thing: To prevent brain fog from happening in the future, decide which delivery form you like best to get the most out of your high.
To Sum It Up
Most of us have experienced brain fog to some degree from too much marijuana. It can make you react and move more slowly, but after a few hours, you should feel like yourself again. If you notice brain fog lasting for several days or weeks, you may need to reset your tolerance and take a THC break.
As a friendly reminder, it’s best to enjoy marijuana in moderation. Sometimes brain fog is a sign of an ECS imbalance. In that case, something else may be going on that has nothing to do with marijuana, which could require medical attention.