Odds are you’ve either been there or are there right now. You sit down, smoke a bowl/eat a brownie, prepare to chill out for your day and… the phone rings. There’s a knock at the door. You have to go in for an extra shift. Your parents want help moving the couch. Your next door neighbor needs an emergency babysitter. Maybe it’s just a bad high. Whatever it is, you’re stoned, and you need to not be. Pronto.
If you decided to hit up the internet for some advice on how to sober up from weed fast you’ve probably run across a plethora of tips, ranging from taking a shower to chewing on some peppercorns. And, as with all things cannabis-related, the line between fact and fiction can be difficult to determine – Not what you want to spend your time doing when your boss expects you behind a desk in twenty minutes.
In this article we’re going to take a look at some of the most common ways people say will help you sober up from being high, with our usual view for separating truth from folklore, and hopefully help you figure out some quick ways to stop being high. Let’s get started with an important question:
How Long Does a Weed High Last?
Well, that depends. Did you smoke? Vape? Eat an edible? Was your weed some brick you got off that one weird neighbor downstairs or a high-end Mango Kush from the dispensary down the road? Are you a regular smoker or a “special occasion” type? All of these factors play in to how long your high will last, though some more than others.
Most importantly is usually method of ingestion. Smoking and vaping will produce a high that has a quicker, stronger onset with a shorter lifespan; eating an edible will take some time to kick in, but has a long-lasting, more “thorough” high. Without trying to alter your high’s duration, we feel these are pretty safe average estimates:
- Smoking or vaping will usually see you high within moments, lasting for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half and with an afterglow period of another hour or two
- Eating an edible will usually see you high within an hour or two, lasting from four to eight hours after ingestion, and with an afterglow period of another two to four hours (for more on this, check out our article on “How Long do Edibles Last?“)
Again, those are rough estimates, but will encompass most people. The main takeaway is that smoking or vaping will usually clear up on its own before long, while edibles are a bit more of a wild card – Particularly in how long they take to kick in.
We now know how long each type of high will last, so how about sobering up? Let’s go over some of the most popular methods found on the internet and put them under the microscope.
Black Peppercorns & Beta-Caryophyllene
Probably the #1 “life hack” style tip you’re going to find on the subject, people the world over swear by munching on some black pepper to help reduce the anxiety & mental fog associated with cannabis use. Rich in β-caryophyllene, or just “caryophyllene”, this is a terpene (more properly a “sesquiterpene”) that provides the spicy bite found in spices such as black pepper or cloves.
Though black peppercorn has been used anecdotally for many years as a way to help alleviate the effects of marijuana, a 2011 study found that there was scientific evidence to back these claims, showing both carophyllene and THC were capable of binding to the same CB1 receptors inside the human body. This supposedly creates a calming effect that will help make the user feel more alert, relaxed, and less intoxicated.
Terpenes & The Entourage Effect
This same process, commonly known as “the entourage effect” is what makes different strains of cannabis have differing effects; while THC is a constant among all smokable strains of marijuana the terpenes and other cannabinoids that are present in different varietals are vastly different, and lend themselves to altering the high gotten from the plant.
As examples, a strain high in the terpene Myrcene will likely have a very sedative effect, while a strain high in Limonene (see more about this below) will likely help reduce anxiety. In the case of black peppercorns, the Beta-caryophyllene terpene is supposed to provide alertness and relaxing properties.
So. If the terpenes of cannabis are what give a smoke specialized effects, it stands to reason that just loading up on one specific terpene would help increase those effects, right? Well…
In May of 2020 a research team from New Zealand published a paper detailing that previously thought mechanics of the entourage effect might not be entirely valid. Their study showed that terpene interaction with cannabinoids in the human CB1/CB2 cannabinoid receptors was practically non-existent – “The entourage effect” often spoken about obviously still exists, but the question of “how” is now as wide-open as ever.
This doesn’t mean that chewing on a black peppercorn won’t help reduce the effects of THC – Anecdotal evidence is poor evidence, but eating a peppercorn will provide a significant dose of Beta-caryophyllene to your system, and given what little we know about the entourage effect it’s certainly worth a try if all else is failing. And speaking of terpenes…
Citrus Fruit & Lemonene
As mentioned above the terpene “Limonene” is also commonly listed as a method for helping someone sober up from weed, and not without good reason – The scent of citrus has long been noted for its vitalizing effects, and studies have shown that limonene is good for anxiety reduction.
As with the peppercorns above, though, the actual mechanics behind how terpenes interact with cannabis are still under question, and whether or not lemonene on its own will help reduce the duration and effect of your high can be entirely subjective. Still, if you’re one of the types who finds the scent and taste of citrus refreshing, taking few bites off an orange could never hurt, and it’ll certainly help clear up any dry mouth you’re feeling.
One method not listed commonly enough is using ibuprofen – good old-fashioned headache medication – to help tamp down the effects of being blazed. In 2013 a study done by researchers at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center showed anti-inflammatories having a significant effect on the duration of a cannabis high, while also not diminishing the beneficial aspects of cannabis taken for medicinal purposes.
Despite these trials being run on animals and not human patients, we feel this method has some of the most validation out of everything on our list, and highly (no pun intended) recommend it. The same dosage you would take for your average headache should do the trick.
A good amount of ibuprofen pills also contain caffeine, which segues into our next topic:
Food, Caffeine, and Exercise
Diet and overall routine can play a large role in not only how quickly you can sober up, but also how long your high lasts. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom isn’t always correct in this case either.
Coffee, Tea, or Soda?
By this point we all (hopefully) know that the old wisdom about drinking hot coffee to sober up from alcohol isn’t true, but what about cannabis? Despite common claims that a cup of coffee will help sober you up from the effects of THC, it turns out the exact opposite may be true.
A 2014 study showed behavior in a group of spider monkey test subjects that indicates that the effects of cannabis use are increased under the influence of caffeine, not reduced. In 2012 scientists from the same team released evidence showing that caffeine also increased the memory-impairment effects of THC in rats, overall leading to a bleak picture for anyone trying to down a pot of coffee to sober themselves up.
Does Munching Help?
Food is one of the most popular ways to sober up from too much THC, but unfortunately little to no scientific evidence exists to back up this claim. The popular and prevailing theory is that consuming foods rich in carbohydrates and fats will force the THC to bind to the fat molecules, swiftly slowing down your roll.
But with what we know about how cannabis is processed in the body this seems unlikely, as the THC molecules that are getting you high are already in your blood stream and heading to your brain; and in the case of smoking or vaporizing marijuana, never touch your digestive system in the first place. Eating an ice cream sandwich shortly after consuming a cannabis edible may help diminish some of the long-term effects (and dry mouth), but you can still expect those weed gummies to take you for a ride in a couple of hours.
Working Out to Sober Up
Working out while high can be both fun and have pleasant benefits, but will heading into the gym for a few minutes before work help clear out the head? Unfortunately there’s little scientific research on this topic (at least that isn’t very outdated and somewhat questionable), but referencing the above, what we know about how cannabis travels through the body makes this seem unlikely.
As said, when THC is taken in, either by the lungs or by the digestive system, it then travels into the bloodstream and toward the brain. Working out increases your blood flow, meaning the THC will travel through your system that much faster. However this doesn’t mean the THC is being processed into its inert form; this work is done by specific enzymes in the body, who can only break the THC down so fast. Your blood may be pumping faster, but it’s still swirling around the same molecules of THC until your enzymes can convert them into their psychoactively inert form.
As with many other methods of sobering up on this list there’s very little hard scientific data on how working out effects THC inside the body, so take any advice on this topic (including our own) with a grain of salt. But for our money? We just don’t see it likely to make that much of a difference.
Take a Shower
Similar to the above, the thought that getting the blood flowing will help decrease a cannabis high is core to the idea of taking a shower to help you sober up (whether or not it’s a hot or cold shower depends entirely on the person passing along this advice). Taking a shower was once classic advice for sobering up from alcohol but, much like drinking coffee, has been disproven over the years. For the same reasons as exercise, we think this one isn’t going to be very effective.
Sobering Up With CBD?
A newcomer to the usual advice on the subject, and one with a bit of controversy. In a 2012 study, researchers showed that CBD acted as a strong CB1 antagonist, essentially meaning that it has the potential to ‘overpower’ and dethrone THC from our cannabinoid receptors. Thus, take CBD, sober up from too much THC.
Unfortunately that same study also showed that their findings only existed in a controlled cellular environment – When running the same tests on humans, inconsistent results were found, placing a gigantic question mark at the end of their research. There are those who swear by CBD being one of the most effective ways to sober up from the side effects of cannabis but, unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether or not it actually works.
Whether you’re feeling the side effects of a bad high or just headed in for an unexpected shift, we hope our tips on how to sober up from the effects of THC has been helpful. Our overall winner? A few tablets of ibuprofin (and maybe some CBD oil just to be sure) sound like your best bet. Happy smoking (or sobering up)!