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You may have experienced this yourself. You’ve smoked a nice joint or two, and all of a sudden your legs become twitchy. They start to tremble, and in your intoxicated state, you’re not quite sure what to make of this. Are these tremors from the cannabis, or are you just feeling a little nervous? This article will get to the bottom of a very important question: does smoking weed give you the shakes?

Cannabis and “the shakes”

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The short answer is yes, under some conditions. “The shakes” refers to involuntary muscle tremors and twitching while high. No formal studies have been conducted on this phenomenon, though. Rather, a wealth of anecdotal reports identified the shakes as a fairly common experience among cannabis users- new and experienced alike. Here’s an example from a BlueLight forum:

At first legs would start to twitch. Then, on enough weed, the whole body would begin to twitch. At any one time, I could stop the twitching if I wanted to, but it felt more comfortable to move around and twitch than to stay still. It was pretty annoying, but not terribly so. In order to prevent it, I used to take hot baths before/while smoking. It relaxes the muscles a lot and pretty much prevents twitching. After a while it went away by itself. Not sure why. Don’t get it anymore. Maybe different strain of weed? Maybe body just got used to dealing with it. – TokyoHigh

Another user in a Marijuana.com forum explains:

I got the twitching for the first time a while back (after getting very, very high), and it kinda scared me. Really quite bad in my legs and arms, for about 15 minutes. Uncontrollable. Very strange. Can’t say much more besides I’ve been there before, but if anyone has an explination for that, I’m all ears… – Bear

Not everyone will experience this, but it’s typically a sign that you’ve consumed a little too much THC. The herb is non-toxic, and an “overdose” is not going to cause serious damage. However, smoking a little too much does have some odd short-term side effects in some people. Muscle twitching is one of them.

Fortunately, these spasms are only temporary. They often last for just seconds, yet you can experience them for up to a half an hour or so.

Potential causes of the shakes

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Though no research has been done on what actually causes these tremors, we can make some educated guesses. These types of tremors are often correlated with anxiety. For those prone to anxiety while using cannabis, THC can be very stimulating. A little too much stimulation of the central nervous system may be the culprit.

THC’s impact on dopamine may also contribute, though this is speculative at best. Tremors are associated with low dopamine levels, and THC increases dopamine.

However, some research has shown that high THC exposure over time may blunt the brain’s ability to process dopamine. Perhaps consuming excessively large quantities of THC in a very short period of time causes temporary imbalances in the dopamine signalling system. Who knows!

It’s important to mention that cannabis actually reduces tremors and muscle spasms in those with certain medical conditions. Symptoms of Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, for example, can be greatly reduced with cannabis treatment.

Cannabis-induced tremors are short-lived. So, things seem to balance themselves out pretty quickly. Besides, there are a few other factors to consider…

What factors contribute to the shakes?

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You’re more likely to experience the shakes in certain situations. For example, if you’re smoking with some new people and you’re feeling a little nervous, there’s a good chance that you might become a little shaky. Large amounts of THC can increase an anxiety response in some people. This anxiety response is heightened if you’re already in an anxious state.

Social anxiety or paranoia + increased central nervous system stimulation = greater likelihood of twitching and tremor.

Mixing cannabis with tobacco or excessive amounts of caffeine can also trigger muscle tremors. Both substances are also central nervous system stimulants. When your nervous system is too stimulated, you may experience uncomfortable, anxiety symptoms.

Cold weather or feeling chilly might be to blame as well. Cannabis lowers your body temperature. When you’re cold, you’re more likely to feel colder and begin to tremble after smoking cannabis.

What do I do if I get the shakes?

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There are a few simple things you can do to help ease tremors once they get going. Here are a few of them:

  • Stand up and move your body
  • Go outside for some fresh air, and focus your attention on your new environment
  • Warm up with a blanket, a hot shower, or bath
  • Try a little CBD, which can counteract some of the stimulating effects of THC
  • Move to a more comfortable environment
  • If this happens a lot, opt for indica or high-CBD strains to begin with

Though the shakes may be concerning when you first experience them, they’re nothing to be frightened about. They will go away on their own. Experimenting with cannabis in a safe, comforting environment can help you avoid the uncomfortable twitches. Know that if you consumed a lot of stimulants beforehand, you’re more likely to feel shaky.

Have you ever experienced the shakes? Share your story with us on social media or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Anna Wilcox

Anna Wilcox is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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