The Scientist: Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit

The Answer: Pot’s effects vary greatly from person to person, and a lot of it depends on the amount you consume, whether or not you’ve built up a tolerance to the drug — specifically, the active ingredient that makes you feel stoned, THC. Paranoia is a direct response to THC in the brain, but whether or not you feel it can depend a lot on the environment in which you’re lighting up.

The likelihood you’ll feel paranoid after smoking a joint depends a lot on how familiar you are with your surroundings and weed in general. Are you in a place you know well? Are you around people you feel comfortable with? Are you a veteran toker? If yes to all of these, you’ll probably feel relaxed rather than paranoid. But if you’re in an unfamiliar situation, your brain’s reaction might go in the other direction, leaving you freaking out instead.

Some anecdotal reports (no scientific lab studies yet) have also suggested that cannabis with a higher THC content might be more likely to cause paranoia than cannabis that’s higher in CBD (the active ingredient in cannabis that has shown to have the highest medicinal qualities).

But there’s really no scientific way to know if you’re going to bug out or not — even if you’ve felt paranoid before, it doesn’t mean you’re destined to every time. Get in a more comfortable environment with people you know and trust to up your chances of only experiencing the feel-good effects.

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