Cannabis shakes are involuntary muscle spasms. These spasms are most commonly caused by too much THC in the body and often subside quickly.
Unlike muscle spasms or twitching caused by alcohol or drug withdrawals, cannabis shakes are relatively harmless and tend to resolve on their own.
Why do they occur?
Although there are no clinical studies directly on the cause of cannabis shakes, there are a few things that are thought to cause them.
Whether you are new to using cannabis or not, having too much THC in your body can cause over-stimulation and cause your body to shake. This may be due to consuming a cannabis strain with a very high THC concentration or ingesting high quantities of cannabis.
Over-stimulation caused by THC is similar to overstimulation caused by caffeine. When too much of a compound such as THC is in the body, it affects the central nervous system (CNS) and results in shaking and trembling.
The effects of over-stimulation may be more pronounced if cannabis is used in combination with another substance such as tobacco or caffeine. THC, tobacco, and caffeine can all cause overstimulation of the CNS, and they have a compounding effect when used together. Even if you only consumed a relatively low to medium concentration of THC, the presence of tobacco or caffeine will add to the effects on the central nervous system, increasing the likelihood of cannabis shakes occurring.
Lowered body temperature
Cannabis is known to cause a drop in core body temperature. Higher doses of cannabis can cause the core body temperature to decrease low enough to cause a phenomenon called cannabis-induced hypothermia or THC-induced hypothermia.
Fortunately, this is usually not severe and normal techniques to warm up such as wrapping yourself in a blanket or putting on a jacket will help.
Consuming too much THC can cause symptoms of anxiety in some people. THC binds to the CB1 cannabinoid receptors on the GABAergic neurons in the brain, which can induce anxiousness. Shivering or muscle spasms are common symptoms of anxiety and may be the cause of cannabis shakes if too much THC is consumed.
How long do they last?
Fortunately, cannabis shakes tend to be relatively short-lived. The time it takes for these muscle spasms to resolve is determined by two main factors.
Firstly, the amount of cannabis consumed will partially determine how long the shakes last. If you ingested a relatively small amount of cannabis, then the shakes are much more likely to resolve faster than if a large amount of cannabis was consumed. It is important to take note of the percentage of THC expected to be in the cannabis you consume as well. Strains with a high concentration of THC are more likely to cause cannabis shakes than those with less THC.
Secondly, the method of ingestion is important when determining how long cannabis shakes will last. If you smoked or vaped cannabis, it is more likely that the shakes will disappear sooner. Cannabis shakes after inhaling marijuana often resolve in about 20 minutes. Cannabis shakes caused by edibles may take longer—up to one hour—to resolve.
How to get rid of cannabis shakes
Keep a blanket or a jacket nearby when using a cannabis strain with a high THC concentration. Adding an extra layer when you are experiencing cannabis shakes will help to raise your core body temperature and reduce muscle spasms. You may also find that taking a hot shower will help resolve cannabis shakes.
Stimulants such as caffeine and tobacco have a compounding effect on the central nervous system. If you are experiencing cannabis shakes, it is best to avoid these stimulants and refrain from consuming more cannabis until the shakes subside.
If cannabis-related anxiousness is causing your cannabis shakes, you might benefit from some anxiety-relieving techniques.
The most commonly used anxiety-relieving methods are breathing techniques. When experiencing cannabis shakes, try shifting your focus to your breath and follow this method:
● Breathe in for four seconds
● Hold your breath for seven seconds
● Slowly breathe out for eight sections
● Repeat each step until you feel calm
Alternatively, you may benefit from a technique that brings your awareness to your surroundings. Identify each of the following things:
● Five things you can see
● Four things you can feel
● Three things you can see
● Two things you can smell
● One thing you can taste
If anxiety is causing your cannabis shakes, bringing awareness to your surroundings may help reduce the spasms.
If these methods do not resolve your cannabis shakes, your best option is to wait them out. They should subside within an hour.
The bottom line
Cannabis shakes are usually harmless and tend to subside within an hour. The involuntary muscle spasms are most often caused by an over-stimulation caused by excessive THC in the body or a reduction in the core body temperature.
Adding an extra layer of clothes to warm up and refraining from consuming more cannabis are the best ways to reduce cannabis shakes. Alternatively, you can just relax and wait for them to subside.
If you experience severe cannabis shakes or are alarmed by these muscle spasms, you should discuss this with your doctor.