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Can You Be Allergic to Medical Marijuana?

    • If you’re considering using cannabis for anxiety or another medical condition, you should know that allergies to cannabis—while considered uncommon—do exist.

 

    • Health researchers are still learning about how cannabis might cause allergic reactions for some patients. Current data suggests that very few people are allergic to marijuana.

 

    • Since medical cannabis treatment is highly intentional and completed under the supervision of a healthcare provider, prospective patients can rest easy. You’ll have help every step of the way on your cannabis journey, even if you respond to marijuana in an unexpected way.

 


If you’re on the fence about using medical cannabis for anxiety or another chronic condition, you likely have pressing questions about marijuana: For instance, can you be allergic to cannabis?

In short, yes. However, since very few patients have reported reactions and cannabis remains under-researched, experts still aren’t sure exactly how common cannabis allergies are.

Marijuana allergies are a nuanced topic—that’s why we’re covering the subject in detail in this guide. Read on to explore what experts and patients currently know about cannabis allergies, what allergic reactions look like, how to discern between an allergy response and a “green out,” and how to avoid medical cannabis allergic reactions as a new patient.

Cannabis Allergies: What We Know

So, how common are cannabis allergies, and are you likely to have an allergic reaction during your first dosing session? Let’s dive into the current reports.

Allergy Numbers Are Unclear

As you read this guide, keep two things in mind:

  1. Very few patients have presented with marijuana allergies in clinical settings.
  2. There aren’t many anecdotal reports of allergic reactions in patient communities.

In other words, very few people have gone to the doctor for a medical marijuana allergy, making this a seemingly uncommon issue among patients.

However, there’s a caveat to the first point above: since marijuana is so widely stigmatized, patients experiencing mild to moderate allergic reactions may choose not to visit their healthcare providers. In places where marijuana hasn’t been legalized or decriminalized, patients may fear that their providers will report them for marijuana use.

So, it’s possible that cannabis allergic reaction reports are misleadingly low—or are they?

Among anecdotal reports in online forums and other community spaces, users who suspect that they’re allergic to cannabis present with a massive variety of symptoms. Headaches, nausea, and anxiety are just a few. However, not all reported symptoms are consistent with typical reactions to more common allergens.

In other words, it’s possible that what patients believe to be a marijuana allergy is actually something else: an unpleasant reaction to a specific strain, perhaps.

Ultimately, because of limited research, it’s incredibly hard to predict anyone’s likelihood of being allergic to marijuana.

Data Is Still Limited

Federal regulations are to blame for limited data on cannabis allergies—and other medical marijuana topics, for that matter. Since marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, researchers looking to study it must:

  • Apply for state and federal licenses
  • Adhere to strict reporting requirements set by the DEA, FDA, and IRB
  • Source their cannabis from one of just a few federally approved manufacturers

Since there are major roadblocks to conducting cannabis research, data on a wide variety of patient responses (including allergic reactions) is somewhat limited.

Understanding Allergic Reactions

With the above in mind, let’s break down allergic reactions in detail to help you identify and respond to a potential cannabis reaction.

What’s Happening Inside Your Body During an Allergy Response

Simply put, an allergic response is an immune response:

  • The immune system protects the body from viruses, diseases, and foreign substances. It dispatches a variety of compounds to fight off threats.
  • Unfortunately, the immune system isn’t always perfect. For some people, the immune system can respond to innocuous substances as threats—anything from pollen to peanut butter could be misinterpreted as a threat by the immune system.
  • Anytime the immune system thinks that a foreign substance poses a danger to the body, it starts producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is a high-octane antibody; it eradicates allergens, but it also triggers the common symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Common Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

What do those symptoms look like? You might have different reactions based on how you interacted with the allergen:

  • Touch contact – The skin can absorb allergens; some of the most common skin allergens are poison ivy, latex, and citrus. In many cases, skin responses present with redness, itching, or hives in the area of your skin that touched the allergen. However, rashes can spread to other areas of the body in severe cases.
  • Inhalation – You can also expose your body to allergens via inhalation. Perhaps the most common inhaled allergen is pollen, though people with pollen allergies can experience skin symptoms too. After inhaling an allergen, you might develop itchy eyes, runny nose, or wheezing.
  • Ingestion – Of course, food allergens are some of the most common, like peanuts, dairy products, and soy. When you eat an allergen, you may experience an upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating, or tongue swelling.

In some cases, severe allergies can cause anaphylaxis—dizziness, shortness of breath, and facial swelling that can be fatal in extreme cases. If you suspect that you’re experiencing anaphylaxis, seek emergency medical attention right away, and use an EpiPen if you have one.

Allergic Reaction vs. “Greening Out”

Above, we mentioned that patients who reported an allergic reaction to cannabis don’t always mention common allergy symptoms—while allergic reactions can cause headaches and anxiety, for instance, these aren’t quintessential signs of an allergen response.

It’s possible that, in some cases, patients experiencing an “allergic reaction” are actually “greening out.” In other words, they’re experiencing the negative effects of taking too large a dose of cannabis.

We want to reiterate that cannabis allergies are possible. If you’re experiencing severe allergic reaction symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

However, if your symptoms are mild or you’re reflecting on a past response to cannabis, consider the symptoms of a green-out:

  • Anxiety or overstimulation
  • Hypersensitivity to stimulus (e.g., light, sound, smells)
  • Intense drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation or confusion

Like allergic reaction symptoms, green-out symptoms present on a scale: your response to overconsumption may not always be severe.

While you can explore our complete guide to recovering from a green-out, here are a few quick steps you can take to relieve your symptoms:

  • Hydrate – While drinking water won’t speed up your recovery, it may help you feel more comfortable and satiated as you wait for the cannabis to wear off.
  • Eat – Like hydration, a healthy snack may make you feel more comfortable if you’re greening out. Food can also distract you from overwhelming symptoms or environmental stimuli.
  • Sleep – Time is the only real antidote to a green-out. Since certain strains of cannabis may make you drowsy, you can take advantage of this opportunity to catch some extra Zs. Sleeping is a simple, restorative way to pass the time.

How to Avoid an Allergic Reaction as a New Cannabis Patient

If you’re worried about having an allergic reaction to cannabis, there are steps you can take to protect yourself (and develop peace of mind) during your first dose:

  • Start small – Starting with a low dose of cannabis is widely recommended, especially for first-time users. Take just one or two puffs of your joint or vape, eat only a quarter of your edible, or use just a drop or two of your tincture or oil product. Increase your dose incrementally as needed to prevent a green-out.
  • Keep first aid supplies on hand – If you have multiple allergies, you may use a medical alert device or keep an EpiPen on you for emergency exposures. If this is the case, keep these supplies close to you while you take your first dose of cannabis just in case marijuana turns out to be an allergen, too.
  • Dose with a buddy – Consider asking a trusted loved one to supervise your first dose. They can help you navigate any negative reactions to cannabis and keep you safe.

TeleLeaf: Your Bridge to All-Natural Cannabis Care

Approaching medical marijuana care for the first time can be nerve-wracking—especially if you’ve never used cannabis before or you experience anxiety. Worries about allergic reactions to cannabis are valid; however, there are steps you can take to decrease your risk and respond efficiently in case of an allergy response.

Simply put, new patients have a lot to learn about medical cannabis. When you’re looking for a trusted partner to guide you through the treatment process, turn to TeleLeaf. As the best online medical marijuana card service provider on the market, we’ll both help you secure a recommendation and support you on every step of your healing journey.

Ready to get started? Make an appointment with a TeleLeaf provider today.


Sources:

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Hypersensitivity Reactions to Marijuana.
https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(10)02648-5/fulltext

The Journal of Cannabis Research. A qualitative review of cannabis stigmas at the twilight of prohibition.
https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-020-00056-8

NPR. Scientists welcome new rules on marijuana, but research will still face obstacles.
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2024/05/03/1248985559/marijuana-weed-schedule-i-iii-research-barriers

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Allergic Reaction Defined.
https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/allergy,-asthma-immunology-glossary/allergic-reaction-defined

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy Symptoms.
https://aafa.org/allergies/allergy-symptoms/

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