High Eyes: What Causes Red Eyes & How to Get Rid of Stoned Eyes Fast
Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers
Regardless of why you’re using cannabis, you run the risk of a few mostly harmless side effects like dry mouth and red eye. The issue is red or dry eyes can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and totally indiscreet. Using medical marijuana doesn’t mean everyone needs to know.
Learning how to get rid of high eyes from weed is no longer an issue for teenagers or employees smoking on their lunch break. Studies continue to reveal the countless health benefits of cannabinoids so the days of hiding your cannabis use and any potential stigma may soon be over.
That being said, red eyes are never welcome. Is there a way to get rid of stoned eyes fast? Why do your eyes get red after smoking cannabis? Can edibles give you red eyes? This article will give you a full run down about why your eyes get bloodshot and how to deal with these pesky symptoms.
Why Do Eyes Get Red After Smoking?
When you smoke weed, there’s a lot of smoke and coughing so it’s easy to assume that that’s what causes your eyes to become red. However, what causes red eyes is pot itself.
The main reason your eyes become bloodshot after using cannabis has much to do with the reason we all use cannabis in the first place. Cannabinoids, like THC, CBD, and CBG are compounds in the plant that directly interact with the human body.
We have endocannabinoid receptors throughout our body that interact with the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system is a lesser known part of our nervous system that governs certain body functions like hunger, glucose metabolism, and inflammation.
The anatomic reason behind red eyes is vasodilation. Vasodilation is when your blood vessels dilate as a result of the relaxing of smooth muscle cells. As blood vessels widen, the increase in blood flow leads to a decrease in blood pressure.
When THC first enters the body it causes an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure. As this sharp spike begins to diminish as your body processes the THC, your blood vessels begin to dilate.
This is highly visible in the eyes because you can more readily see those blood vessels. This gives your eyes the red and glassy look we describe as stoned eyes.
That increase in blood flow also causes the dryness and “heavy” feeling you can have in your eyes and eyelids. This increase in blood flow can also explain why some people can feel dizzy when using cannabis.
What Weed Does To Your Eyes
What weed is doing to your eyes is both increasing your blood flow based on your initial THC exposure then relaxing your eye capillaries which increases blood flow. This can relieve intraocular pressure.
Intraocular pressure is the pressure of the fluid in your eye. One of the benefits of the science behind the red eyes is that cannabis can relieve intraocular pressure which can help relieve the symptoms of glaucoma.
One of the first steps towards embracing medicinal marijuana was the revelation that cannabis was a potential treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition where high intraocular pressure causes damage to the optic nerve. This began a certain amount of buzz about the possible applications of cannabis.
While it did help many patients in the 1990s, sadly, cannabis is not a realistic treatment for glaucoma. The pressure release only lasts so long and would require too much THC which is not realistic.
Additionally, cannabis can cause tachycardia (an abnormally high heart rate) and lower blood pressure both of which can reduce blood flow to the compromised optic nerve which could exacerbate glaucoma.
To patients curious about THC eye drops, sadly, THC is not water-soluble, so weed eye drops are not practical. Oil-based THC eye drops were not effective as they did not affect intraocular pressure and proved to be an eye irritant.
Photo by Perchek Industrie
Does Cannabis Have Any Lasting Effect On The Eyes?
A little redness is not all that THC can do to your eyes. Past study has indicated that marijuana can potentially cause a deterioration in color vision. It can also potentially affect your photosensitivity and dynamic visual acuity, your ability to adapt to darkness and increase your glare-recovery time.
Besides the effects on the eyes, cannabis use can affect your visual processing and cause potential delays. There is also the potential for dysfunction in your retinal ganglion cells and its synaptic connection to the brain.
There’s no risk of blindness but the potential for impacts on your vision are enough to at least be considered when thinking about your cannabis use.
Do Edibles Make Your Eyes Red?
Again, the misnomer that smoking pot makes your eyes red is not the main cause of stoner eyes. Edibles have just as much potential to make your eyes red. A higher concentration of THC increases the likelihood for the vasodilation of the blood vessels in your eye.
That being said, THC is metabolized differently when you eat edibles. Your body can potentially absorb THC throughout the digestive process at different rates and times. This can affect the way your body interacts with the THC in edibles.
These shifts can affect the blood pressures that make your eyes red so sometimes edibles will make your eyes red and sometimes they will not. Additionally, CBD can temper some of the interactions of THC so if it’s plentiful in your edible, it could temper eye redness.
There are also multiple factors that can affect your potential for eye redness including your blood pressure, body size, genetics, and even your gender. If you have higher blood pressure you’ll need a higher concentration of THC to actually make your eyes red.
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How To Get Rid Of High Eyes
One interesting fact is that as you build a higher THC tolerance it can actually decrease your chances of eye redness. So essentially, stoner eyes are more prevalent in people newer to THC. Talk about an ironic twist.
Additionally, CBD and other cannabinoid-heavy strains can offer a red-eye-free experience. THC is the main culprit in causing red eyes so focusing on other cannabinoids can decrease your chances of dry or itchy eyes.
The main solution to get rid of red eyes from weed is simply using over-the-counter eye drops. You can use standard eye drops or artificial tears and they often help remoisten your eyes and reduce the redness. This is often the simplest and fastest solution.
If you have an extreme reaction or don’t have eye drops present you can also consider using a warm or cool compress. Both heat and cold can help with blood flow in that area and help reduce discomfort.
Another natural option, and a great use of upcycling, is to use used tea bags. Old tea bags, that have been cooled, can be placed on your eyes and help with redness, irritation, and dryness.
If you’re more holistic you may consider…fish oil. Now don’t place any fish oil on your eyes. But studies, including a 2012 study, have shown omega-3 fatty acids can help with dry eyes. If omega-3s are part of your supplement regimen this can decrease your chances of high eyes.
One other lifestyle choice that can help reduce weed-based eye redness is hydration. If you’re well hydrated, you’re less likely to develop eye redness.
How To Get Rid Of Stoned Eyes Fast
If you have an issue where you need to clear your eyes quickly you may want to consider your choice of eye drops. Some eye drops on the market can be fast-acting without putting your eye care at risk. Redness-reducing eye drops contain active ingredients like Tetrahydrozoline or Naphazoline that cause the blood vessels in the eye to constrict.
These products are entirely safe to use sparingly, but cannot be a constant solution. Overuse can actually increase the chances your eyes dry out and become red. Also, remember it’s best to talk to your ophthalmologist or optometrist when adding new eye products to your regular routine to ensure proper eye care.
You can combine eye drops with a cold compress to increase their efficacy. Taking a couple of minutes with a cool compress will allow the eye drops to work their magic and help moisten and cool your eye.
Red, dry, and sometimes itchy eyes have become a tell-tale sign of cannabis use. Often called high eyes or stoner eyes, red, glassy eyes can let everyone know you’re using marijuana even if it’s medicinally.
It turns out THC is the culprit, meaning that other cannabinoids can help in addition to eye drops, compresses, and even certain supplements.
Over time, your chances of developing red eyes can even decrease. Be sure to apply for your medical marijuana license to take advantage of your rights to medicinal cannabis.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.