Wednesday December 1, 2021

By Paul Barach

Reviewed By Mohammad Ashori, M.D. on Friday January 14, 2022

Someones eye Education

There’s nothing wrong with smoking some weed every now and then to chill yourself out or make your daily routine a little more fun. As long as you’re not operating heavy machinery, performing surgery, or running point on a hostage negotiation, you’re usually all good. Still, it’s better to stay discreet when possible. Being stoned can be pretty fun, but there are few thoughts that will harsh your experience faster than, “Everyone around me knows that I’m high.”



Of course, you already know the basics of how to cover up a quick toke. You can hide the smell by smoking outside, minting up your breath, changing your clothes, or using a dry herb vape.

However, the one thing that’s hardest to hide is a case of red eyes. There’s a reason that it’s one of the most well-known signs of having indulged in some herb. That’s why it’s important to know how to prevent red eyes from weed. 

Why Does Weed Make Your Eyes Red?

Despite what you may think, it’s not the irritants in the smoke wafting up from your bowl or your joint that give your peepers that distinct  “just went through a windtunnel” look. It’s not from the coughing either.

One of the effects of THC, the cannabinoid molecule doing most of the heavy lifting in marijuana, is that it can lower blood pressure. Unfortunately, where this effect is most noticeable is in the windows to the soul, your eyes.

As the pressure lowers in your inner eyeball, the small capillaries and blood vessels running through the whites of your eyes have more room to stretch out. As a result, they become more visible - hence, conjunctival injection or episcleral vessel dilation (to be exact).

On the plus side, this is exactly why cannabis has been used as a medicine to help with glaucoma for years. By lowering intraocular pressure in the eye, it alleviates impaired vision by increasing blood supply to the ocular nerves. The overall effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment for glaucoma is a debated topic, but many consumers say it helps.

Do Edibles Make Your Eyes Red?

Whether you smoke your THC or swallow it, once THC hits your system it’s going to decrease your intraocular pressure. In other words, cannabis can give you red eyes no matter what form. Edibles, tinctures, sublinguals and transdermal patches can all cause a similar reaction. On the contrary, topicals (which do not get absorbed significantly into the bloodstream), will not have an effect on your eyes.

How to Prevent or Get Rid of Red Eyes from Smoking Weed

Red eyes from smoking weed will go away on its own after a couple of hours. However, if you’re in a situation that you can’t just wait out, there are a couple of options that can help you recover faster so that you don’t have to blame a fake diagnosis of bilateral pink eye.

Eye Drops for Weed

This is, of course, the standard red eye relief. Whether the owners of eye drop brands like Visine know it or not, stoners have helped to put their kids and grandkids through college since the 1970s. (they know).

If you know you’re going to be burning one down before attending a social gathering, it’s best to put a small bottle of eye drops in your pocket or purse (there’s a reason they’re sold in travel size).

Visine eye drops
Carrying eye drops with you is always a good idea. photo credit

If you forgot yours at home or need some eye drops on the fly, they’re readily available in any drug store, grocery store, convenience store, or gas station. Just one or two drops into your “weed eyes” and your Incredible Hulk-sized blood vessels will shrink back down to Bruce Banner proportions in no time. Only use the recommended amount, though. Eye drops contain preservatives to prevent bacterial or fungal overgrowth in the bottles. Using it beyond the recommended four times per day can lead to eye toxicity. Overuse of such drops can also lead to rebound eye dryness and redness.

Drinking Water

Sometimes red-eye can be caused by dehydration from other issues, such as drinking too much caffeine or not staying hydrated on a hot day. A glass or two of water may help clear your whites out a bit. It’s also a healthy choice for your body and may help with any dry mouth you’re experiencing.

In case of dehydration, you can use artificial tears or eye rewetting drops. They come in preservative-free bottles which are usually more expensive but can be used as often as you like, per day.

Cold Compress or Ice Pack

If you’re near a refrigerator, or even a sink with frigid water, a cold compress can make a big difference in dealing with redness. 

Blood vessels shrink down when they get cold. This should hide the red and also wake you up a little.

Get a towel or cloth wet, put ice in it if it’s available, and hold it onto your closed eyes for about 5-10 minutes. When you no longer look like you stared into a wind tunnel, take off the compress and go on with your day. However, b e careful with ice application. It’s easy to overdo it and cause mild frostbite on the eyelids

Prevent Red Eyes with Low-THC Strains

If “weed eyes” are a regular issue, then you might prevent them by decreasing the amount of THC that you are consuming when you smoke up. Since THC is the main culprit, avoiding it should prevent redness in the future.

Cannabis strain
Try searching for strains with a lower THC percentage!

Low THC strains don’t necessarily mean less of a good time. There are still plenty of cannabinoids and terpenes that combine through the entourage effect into a fantastic experience.

Sunglasses

If you can’t get to eye drops or a cold compress, your options are already pretty limited. You can either lie about having just watched a particularly emotional episode of This Is Us, or you can throw on some shades and be the coolest person in the room, or at least the most mysterious. If you’re outside and the sun’s out, even better. However, sunglasses can be more attention-drawing in certain situations, so use your discretion. If you’re wearing sunglasses at night, someone is likely to ask if you’re high.

How Common Is It to Get Red Eyes from Cannabis?

While some smokers never have to deal with red eyes, they are a lucky few. (They probably never get cottonmouth either.) Others deal with red eyes their first few times smoking weed and then never again. Other consumers deal with irritation every time as though it’s some type of curse.

Whether or not you get “weed eyes” has a lot to do with your genetics, the strain being smoked, and other factors. For example, the more often you indulge, the less prominent the red eye will be. Much like time perception, your body seems to get used to it and adjust the more you do it.

The Wrap Up

“Weed eyes” are not a huge deal. You can prevent redness with a little planning ahead, or triage in the moment as they appear. Like dry mouth, it's generally a minor annoyance that comes with indulging the herb. And like dry mouth, a little preparation can go a long way towards enjoying your high and the rest of your day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do edibles make your eyes bloodshot?

Yes. Edibles contain THC, which lowers your ocular blood pressure and can cause red eye just the same way that smoking weed can. 

How can you prevent red eyes?

You can stay hydrated, use eye drops, put a cold compress over your eyes, or consume low-THC cannabis.

Does CBD make your eyes red?

No, CBD does not make your eyes red because it doesn’t have the same effect on ocular blood pressure as THC does.  


Do you have any tips for avoiding red eyes after consuming cannabis? Share your thoughts and experiences with other readers in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Amanda Dalbjörn (license)


Author

Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as Medium.com, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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Expert Medical Reviewer

Mohammad Ashori, M.D. Mohammad Ashori, M.D.

Mohammad Ashori, M.D. is a board-certified physician practicing in Los Angeles, CA. He attended UCLA medical school and completed his family medicine residency at UCLA as well. His career started out at a large HMO at Kaiser Permanente which he left in 2016 to work on the then-burgeoning field of telehealth. Since then he has worked with numerous healthcare startups focusing on patient education, empowerment, and access. He is passionate about the science of clinical medicine but doesn't like to stray too far from one-on-one clinical care. As of 2021, he is practicing in various urgent care in the Los Angeles area.

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