Tuesday January 7, 2020
By Paul Barach
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 is 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.
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 eye their first few times smoking weed and then never again. Other consumers deal with it every time as though it’s some type of curse.
Whether or not you get red eye 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.
What Causes Red Eyes After Smoking Cannabis?
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 “Just went through a wind tunnel” 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 – thus, they become much more visible.
On the plus side, this is exactly why cannabis has been used as a medicine to treat glaucoma for years. By lowering intraocular pressure in the eye, it alleviates impaired vision by increasing the flow of nutrients into the ocular nerves. There’s even evidence that cannabis can help treat a number of symptoms of eye problems, and may help to prevent long term retinal damage.
How to Prevent or Get Rid of Red Eyes
Red eye from smoking cannabis will go away on its own after a couple of hours. But 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 dual pink eye.
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). If you forgot yours at home or need it one the fly, they’ll be available in any drug store, grocery store, convenience store, or gas station (there’s a reason for that too). Just one or two drops and your Incredible Hulk-sized blood vessels will shrink back down to Bruce Banner proportions in no time. Only use the recommended amount, though.
Drink Some 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 little. It’s also a healthy choice for your body and may help with any dry mouth you’re experiencing.
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. Like some other body parts, 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 some 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.
If red eyes are a regular issue, then the solution might be to decrease the amount of THC that you are consuming when you smoke up. Since THC is the main culprit, avoiding it should fix the problem. 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.
Look, if you can’t get to some 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.
Red eye is not a huge deal and something that can be easily taken care of with a little planning ahead or a little triage in the moment. Like dry mouth, it’s 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.
Do you have any tips for avoiding red eyes after consuming cannabis? Share your thoughts and experiences with other readers in the comments below.