Tremors — from marijuana use or anxiety?

Originally Published: January 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 19, 2010
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Dear Alice,

I have smoked marijuana on and off for about a year, not ever more than about once every other week. The last two times I smoked, I experienced uncontrollable tremors in my leg. It wasn't painful like a muscle spasm, but it was uncomfortable and unsettling. Was this merely nervousness (this was the first time I had people "over" at my own suite to smoke and I was a little worried that my roommates would be angry)? Or, could this be a side effect of the drug?

Signed,
Reefer Madness

Dear Reefer Madness,

It is unsettling when our bodies do something seemingly without our control. In this case it may not be possible to tell whether marijuana or nervousness about your roommates' reactions was the cause of your tremors, as muscular tremors and shaking are common side effects of both marijuana and anxiety. Tremors are on of the list of possible physical reactions people can have to marijuana, as are nausea, headache, and increased appetite. Pot has been known to lower the seizure threshold for those with seizure disorders, which means it can make having a seizure more likely for those predisposed to them.

Shaking and trembling of the limbs is also a very common side effect of anxiety and panic, which you said you may have been feeling about having people over to your suite. If this was the first time you experienced the shaking but have smoked pot on and off for about a year, is it possible that the combination of being on edge about your roomies mixed with the jittery feelings marijuana can bring on was a double-edged sword? Perhaps when smoking in the future it would be a good idea to do so in an environment that feels comfortable with people who are safe and familiar. If the tremors do sneak up on you again, taking a moment to collect your thoughts combined with some deep slow breathing may help get you the extra oxygen and calming rhythm to relax your muscles and your mind. If your nervousness continues or is concerning, you could take an opportunity to reflect on the pros and cons of continuing to smoke.

Alice