Dry Eyes When High: What You Need To Know

July 20, 2017

Sitting out in a beautiful clearing on top of a hill with an epic view of the landscape, you take a few long, slow puffs of a remarkably flavorful joint: full-bodied with overtones of grapefruit. Sitting back and enjoying the sunset, your revelry is interrupted a most uncomfortable situation happening in your left eye.

It’s like something is stuck in it, but you know it's just phantom particles–nothing’s really there. Your eyelids feel like they’ve been coated with glue and sandpaper, and in all your twitching and rubbing, the sun sets, unnoticed.


Dry Eyes When High: An Uncomfortable Side Effect

The list of side effects of cannabis is relatively benign compared to most pharmaceuticals (no rectal bleeding here!), but dry eyes when high is still uncomfortable and can really pull you out of the moment. Especially for those who wear contact lenses.

What’s the Deal? Why Does Cannabis Give You Dry Eyes?

There are a couple of factors at play here:

First, on a purely physical level, is the irritation caused by the smoke burning the flower. Smoke irritates and dries out your eyes. It comes with the territory.

But even edibles can cause dry eyes, so clearly there is more going on here.

The other factors are biochemical, which includes your own biochemistry and sensitivities as well as the biochemistry of the specific strain you are using.

Because cannabis remains a Schedule 1 Drug, research on this minor side effect is notably lacking, but it is safe to say that cannabis generally has a drying effect on your mucosal membranes, mediated by how cannabis’ effects on the endocannabinoid system.

Each individual has their own unique expression of endocannabinoid receptors and each strain has its own unique profile of cannabinoids. Together, you get your own unique effects.

Sometimes that includes dry eyes.

If you find it’s an issue, look for a strain that works for you. Ask one of our budtenders to help you navigate our extensive selection. Also, Leafly's Cannabis Strain Explorer allows you to search for a strain under 'effect' that excludes 'dry eyes' under its 'Advanced Filters' search option.

So, What Do I About It?

The best solution is prevention.

In this case, hydration is the key. If you stay well-hydrated dry eyes when high will be less of a problem.

Try to limit your screen time during the day and especially while ingesting cannabis. Screens are hard on our eyes and cause eye fatigue which leads to dryness.

But let’s face it, a lot of us are dehydrated a lot of the time and we’re probably not thinking so far ahead to mitigate one little side effect of cannabis.

So, in lieu of preparation, here are a few tactical, practical steps you can take to lubricate your poor itchy dry eyes:

Artificial Tears

Many eye drops have a lot of chemicals in them that aren’t necessarily good for you. The closer they come to the purity and chemistry of your own tears, the better and more effective they will be. Ask your local pharmacy or optician.

Cold Cucumbers

A typical spa treatment, cucumbers are very hydrating and can help you restore moisture to your parched eyeballs.

Cold Green Tea Bags

Brew some green tea and cool off the tea bags, then put them on your eyes for 10 minutes. Please do not forget the step about cooling the bags first.

Ultimately, dry eyes when high are a pretty small price to pay for the benefits of cannabis, but we hope these tips keep your eyes happy, healthy, and hydrated!

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