Why Does Marijuana Cause Dry Mouth

“Dry mouth” — which is about much more than simply having a dry mouth — is absolutely nothing new. Just ask that uncle who used to be a pothead back in the day, and he’ll definitely tell you all about his experiences with this phenomenon, which has also been dubbed cotton mouth and pasty mouth

Smoking weed, old-timers will say, doesn’t only make your mouth dry. It also:

  • Makes your tongue feel incredibly dry, along with your lips.
  • Causes an unquenchable thirst (hey, at least doing weed will help you get to your “eight glasses of water a day” in a pinch!).
  • Leads to a sore throat and its best friend, the hoarse voice.
  • Has the potential to create a kind of “pins and needles” effect in the mouth.
  • Gives you bad breath sometimes, because a dry mouth is a foul-smelling one.
  • In some cases, and perhaps worst of all, ends with nasty and painful oral sores that can also appear around the lips.

Those same long-time weed enthusiasts, who will definitely have experimented with edibles back in the day but who mainly smoked joints, will also usually tell you exactly why this happens. Dry mouth, they’ll vow, strikes because all that hot smoke quite literally dries your mouth out. 

The only trouble? That’s not true, or at least not exclusively. The fact that folks who mainly enjoy their cannabis in the form of vaping, cannabis gummies, THC syrups added to sodas, or even capsules still get dry mouth is enough to prove this. 

What causes dry mouth, then? Even more importantly, what can you do to combat this annoying phenomenon that definitely robs you of some of the pleasure cannabis would otherwise give you?

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A Look at the Factors that Cause Cotton Mouth

Before we can look at the reasons behind dry mouth, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how saliva is formed. The parasympathetic nervous system — or PSNS — is in charge of the process, and the chorda tympani nerve sends signals to let it know that you’re in need of more. This happens when you eat food or think about tasty meals, for instance. As this process unfolds, norepinephrine is also released. 

If you regularly enjoy weed, which if you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you do, you’ll already know that cannabinoid receptors are found nearly all over the body. As it turns out, the submandibular glands, which play a key role in producing saliva and are closely involved in making the process described above happen in practice, are no exception. 

dry mouth meme

Nearby cannabinoid receptors get in the way of that norepinephrine production, and dry mouth results. This isn’t typically a problem in people who enjoy a bit of cannabis now and then, but in regular cannabis enthusiasts, this blocking system is fine tuned over time. Dry mouth results, and it doesn’t matter whether you smoke, use edibles, use THC syrup, or get your weed in any other way.

This explains, by the way, why dry mouth doesn’t just happen to folks who enjoy high-THC strains. Cotton mouth occurs in people who strictly keep it medicinal by using products like CBD oil just as often. Although CBD won’t get you stoned, it definitely activates those cannabinoid receptors, and dry mouth is one possible result.

So in a rather ironic loop, the same cannabinoid receptors in your body that allow you to experience the relaxation, stress relief, and general euphoria of cannabis also will as a side effect often leave your mouth void of saliva. It would seem that nothing pleasurable in life comes without a cost.

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What Can You Do About Cannabis-Related Dry Mouth?

Sadly, there’s no way to simply tell your salivary glands and cannabinoid receptors to stop saddling you with that nasty side effect. If you enjoy weed often and you get cotton mouth quite a bit, that’s not going to stop. Sorry but that’s just the scientific truth of the matter.

Because of that, you’ve essentially got two options, and you should try both simultaneously:

  • Mechanically increase saliva production by doing things that make your mouth water — or add moisture from another source. 
  • Stop doing other things that decrease your saliva production. 

In the first category, the most obvious step to take would be to drink more water whenever your mouth feels dry.

Yes, yes, other beverages like soft drinks, fruit juices, tea, and coffee do technically contain water, but pure old H2O is definitely your best bet here.

*Pro tip, if you like smoking on the bright and energizing sativa dominant strains before heading out for a hike or adventure then we highly recommend looking into getting something like a Camelback water pack, because nothing sucks more than having dry mouth on top of legitimate dehydration. Total buzz kill.

That said, don’t simply start chugging ginormous quantities of water after you consume cannabis. Be responsible, and take steps to remind yourself to stop and drink water throughout the day. The recommended H2O intake for men is about 15.5 cups/day (or 3.7 liters) and 11.5 cups/day (or 2.8 liters) for women. It might not completely eliminate dry mouth, but staying well-hydrated will certainly alleviate the problem.

The other obvious way to stimulate saliva production is to chew something constantly. Unless you want to keep on eating, chewing gum is the most obvious choice.

Chewing is one of the best ways to get your mouth watering, but licking and sucking will also do the trick to a certain extent, and therefore, a lollipop (cannabis-infused lollipops can kill two birds with one stone) some ice cubes, or even cucumber slices that have a high water content, can help you out as well. (Just as a bonus tip, biting down on ice cubes is a very bad idea for your teeth. Don’t do it.)

A final solution would be to try a demulcent — a medication, in some cases available over the counter, that’s designed to fight oral dryness by protecting your sensitive mucus membranes with a dry film. 

In the second category, stop indulging in other substances that also contribute to dry mouth. You know the ones. Alcohol and coffee are the biggest offenders here, but of course, dry and salty crackers don’t help either. 

HerbCEO Final Thoughts

Herb CEO Summary

Dry mouth can result from the interaction between cannabis and your body. It’s annoying, but not inevitable. By taking the steps that will help your body increase its saliva production naturally, you can nearly always eliminate it almost completely.

Turn to prescription or over the counter medications to alleviate a dry mouth only if you absolutely have to, because these, too, come with their own set of potential side effects. If you do have sores in your mouth, of course, it’s time to see a dentist.

The bottom line here is to enjoy your weed alongside eight glasses of water a day.

Last update on 2024-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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