The morning after I smoked my first joint, I woke up choking. Not because it was the first time I’d exposed my lungs to smoke, but because my saliva glands seemed to have vanished overnight. I assumed I’d caught some weird virus that dried my mouth out.
Later, when I chatted to the benefactor who’d given me the joint, I was assured that this was no virus, but my first-ever case of xerostomia, or cannabis cottonmouth. Cottonmouth occurs because cannabis causes saliva secretion to decrease. The most common symptoms are a persistent thirst, and uncomfortably dry mouth and throat.
While the name of the condition is enough to make you laugh out loud (cottonmouth sounds like a PG13 insult from a Nickelodeon show), its symptoms aren’t really a laughing matter. Gagging for water when emerging from slumber is less than ideal, and somewhat stressful.
Not only is cottonmouth unpleasant, but it’s also super common. About 68.9 percent of those who use cannabis frequently experience it. According to Dr. Hervé Damas, cannabis expert, and director of Grassroots Wellness, cottonmouth can happen to anyone who uses cannabis. “Those who have certain conditions like Sjogren’s [syndrome] or scleroderma tend to be more susceptible, though,” says Damas.