Marijuana Overdose

Can you overdose or even die from smoking marijuana? This is an age-old question pervading discussions of drug overdoses. Pro-cannabis supporters point to arguments claiming that not only is marijuana perfectly safe to use, but even has perceived health benefits. On the other side of this debate, opponents assert that marijuana deserves its high federal classification as a Schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

No other single drug has nearly as many staunch proponents with such opposing viewpoints. But, with marijuana becoming legal in several states and available for medicinal purposes in dozens of others, it is certainly a conversation that needs to be had.

Exploring the fundamental question of whether an individual can overdose on marijuana helps drive a productive dialogue in the United States. Additionally, by having such discussions, we ensure that those who choose to partake in cannabis develop safer habits of use that mitigate any potential issues that might arise.

Marijuana Overdose | Marijuana Overdose Treatment, Signs, & Symptoms
Despite rhetoric from one side or another, one thing remains an objective reality on the subject: overdosing on marijuana alone is unlikely, if not entirely impossible. Unlike other drugs that are notorious for binding to areas of the brain that control vital functions like breathing, marijuana mostly affects memory and coordination.

According to reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control, there have been zero overdose fatalities linked to cannabis. Regardless of personal opinions on the matter, pretending or substantiating claims to the contrary would be a gross mistreatment of the truth on the part of any institution — especially by those claiming to have the best interests of drug users in mind.

Still, some more recent recreational trends have shifted the danger conversation slightly. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or commonly referred to as THC, is the main psychoactive component found within cannabis. Over the last decades, THC levels have increased exponentially across marijuana strains the world over. This, paired with newer means of ingestion such as dabbing and edibles, means that marijuana use has become somewhat less predictable than the otherwise benign methods of smoking.

Dabbing involves smoking a high concentrated hash or wax to attain an instant, intense high. Edibles, as the name implies, involves the creation of food products such as candies or desserts with THC baked right in. The true problem resides in dosages. To this day, many states still lack regulations of THC levels for edibles. Approved sellers are left to mostly play a guessing game when it comes to advertising THC content of their products. For the novice smoker, this can have hazardous effects.

Take Colorado, one of the very first states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use. A chief issue facing Colorado dispensaries revolves around marijuana tourists coming from outside states. These people then consume dabs or edibles while incorrectly assuming that these products contain the same THC levels they are accustomed to. While the term ‘overdose’ may be too extreme even in these instances, there have certainly been many documented cases of people needing medical attention after getting too high, too quickly.

The term ‘gateway drug’ is often used as a trope when discussing marijuana use. This is because using marijuana does leave people susceptible to unknowingly ingesting other substances. Experts have long warned of the dangers of cannabis being laced with harmful drugs such as PCP, crack or cocaine. Any drug purchased off the streets has the potential to come with more than what one may have bargained for.

For the sake of argument, just how much would it actually take to die from marijuana? Best estimates put the amount needed at 680 kg of cannabis smoked in a 15-minute time period.

Though not necessarily symptoms of an overdose, there are without a doubt signs of marijuana overconsumption. Such symptoms may include:

  • Escalated heart rate
  • Headache
  • Pale skin
  • Paranoid thoughts or hallucinations
  • Confusion or panic attacks

Symptoms like the ones described here should not be ignored under any circumstances. Do not let the fact the symptoms originated from cannabis prevent you from seeking help. Always seek medical intervention if it becomes necessary.

Treating marijuana intoxication is typically a waiting game. Seeing as paranoia or psychosis may occur in the most extreme scenarios, it is important to soothe, reassure and put the affected individual in a comfortable environment. Once in the presence of trained medical professionals, those that ingested too much marijuana will quickly recover to their sober state.

While not necessarily addictive on its own, marijuana use may lead to the consumption of more addictive drugs. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, The Recovery Village is here to help. Reach out to us today for more information. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.