Medical experts agree it’s extremely unlikely to fatally overdose on marijuana, but higher THC levels, consumable edibles and laced weed are making it more dangerous.

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 marijuana is perfectly safe to use and has perceived health benefits. On the other side of this debate, opponents assert that marijuana deserves its restrictive 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. 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.

Article at a Glance:

  • Overdosing on marijuana is unlikely and perhaps even impossible.
  • THC concentrations in marijuana have gotten higher in recent years, making the drug more dangerous and unpredictable.
  • Marijuana overconsumption symptoms include headache, pale skin, paranoia, confusion and increased heart rate.
  • Medical professionals can help people with extreme paranoia and psychosis due to consuming an excess of marijuana.

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

Despite rhetoric from one side or another, one thing remains an objective reality: 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 National Institute on Drug Abuse, there have been no overdose fatalities linked to cannabis alone.

In June of 2019, a Louisiana coroner claimed the first case of a fatal marijuana overdose due to a highly-concentrated THC oil, but medical experts have doubted this autopsy’s findings. Currently, national institutions with the best interests of drug users in mind have noted a fatal cannabis overdose is extremely unlikely.

For the sake of argument, just how much would it actually take to die from marijuana? Best estimates put the amount needed at 1500 pounds of cannabis ingested in 15 minutes.

Is Too Much Marijuana Dangerous?

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. As the name implies, edibles involve the creation of food products such as candies or desserts with THC baked 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, this can have hazardous effects. Edibles also have a slower absorption time, so a person could ingest large amounts of THC without realizing it before the effects begin.

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.

Other Risks and Dangers

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 can come with more than what one may have bargained for.

Marijuana Overdose Symptoms

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.

Marijuana Overdose Treatment

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, preferably with medical professionals nearby to help.

Related Topic: Marijuana and psychosis

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 with questions or for more information.

Benjamin Caleb Williams
By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more
Melissa Carmona
Editor – Melissa Carmona
As the content manager at Advanced Recovery Systems, Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
Kevin Wandler
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more
Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is marijuana?” June 6, 2020. Accessed June 24, 2020.

Paton, Callum. “THC Overdose: Has First Death From Marijuana Exposure Been Recorded in the United States?” Newsweek, June 7, 2019. Accessed June 24, 2020.

Robinson, Melia. “Here’s how much marijuana it would take to kill you.” Independent.co.uk, November 8, 2017. Accessed June 24, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.