Can You Overdose on Marijuana?
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Barbara Peacock / The Image Bank / Getty Images
Marijuana (cannabis) has a reputation for being a totally benign drug. To read the claims from the proponents of weed, it would seem that cannabis only has beneficial effects. Ask any stoner from the 60s about their bad experiences and it becomes clear that marijuana isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.
There is plenty of evidence that, as drugs go, marijuana is significantly less dangerous than many other oft-abused substances, including alcohol. But less dangerous is a far cry from saying it’s completely safe.
Marijuana doesn’t come with a clear definition of overdose. In fact, doctors aren’t entirely sure how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it takes to overdose. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana most likely to induce the high users are seeking.
Risk of Death
Some wonder if marijuana overdose can cause death. There have been a few isolated case reports where marijuana has been implicated in people’s death. However, a clear causal relationship has not been established.
What medical professionals aren’t clear about, is whether those cases had other contributing factors (like pre-existing cardiac conditions).
Other Adverse Effects
Marijuana is a strange drug in that it contains a lot of active ingredients. Although scientists cite different numbers, in addition to THC, there are thought to be over 100 other cannabinoids in cannabis. Not all of these act the same way.
Get too much THC and you may have a psychoactive reaction that is not unlike that of a stimulant. Cannabidiol (CBD) is associated more with sedative effects.
The effects of marijuana use are all over the map. There have been cases of heart arrhythmias and sudden cardiac arrest while smoking weed. There are reports of both seizures and the reduction of seizures, which seems to be based on which type of cannabinoid and at what amounts are used.
Here are some examples of THC toxicity that have been published:
- Heart arrhythmias: Some doctors believe that heart disturbances are under-reported in marijuana use. Since smoking weed and taking other drugs often go together, it’s really hard to isolate the cause when the heart starts doing crazy things. Even drinking alcohol intensifies the effects, which means you can’t say for sure whether it was the pot or the booze that caused a problem.
- Psychosis or paranoia: Users report severe psychotic episodes with hallucinations and negative associations. In some cases, the psychosis can last significantly longer than the amount of time it should take to metabolize the THC.
- Uncontrollable vomiting: Although THC often has anti-nausea properties, it can rarely be associated with a syndrome of persistent vomiting. More often associated with chronic cannabis use, uncontrollable vomiting is sometimes relieved with a hot shower.
Even the method of consumption makes a difference. For example, a user may consume too much THC in edible form because it takes longer to see an effect. If one brownie doesn’t work, they take another. and maybe just one more. Suddenly, they have a serious reaction.
THC that is consumed in edible form is metabolized differently than when it’s inhaled. It takes longer to absorb THC in edibles, which can lead to the user thinking they didn’t get enough.
Edibles are also much more prone to accidental overdoses. Smoking marijuana doesn’t usually happen accidentally. Even second-hand smoke from your neighbor’s party isn’t really going to do anything but stink up your apartment.
However, leaving laced cookies lying around pretty much begs for someone to try a bite. Kids are especially likely to munch on marijuana goodies. When grandma is trying a little medical marijuana for the first time and accidentally leaves it out for the grandkids to explore, you have a recipe for overdose.
Children presenting to the emergency department with accidental ingestion of marijuana becomes increasingly common in every state that legalizes marijuana for recreational use. Once it’s legal and tolerated, it’s a lot easier to accidentally leave your marijuana out on the coffee table for the kids to find.
Increased Concerns About Overdose
There are several reasons that medical and health experts have become concerned about the potential for marijuana overdose and adverse effects.
Increased Marijuana Use
Marijuana has been available for medicinal use since 1996 when California legalized it. Now, California, Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. allow recreational use. In Oregon, the number of dispensaries doubled after recreational weed was legalized.
As the momentum of recreational pot burns across the country, people you probably didn’t expect to see getting high are trying weed for the first time in years. While they might have smoked a little pot in college, this isn’t the same thing.
Many in the medical world report being a bit surprised by the marked increase in marijuana use in states where it has been legalized. Many paramedics, EMTs, and emergency department healthcare providers figured that those who cared about getting high had their medical marijuana prescriptions and could get it when they wanted.
As it turned out, there were plenty of people interested in trying the recently illicit substance. All that new consumption has led to significant increases in marijuana-induced emergency department visits.
Increased THC Concentration
Just like how modern farmers are able to get much bigger yields from crops like corn and beans, weed farmers today are much more successful than they were in the past. The levels of THC in marijuana are well above what it was before the current farmers were born.
The concentrations of THC increased from 3.4% in 1993 to 8.8% in 2008. Some folks say that just means you don’t have to roll the blunts as fat as you used to, but let’s face it: When you’re chasing the high, the bar just keeps getting higher.
A Word From Verywell
Marijuana overdose is still a debated topic and there isn’t really a clear answer on how much pot is too much. Until there is, it’s important to be diligent if you choose to use and to keep yourself informed. Don’t accept the mantra that weed is natural and therefore, safe. What makes anything safe is an informed consumer and a critical mind.
Learn about the risks of using too much marijuana, and find out whether it's possible to overdose from it and die.
From A Stoner To A Stoner: Why Smoking Too Much Weed Can F*ck Up Your Life
Pot can really f*ck up your life if you smoke it so often and in such large quantities that you are not strengthening, but weakening your connection with the outside world.
Yes, I am high as I am writing this.
This loss of connection is quite possibly the most universal sign a pothead can look for in order to save him or herself from inadvertently becoming numb to the very gift that makes weed so incredibly magical and ultimately necessary in the first place.
Losing your connection with the outside world means not caring about what you see and what happens to you. It is a mental and physical numbness that triggers a loss of regard for the people, responsibilities and potential for growth within your immediate and ever-evolving life.
This experience signifies not only that you are smoking too much weed, but that you are also subconsciously letting it diminish your opportunities to make the most out of life.В Weed will do this to you if you smoke it so much that you basically oversaturate your mental and physical capacity for its contents.
One of the many beauties of marijuana is that everyone reacts differently to it. This is why everyone reaches this stage of oversaturation at different points and through different methods. You could hypothetically refer to this experience as overdosing, keeping in mind that this label mirrors only one half of the wordвЂ™s traditional, yet ambiguous definition. While what I am referring to as oversaturation does imply that the given substance is taken in excess, it does not also include a specific, biological malfunction that can only be neutralized by unnatural medicine.
ItвЂ™s perfectly all right to smoke weed to escape the stress-filled mental state, but this escape is not meant to cripple your goals or social life.
When youвЂ™re too high to maintain your core values and contribute to your own personal evolution, you have smoked too much weed. Weed is supposed to make you embrace life, not get through it as fast and painlessly as possible.
When you have attained oversaturation, you arenвЂ™t just escaping the stress that comes with life, but attempting to escape the entirety of life in itself.
You have smoked too much weed when you constantly find yourself in a cloudy trance that veils you from the desire to actively engage in your own personal development and cultivation. This dazed, almost hypnotic trance is a sensation-less sensation, a state of numbness and unresponsiveness that makes the participation and enthusiasm required for self-cultivation and celebrating its wonders seem like feats of unnecessary and unattainable effort.
You donвЂ™t want to try, you donвЂ™t want to care; youвЂ™d just rather sit there and wait for things to fall into place.
And the scariest part is: it feels good. It feels good because youвЂ™re so numb itвЂ™s as if nothing is affecting you, when itвЂ™s really having such a heavy effect on you that you grow more and more oblivious to whatвЂ™s actually happening. The outside world becomes immaterial and meaningless, thus provoking you not to care about your role in it. This neglect of well-being and control is what the oversaturated pothead tends to mistake for freedom.
I donвЂ™t think I have to list all of the physical side-effects but the most common include lethargy, lots and lots of staring at a television, decreased responses to texts, much more painful work days, and the dwindling of social relationships, personal hygiene and whatever love life there once was.
As a result of this transformation, sh*t just doesnвЂ™t go your way anymore.
There are many ways to achieve a state of this nature but sadly, one of the easiest yet least documented in legitimacy is unquestionably an overabundance of excessive pot use.
Let it be known that вЂњoverabundanceвЂќ was added simply because the utter euphoria, let alone the idea of what is universally known as excessive pot use is something no pothead can ever denounce entirely. ItвЂ™s clearly okay to smoke a ton of weed at certain points of life because history has shown us that if taken full advantage of at exactly the right time, excessive usage can in fact result in immense success of all kinds.
But most would agree that the universe just doesnвЂ™t offer us enough of these opportunities to indulge in this manner, therefore an overabundance of excessive pot use is unnecessary and in turn, rather harmful.
To precisely define a specific pot-induced feeling is obviously pretty difficult, but the comparison that seems to best get the point across involves being so ridiculously wrecked that you feel like youвЂ™re on something far stronger than olвЂ™ faithful.
If youвЂ™ve ever taken a strong painkiller that makes you space out to the point where the world around you feels like a movie unfolding before your eyes, youвЂ™re familiar with the feeling.
Only this time, it doesnвЂ™t just last for a few hours. YouвЂ™ve managed to smoke so much and so often that your version of вЂњsoberвЂќ has become a non-smokerвЂ™s idea of what they feel like when they wake up in the middle of the night on ambient.
I hope youвЂ™re not crying if you fit the aforementioned descriptions because there truly is a light the end of this dark tunnel of an SSA (Stoner Service Announcement).
There is good news and great news. The good news is that you donвЂ™t have to stop smoking pot upon oversaturation; you just have to smoke it significantly less.
While this will most definitely be a tough regimen to get used to, I guarantee itвЂ™s worth every anxious moment of it as it wonвЂ™t be long before youвЂ™ll have re-created the indescribable awe that engulfed your senses when you first started smoking pot. Well, maybe it wonвЂ™t be just like the very first time, but it should at least make you understand what a healthy high should feel like and most importantly, make you aware of the shockingly uncomplicated changes you need to make to get your life back in order.
Whether youвЂ™ve never experienced oversaturation before or are well within its grasp, please let it be known that weed can really, really f*ck up your life if you abuse it like so. Pot may be the closest thing to divinity many of us have ever experienced. This, however, does not mean it is not subjected to the darkness within human nature. It needs to be used wisely and treated with respect. DonвЂ™t fool around with pot like a two dollar hooker. Take only what is right for the situation and make sure it always maintains its taste.
Pot can really f*ck up your life if you smoke it so often and in such large quantities that you are not strengthening, but weakening your connection with the outside world. Yes, I am high as I am writing this. This loss of connection is quiteвЂ¦