Can you overdose on cannabis? This question is controversial, even among people who frequently use cannabis. Some people believe cannabis is as dangerous as opioids or stimulants, while others believe it’s completely harmless and has no side effects.
You can’t overdose on cannabis in the way that you can overdose on, say, opioids. To date, there have not been any reported deaths resulting solely from cannabis use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t overdo it or have a bad reaction to cannabis.
How much is too much?
There isn’t a straightforward answer here because everybody’s different. Some people seem to tolerate cannabis well, while others don’t tolerate it well at all. Cannabis products also vary greatly in their potency.
Edibles, however, seem to be more likely to cause a negative reaction. This is partly because they take a long time to kick in.
After eating an edible, it can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours before you start to feel the effects. In the meantime, many people end up eating more because they mistakenly believe the edibles are weak.
Mixing cannabis with alcohol can also cause a negative reaction for some people.
Cannabis products containing high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that makes you feel “high” or impaired, can also cause a bad reaction in some people, especially those who don’t use cannabis often.
What does a bad reaction look like?
Cannabis can have quite a few less-than-desirable side effects, including:
- thirstiness or a dry mouth (aka “cotton mouth”)
- concentration problems
- slower reaction times
- dry eyes
- fatigue or lethargy
- increased heart rate
- anxiety and other changes in mood
In rarer cases, it can also cause:
- paranoia and panic attacks
- nausea and vomiting
These side effects can last anywhere from 20 minutes to a full day. In general, cannabis that’s higher in THC is associated with more severe, long-lasting effects. And yes, it’s possible to wake up with a “weed hangover” the following day.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.