Is it possible to overdose on marijuana, or is this just another myth to get people to stop using drugs? This is an age-old question that many weed users have asked. In light of the legalization of marijuana use in various states across the country, it’s important to have a full understanding of weed’s effects on the body. While cannabis supporters are adamant about the drug’s safety, opposing parties aren’t convinced. Because it’s a conversation that needs to be had, today we’re discussing whether overdosing on weed is possible.
Can You Overdose on Weed?
With most other drugs, fatal overdose is a major risk factor of abuse. For instance, opioids are notorious for their potential for addiction and overdose. Considering these drugs bind to areas of the brain that control functions like breathing, taking high doses is life-threatening.
But what about drugs like marijuana that don’t bind to areas of the brain? Although it’s not fatal like an opioid overdose, you can overdose on weed or simply use too much of it. Using too much marijuana, as with any other drug, can lead to a negative reaction, regardless of whether it’s fatal.
A 2019 letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine details the symptoms of weed overdose in a 52-year old man who had been injecting the drug to stimulate his appetite. While undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, the man took too much marijuana, which led to confusion, restlessness, and speech problems for two days. While this isn’t exactly fatal, these impairments increase the likelihood of accidents that can lead to fatal results.
Weed Overdose Symptoms
So how much does it take to overdose on weed? In the letter (which has since been removed), the man injected about 330 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. An average dose of marijuana is 10 mg, but the man took 30 times the usual amount. Although this would’ve led to a fatal overdose with many drugs, in this case, the side effects were unpleasant but not deadly.
Additionally, while rare, overdosing on marijuana is possible. Rather than a fatal respiratory attack like that of an opioid overdose, a weed overdose attacks the mind and heart. Common marijuana overdose symptoms include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Psychosis, in which the person loses touch with reality or becomes paranoid
- Hallucinations, delusions, or a loss of personal identity
- Impaired judgment, perception, and coordination, increasing the risk of injury or death
- A fast heart rate, chest pain, or heart attack
- Uncontrollable shaking or seizures
- Pale skin color
- Increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
If these symptoms occur while the person is engaging in certain activities, such as driving, the risk of injury and death increases. Weed overdose psychosis is another uncomfortable and disturbing symptom. This is diagnosed when either hallucinations, delusions, or both, develop soon or after cannabis intoxication.
Furthermore, other than using too much weed, the risk of overdose increases when other substances are involved. Certain drug combinations – such as marijuana and alcohol – can be life-threatening. When consumed together, marijuana and alcohol can impair one’s judgment and depress the central nervous system. This combination is common in car accidents.
While the mechanisms aren’t clear, we do know that both substances produce their own side effects, so it’s understandable that combining them may end poorly. Overdosing on weed is also more likely in people who have pre-existing health conditions, a mental illness, or a history of drug use.
Essentially, marijuana overdose symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a day. The severity and duration of symptoms depend greatly on the dosage of THC consumed. The more THC a person ingests, the longer and more severe their symptoms will be.
Help for Marijuana Abuse
Although marijuana overdose death is not possible, it is possible to experience negative side effects using too much marijuana. While many supporters claim the drug offers more pros than cons, the truth of the matter is that weed is a drug and using too much of anything simply isn’t good for you.
What’s more, not only is marijuana a gateway drug, but street versions of the drug are being laced with other substances more often than not. From fentanyl to cocaine to other harmful chemicals, drug dealers are finding more ways to increase their profit with less productivity while packing their drugs with enough punch to get customers coming back for more.
Synthetic and fentanyl-laced weed is in a whole other ballpark when it comes to side effects and overdose potential, so it’s important to be cautious. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab offers treatment for prescription and illicit drugs, including substances like synthetic weed and ecstasy.
As we mentioned, weed is a gateway drug because it opens the door to other substances that are much more intense and addicting. Many who start with weed end up with opioids. If you’re this person or know someone who is, our medically monitored detox and treatment programs can help.