Will too much marijuana kill you? Can you overdose on marijuana just as easily as you can on cocaine, opioids, or even alcohol?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to think so. According to him, marijuana is only “slightly less awful” than heroin. And if marijuana is really that dangerous, then a marijuana overdose could definitely kill you, without question.
Our goal at Dr. Green Relief is to keep our patients up-to-date on the latest science surrounding medical marijuana. We want you to be able to separate fact from fiction, truth from propaganda.
We also don’t want to minimize the potential risks that come with using this medicine.
Which is why, in this post, we’ll be tackling the issue of marijuana overdosing: does it happen and is it fatal?
Here is the Number of People Who Have Died From an Overdose on Marijuana
We’re not making this up. The CDC reports that, as of January 17, there has still been no record of any fatalities due to marijuana overdose.
On another section of their website, the CDC goes on to say that dying because of a marijuana overdose is “unlikely.”
Now, why is that?
Maybe it’s because you’d have to smoke 1500 pounds of cannabis in 15 minutes to achieve a fatal dose.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it’s virtually impossible to consume that much marijuana. You’d most likely pass out before even making it through the first half-ounce.
(And readers, please don’t consider that to be an official challenge because it’s not. We advocate responsible use of medical marijuana!)
Now Compare That to These Other Drugs Overdose Death Rates
- Alcohol Poisoning: Over 2,200 deaths a year
- Opioids (prescription and heroin): 33,000 deaths in 2015 alone
- Acetaminophen: 980 deaths a year
Even aspirin is more toxic than marijuana!
Why is It So Hard to Fatally Overdose on Marijuana?
Cannabinoids, the active ingredient in marijuana, bind with cannabinoid receptors found in your brain and nervous system. The receptors are part of your body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for your motor control, memory, appetite, and sensations of pain and pleasure.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabinoid receptors are not found in the area of the brainstem that controls respiration.
Opioid receptors, on the other hand, are found in this area, which is why an opioid overdose can lead to asphyxiation.
The same goes for alcohol poisoning. Alcohol affects the nerves that control breathing and your gag reflex. In the case of an alcohol overdose, your breathing could stop. Or if you vomit, you could wind up choking to death on it.
Sorry, Mr. Attorney General. Marijuana isn’t “slightly less awful” than heroin…or alcohol, for that matter.
But It IS Possible to Consume Too Much Marijuana
It may be unlikely that you’ll die from an overdose on marijuana, but you can still consume more marijuana than you’re physically and psychologically comfortable with.
Signs that you’ve consumed too much marijuana include:
- Increased heart rate
- Dryness of mouth
Some people have exercised poor judgment while under the influence of marijuana, such as getting behind the wheel of a car, and they’ve died because of it.
It’s important that patients understand the risks and negative side effects of medical marijuana, just like they would with any prescription drug.
How to Avoid Overdosing on Marijuana
Go Easy on the Edibles
One of the easiest ways to overdose on marijuana is via edibles. Some people, especially first-time users, may not know their tolerance level, and so they might consume an entire brownie when all they really need is a small piece.
A standard dose of THC for a beginner is between 5 to 10 milligrams. If you use that as a window, you should be okay.
Always check to see how many milligrams of THC is contained in the entire edible. Then divide the edible up into the dosage level that you’re most comfortable with. This can be a little difficult when you’re dealing with a sticky, chewy edible, but do the best you can.
Smoking and Vaping
You can control your dosage a little easier when you’re smoking. After your first hit, wait about 15 minutes to let the marijuana affect you before taking any more.
Some concentrates contain up to 90 percent THC. In those cases, you definitely don’t need to inhale as much vapor as you would regularly smoke.
Take a small, “baby” hit first. Then wait 15-30 minutes before dosing again.
What to Do If You’ve Overdosed On Marijuana
Sometimes, even the most experienced patient can make a mistake and wind up with more marijuana in their system than they know what to do with. Here are some tips to help you get you through to the other side of an unpleasant high.
- Know that it’s only temporary. Eventually, you’ll come down from the high. You may not come down as quickly as you want, but you will sober up. Remembering this can help you stay calm.
- Breathe deeply. Our anxiety and stress levels are linked to our breathing patterns. When we take shallow breaths, high up in the chest, it’s hard to relax. Instead, take deep breaths, expanding your belly as you breathe. This style of breathing, which is used in meditation and yoga, helps to calm us down as well as lower our heart rate.
- Put on some music. If your mind is racing, music can give you something pleasant to focus on. Try whatever type of music relaxes you. If you can’t think of anything, reggae is always a good choice!
- If you feel like you need medical attention, go to the emergency room. Don’t drive to the hospital. Ask a friend to take you there. If there’s no one available to give you a lift, call 911.
Have you ever taken too much marijuana? If so, how did you handle it? Let us know on Facebook!