Marijuana Overdose: Can You Die From THC?

marijuana overdose

 

UPDATE: Doctors have recently claimed first marijuana overdose by an 11 month-old-baby. Details are still coming in. I will update this post once the facts are clear. Read more here.

The topic of Marijuana overdoses is both simple and complex. If you’re looking for a quick answer scroll down just a bit to the first paragraph. If you’re looking for something specific you can use the links below to jump around the page, but I hope you’ll read through the whole article. Enjoy!

Can You Overdose On Marijuana?
How Many People Have Died From Weed?
     Edibles
     Colorado
Cannabis Death Hoaxes
Effects, Symptoms, & Signs of Over-Intoxication
     Anxiety (Panic) Attack / Heart Attack
     Physical Symptoms
     Mental Symptoms
Treatment / Antidote
Emergency Rooms
911 Call
Can Dogs Overdose On Marijuana?
Fake/Synthetic Marijuana

Can You Overdose On Marijuana?

The quick and short answer is: No, you cannot overdose on marijuana. If that satisfies your curiosity then you’re good to go, but if you’re anything like me, a yes or no answer just doesn’t suffice. Keep reading my friend. I have a lot more to say on this topic.

First off, let’s talk about what an overdose means. For the context of this article I refer to an overdose simply as a lethal or toxic amount of a drug. For example, if you were to do too much heroin you could overdose and die. If you drink too much alcohol you can overdose, get alcohol poisoning, and die. BUT, the beauty of cannabis is that you cannot take a lethal amount of it like you can with other substances. Here’s why…

Each substance affects the body differently. More specifically, different drugs are received through different parts of the body. For example, opioid drugs like heroin and morphine are absorbed through receptors in the brainstem. This is also the part of the body that controls essential functions like breathing. This causes people who take too much heroin to stop breathing and die.

Cannabis (more specifically THC and other cannabinoids) is absorbed through cannabinoid receptors which aren’t located in the brain stem meaning a lethal dose is not possible(source). While the receptors don’t occur in the brainstem they do appear throughout most of our bodies – the brain, organs, tissues, and more (source). The important thing is that they aren’t affecting any essential functions like breathing.

Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that there haven’t been death associated with marijuana. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t take in too much cannabis and experience an unpleasant experience. I’m going to talk about all of that…

How Many People Have Died From Weed?

Related deaths are a whole different ballgame, and also much more difficult to nail down. For instance, if someone gets into an automobile accident while high is it definitely the weed to blame? Would the accident have still happened in they weren’t high? This is why it’s difficult to say if the deaths are truly related to cannabis or not. *For the record, I am very against driving under the influence of weed or any mind or body altering substance.*

Edibles

A large amount of the alleged related deaths are from edibles. This is because they do not hit you right away like smoking. People often take some edibles and don’t feel the effects, so they take some more. By the time the high sets in they’ve taken too many doses and can’t handle the high. This can lead to an accident caused by loss of motor skills, or could cause suicide induced by anxiety and paranoia. Now, of course, these deaths are cause by actions taken while high on weed, and not the weed itself. These deaths are rare.

Colorado

Since legalizing recreational marijuana Colorado has had all eyes on them to assess the effects. For the most part, everything has gone by smoothly. There have been a few instances in the news where deaths have been attributed to cannabis consumption. REMEMBER, just because the news blamed cannabis doesn’t mean it’s truly at fault. All of the situations below are very complex and may involve other substances, preexisting mental disorders, and other outside influences.

  • March 2014 – Levy Thamba Pongi was a student from the Republic of Congo who was studying abroad in the U.S. After ingesting marijuana cookies he became irrational, aggressive, and eventually jumped off the balcony of his hotel room. (source)
  • April 2014 – Kristine Kirk was fatally shot by her husband after he ingested marijuana edibles. (source)
  • March 2015 – Luke Goodman commits suicide by gunshot after ingesting more than 5x the recommended dose of edibles. (source)

Cannabis Death Hoaxes

For whatever reason, cannabis related death hoaxes have become popular among the satirical websites. Since so many people don’t read beyond the headline it starts to spread misinformation as actual fact. For instance, huslerz.com did an article claiming 59 people had died as a result of cannabis. Now, if anyone reads even the first paragraph they would know that the article is meant as a joke, but let’s face it – people are stupid and believe any headline they read. Snopes.com also put out a fake article that has received an absurd amount of traction.

Effects, Symptoms, & Signs of Over-Intoxication

Like I said earlier, you can’t die from taking in too much cannabis. You can, however; have an unpleasant experience that may include both physical and mental effects.

Anxiety (Panic) Attack / Heart Attack

Anxiety and heart attacks could fall under the physical symptoms section below, but it’s such a common questions that I thought it should have its own section.

It’s important to note that an anxiety attack, also known as a panic attack, is very different from a heart attack. Many people mistake some symptoms of a panic attack for a heart attack so it’s good to know the difference. This sort of thing is a bit out of my wheelhouse so you can learn more about the differences here.

Let’s start with panic attacks. It is certainly possible for someone to have an anxiety attack if they ingest too much cannabis. The actual amount is going to vary greatly among individuals. Often, it is someone who is already prone to have anxiety attacks, however; this is not always the case. In the event you or a friend has an anxiety attack it’s good to know the procedure for calming someone down. Again, I have no business giving out medical advice so here’s an article from someone much more qualified to comment on the topic.

Now, heart attacks are a whole different story. Most importantly – they can be fatal. I have not been able to find any evidence of a person having a sudden heart attack directly related to cannabis consumption. But, that’s not the whole story. There have been some studies suggesting cannabis can lead to heart attacks. I have my doubts about the study (there were only 124 cannabis smokers in the whole study), but the truth is right now we just don’t know enough about the long-term effects. In the end, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have a heart attack from smoking cannabis unless you were already predisposed for heart disease. Of course, if you believe you are having a heart attack always call you local emergency response number.

Physical Symptoms

  • Loss of Motor Skills – Slowed Coordination
  • Dry Mouth
  • Pupil Dilation
  • Red / Burning Eyes
  • Decreased Verbal Skills
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Shaking
  • Chills / Sweats
  • Disorientation
  • Upset Stomach

Mental Symptoms

  • Short-term Memory Loss
  • Paranoia / Fear / Anxiety
  • Loss of Energy
  • Lack of Focus

Treatment / Antidote

If someone smokes too much weed then you’ll need to get them in a relaxed and comfortable state. Make sure they can breathe well. If they’re inside or in a crowded space try to get them outside. Also, make sure they stay hydrated by giving them a glass of water. There’s really not a whole lot to it. You just have to remain calm, and wait it out. You can always contact emergency personnel, but there’s not much else they can do for you.

Emergency Rooms

Like I just said, you can contact medical help if you use too much cannabis, but there’s not much they can do to help you. Since legalization, Colorado has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of people coming into emergency rooms seeking treatment for cannabis. In extreme cases you may be given a sedative to help calm down, but most the time they are just going to talk you down. Note: I live in Colorado so there’s no legal ramifications to admitting to smoking weed. If you’re living somewhere it’s illegal it could be a different story. With that said, I don’t think anyone should ever feel uncomfortable going to the emergency room. If you think you have an emergency then by all means get some help.

911 Call

A 911 call got pretty famous for a couple reasons. First off, the audio itself is kinda funny knowing that he’s going to be just fine. A man who shared some pot brownies with his wife called into 911, and told the operator he thought he was dying. What really puts this call over the top is the fact that it’s a Michigan State police officer who obtained the weed through criminal suspects. I’m not crazy about the annotations in the video below, but it’s the best full copy I could find.

Can Dogs Overdose On Marijuana?

Marijuana effect animals differently than it does humans, but can cannabis be lethal to your pet? It is possible for a dog to die from eating to much marijuana, but it’s highly unlikely, and they would have to ingest an insane amount (like a pound of pure THC). The vast majority of pets who ingest marijuana may get sick and have a bit of a ‘bad trip’, but they’ll recover just fine (source).

Now, that doesn’t mean that other ingredients in edibles won’t kill them. For instance, chocolate bars or brownies can cause major damage. Just keep your pot somewhere that pets (and kids for that matter) can’t get to them.

Fake/Synthetic Marijuana

Honestly, I don’t even like talking about synthetic marijuana, because it’s absolutely nothing like actual marijuana, but it’s a popular topic that needs to be discussed. So, I’m going to touch on it very briefly. In case you don’t know synthetic marijuana is a bunch of chemicals sprayed onto plant material that is supposed to mimic the effects of cannabis.

Manufacturers use pretty much whatever chemical they think works. There are no regulations so they’re free to put whatever crazy chemicals they want. Unfortunately, there have been many actual deaths directly from synthetic marijuana. Since each batch is different the causes vary, but synthetic marijuana typically turns fatal because it causes you to stop breathing. (source) It’s because a problem across the globe. It’s my personal belief that as cannabis is legalized it will push out these other dangerous ‘legal highs’.

That’s all I’ve got folks. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

 

19 Comments

  • Ryan says:

    Could u send me a maps fore those emoji

  • Indicablue says:

    Ingesting too much THC is very uncomfortable. I only experienced severe anxiety and paranoia from a large amount of an Indica strain when I first began to smoke. As you smoke more, your body will adjust and you won’t experience anxiety or panic attacks most likely.

  • mysticreature says:

    Your article was very interesting…. Thanks for the good read :-)

  • MARTIN ANET says:

    Hi

    Good article very well written, there is one thing you didn’t talk thought… The effect on children, especially in Colorado. I think it remains seen what long term effects are but i know already ER visits are up by children getting parents stuff.

    • Mary Jane says:

      Did you actually read those studies? They both seem like garbage to me. I see no actual evidence in either study that shows marijuana was the cause of the health complications . In fact, the first study even says ‘suspected fatal cannabis intoxication’. The key word is suspected meaning they haven’t found any real conclusions yet so they’re just speculating. I didn’t see a single piece of truly compelling evidence in either study. It’s sensationalist bullcrap that some professor cooked up so they could get published if you ask me. Either way, thanks for sharing and stopping by to join the conversation. Cheers :)

  • Luca Vance says:

    Thanks! This is great information on cannabis.

  • Raven says:

    Yes, like any other substances, you can overdose and die on this.

  • N. says:

    Yes you can. I have before. There’s a link here that talks about it:

    drugabuse.com/library/marijuana-overdose/

    • Mary Jane says:

      When I said you couldn’t overdose I stated clearly in the article this was specific to a fatal overdose, meaning no one has died from a marijuana overdose (this notion is also made clear in the title of the article). The link you shared contains a list of non-fatal symptoms which I also included under the section ‘Effects, Symptoms, & Signs of Over-Intoxication’.

      Also, the article you posted is being intentionally misleading. They are picking certain parts from their references to support their agenda. For instance, if you read their second refernce article you’ll find this little nugget of truth: “Uncomplicated marijuana intoxication rarely needs medical advice or treatment. Occasionally, serious symptoms occur. However, these symptoms are rare and usually associated with other drugs or compounds mixed in with marijuana.” Also, they intentionally changed the wording. In that same reference article it talks about marijuana intoxication without a single mention of the word overdose anywhere. They used information from the intoxication list and changed the word to overdose because they think it sounds better. This is why I put those same symptoms under the category of over-intoxication.

      • Corey says:

        And wow you were right about the massive ignorance about marijuana. N. Doesnt know what the hell their talking about they apparently shot right down to the comments after reading the headline. He’s talking about a LETHAL overdose. Yes, you can overdose, it is a mind altering substance that comes in doses, and when you take more than your supposed to, thats the literal meaning of overdose. In case anybody was confused on this.

  • Corey says:

    Dont get me wrong, i am 100% pro-weed, but theres a flaw in your logic i wanted to point out. You most likely can overdose on THC, its just most likely incredibly difficult and itd probably have to be THC concentrates like wax, hash oil or edibles. The only reason we don’t (and CANT) know for sure is because of limited research ability and federal restrictions because the federal government still considers marijuana as a schedule I substance, which is bullshit in itself because marijuana has basically been proven to have medicinal benefits, which should fall as a schedule II at the most, but schedule Is are heroin and cocaine. Substances that offer ZERO medicial benefit and have a very high abuse potential. This is America, we need to be given a right to make our own decisions on what we put in our own bodies, but unfortunately there will always be stupid people like you said in your post, stupid status quo people who do and believe everything their told and never question anything. Respect for this post, people need to realize that marijuana isn’t the “horrible drug” that the media and christian groups keep trying to make us believe. Its bullshit. Illegalize alcohol to make it fair or legalize weed. Alcohol is attributed to 20x as many overdose deaths, car accidents, addiction cases, accidental deaths and broken homes than marijuana, so just let peaceful people light a plant on fire. Tobacco is a plant too, but nobody bats an eye when somebody lights that one on fire. Sorry im rambling at this point, so enough said lol.

  • Shasomoney says:

    Very funny ! You should write a book lmaoo

  • Just Curious says:

    So; after reading the mental and physical effects of using weed, my question is: Medicinal reasons aside; Why do people use this? Not one of the effects sounded like anything even remotely appealing. I am at a loss. Can someone please explain? Also, I agree with Corey’s comment about the dangers of alcohol and cigarette use. So many deaths could have been prevented.

    • Cdog says:

      I think it’s important to keep in mind that there is always going be different reactions for different people. If you are allergic to something and you break out in a rash and have trouble breathing when you eat it, that’s not to say it’s not always a pleasant experience for most other people. No one would smoke weed if all it did was freak you out and take you for a ride. For the vast majority of people it’s a fun, relaxing hobby. If you are thinking of trying it i would recommend getting someone who knows the scene to help you have a good first experience.

  • The article is very clear and details. I like it very much, it is very useful for those who smoke weed. Thanks for sharing!

  • THC induced psychosis says:

    Marijuana effects people differently. Most of the time it is completely safe and will make you feel like a warm fuzzy space vacation. That being said, it is possible to have a THC induced psychotic break from reality. THESE DO REQUIRE MEDICAL INTERVENTION. I think it was in the state of Washington, they see 37 cases a day. Google it. This is not the paranoia or feelings that you are dying like some have when you smoke for the first time. I’m talking seriously high consentrstions of THC in your body -as a result from very heavy marijuana use. If this has happened to you or someone you know and they talk about hearing voices, in particular, threatening voices that are telling them to cause harm to themselves or others, you need to go to the hospital. The voices will tell you otherwise but you need to realign your brain chemistry because you derailed the train with too much THC.

    When this happened to me, I fought the battle in my mind alone for multiple days, a friend found me, called my parents then an ambulance. Within 20 minutes of being given Adavan, I completely came back into my normal mental patterns. (Don’t let them tell you you are mentally ill, you can heal the synapses that shot you to the moon, start with vitamins).

    Also worth noting, in states where pot is legal, weed cultivation is rapidly changing. Dispos are not selling weed like our parents smoked in the 70s, now pot is being curated and cultivated to have significantly greater levels of THC, and if there isn’t enough CBD to balance the high, it is possible to mentally spiral.

    So A) smoking is great for some but effects everyone differently.
    B) go to the hospital if you’re hearing voices or feel mentally unwell.
    C) don’t repeatedly smoke cavi cones by yourself and neglect all of your other basic human needs…

    Lots of love to you! Use responsibly <3

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