It is difficult to overdose on cannabis, let alone die from it without any contributing factors. Nonetheless, you have probably read a couple of headlines pertaining to “Cannabis as a Killer Substance,” “People Are Dying Because of Cannabis,” “Can You OD on Pot? Science Says Yes,” and so on.
But since we have a bit of knowledge on the extreme difficulty of overdosing on cannabis alone, one cannot help but wonder if there is an inkling of truth to these reports. Before that, let’s look into how overdose is defined.
What is an Overdose in the Clinical Sense?
An overdose is our body’s reaction from too much of a substance or a combination of two or more substances. Overdose cases are divided between intentional overdose and accidental overdose. You’ve probably deduced by now that intentional overdose is consciously (in a sound state of mind) misdosing yourself for whatever reason while accidental overdose is the complete reverse of the former, meaning it’s unintentional.
People can overdose from prescriptive drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, and other substances. Overdose can lead to death, but a lethally overdosed person can still be saved by several medical practices, especially if the medical attention has been immediate. There are several things that happen in your body all at once in the advent of an overdose, but the most common cause of death by OD is respiratory failure.
There are several circumstances that set a person at a greater overdose risk. For example, a beginner or someone that has recently abstained from a substance (for a long period) is more likely to overdose from a sudden consumption of a huge dosage of a particular substance. Another risk is posed by mixing the substance with a different but equally powerful substance.
So what does an overdose looks like inside the human body? We are going to relate this to opioid overdose since it is one of the most well-studied types of overdose.
At the onset of the overdose, the abnormally huge quantity of drugs would spread throughout your body. Initially, it goes through the heart, and the lungs, where the blood is resupplied with fresh oxygen then goes back to the heart again.
With the second pump of the heart, your drug-rich blood would then spread out to the rest of your body. As the drug gets to your brain, a rush of high, happiness, or whatever that particular substance is supposed to give off, is then experienced.
As the high starts to even out, your breathing starts to slow down, coming close to a dangerously low rate. Then your heart slows down as well in an effort to conserve oxygen and to mimic the pace of your breathing. By this time, you have barely enough oxygen to live, sending your heart to its breaking point. As your heart struggles to keep you alive, it would start to pump blood in abnormal rhythms. At this point, the patient could go into cardiac arrest.
Finally, some of the major organs of the body, such as the lungs and the heart, would shut down. Barely operating on dire oxygen levels, your brain would soon get affected. Sometimes, an overdose would lead to pulmonary edema or the leakage of fluid into the lungs’ airspaces, which is characterized by foam coming out of the mouth or choking.
Aside from death, one of the most harrowing effects of a drug overdose is the development of brain damage. Sometimes, even if patients survive an overdose, optimal brain function is not guaranteed in the course of healing.
Narcan, an anti-overdose drug, is a widely available treatment for cases of overdose. Given intravenously, Narcan works in mere seconds. An overdose from drugs like depressants, naloxone, alcohol, illicit drugs, and so on is a serious case; therefore, homemade remedies are not advisable to replace hospital care. However, an overdose solely caused by cannabis is a different matter.
Can People Overdose on Weed?
Can you overdose on weed or can you overdose on THC? These are sensitive questions for some as it touches the associated stigma borne out of cannabis as a recreational herb.
Long before studies and reviews cleared some misconceptions on cannabis, in the eyes of many (including some governments) it is believed that cannabis is as dangerous as cocaine, opioids, among others. However, there is little evidence or case studies from which we can draw that conclusion. But until now, questions like can you overdose on marijuana, can you overdose on cannabis, can you overdose on pot, or can you OD on weed are still searched on the internet frequently.
But, is it Possible to Overdose on Weed?
Yes, but the overdose is different from the effects of overdosing from banned substances like opioids which are usually lethal. The overdose on weed, instead, only entails a bad reaction to the heavy quantity of cannabis. Greening-out from cannabis overdose is already one of the most severe reactions from a cannabis OD.
So far, there haven’t been any confirmed reports on deaths blamed solely on weed overdose as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC. Although there is yet to be recorded on a death directly caused by cannabis, there are tragedies where cannabis is linked. With that said, it’s a must to read beyond headlines and random social media posts.
You can experience unusually intense side effects from overdosing on cannabis. However, it is almost impossible to die or to have some sudden severe reaction from cannabis if:
- You don’t have any pre-existing condition
- Not allergic to cannabis
- You’re solely using cannabis without a combination of other substances
While marijuana OD is associated with the increased intensity of its common effects, it’s unlikely to cause death. Marijuana has a good safety record, but it is not entirely risk-free. The risky behaviors borne out of getting high are much more likely to induce injuries or even death more than the act of consuming marijuana.
Michael Ziobro’s death reached the headlines in 2017. Michael was found unconscious inside his bedroom but Michael was already dead even before an emergency team tried to revive him. The boy’s post-mortem report reveals traces of cannabis in his blood.
Dr. Junaid Shaikh, the medical examiner doesn’t think that cannabis directly caused the death. He stood firm with his report that the cause of death was a severe cardiac event. There is no evidence suggesting that Michael’s use of cannabis had anything to do with his death
In hindsight, Dr. Shaikh’s stance can be considered the closest to the truth since it is from the perspective of a medical expert. For a certain herb or substance to be listed as the primary cause of death in a post-mortem report, it actually has to be an obvious overdose rather than being a possible contributing factor.
How much does it Take to Overdose on Cannabis?
The answer to this will be different for every user; therefore, we can’t give out a specific dosage. Some people would have a high tolerance for cannabis that what’s a normal dose for them would be too much for others. Add to that the difficulty of calculating the potency of some cannabis products that don’t indicate THC percentage’s on their packaging.
Among all methods of cannabis consumption, cannabis edibles seem to get attention when it comes to accidentally overdosing on cannabis. Part of the blame goes to the fact that edibles can take a while for the effects to kick in, fooling some that they are not getting enough cannabis.
Edibles’ effect will peak anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Until then, don’t attempt to eat another portion, as it can double the potency for the next 30 minutes. Edibles need some time to get processed by the digestive system before it can access the bloodstream.
Dabbing beginners who’ve accidentally mis-dosed on concentrates could also overdose on cannabis. You will only need a pea-sized amount of concentrates for dabbing and an even smaller portion for beginners. The potential dangers of dabbing are not something that should be ignored, even by veteran smokers.
Sometimes drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis at the same time makes it seem like you’re overdosing on cannabis because it elicits the greening-out effect characterized by nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and so on.
How do you Know you’ve Overdone it?
Cannabis overdose is a magnification of the normal side effects of cannabis consumption characterized by the following symptoms:
- Increased anxiety level or sudden change of mood
- Increased heart rate
- Migraines or normal headaches
- A general feeling of fatigue
- Dry eyes and/or red eyes
- Difficulty in focusing
- Dry mouth
- Weed hangover the next day
These are all temporary and can last for 20 minutes up to an entire day. We have different thresholds, and if the THC potency goes way above your limit, you’ll most likely experience these effects.
How to Cope if you’ve Consumed too much Cannabis?
If you’re experiencing extreme symptoms such as hallucination, psychosis, or any type of medical emergency, seek the help of a health practitioner immediately. If the side effects of cannabis overdose are relatively mild, there are ways to relieve them:
1. Calm Yourself
It’s normal to feel anxious or afraid as you’re experiencing the side effects of cannabis overdose. It is a natural reaction to something unknown or unpleasant.
In this type of situation, it always helps to keep your cool, that way, your mind is clearer, and you’ll be able to help yourself. Remember that these side effects are temporary. At some point, the symptoms should subside in a gradual manner.
2. Munch on Something
Eat a light snack if you’re greening-out or experiencing a slight tremor of the hand.
Because a cannabis overdose is often associated with dry mouth, drinking water helps relieve the dryness. Hydrating is even more important if you’re vomiting as it replaces the huge amount of water you’ve just lost. Additionally, hydrating also helps quicken the process of flushing THC out of your system.
Sometimes, it’s best to wait out until the effects of cannabis subside. One way of doing so is by taking a nap.
5. Create a Calming Environment
When you’re high, your senses are heightened, and it can sometimes get so overwhelming. When you’ve overdosed on cannabis, the overstimulation could reach alarming levels. If there’s so much going on in your place, it could increase your anxiety and might even trigger paranoia.
Try to relieve overstimulation by pausing anything that’s distracting, such as loud music, television, and so on. Relax in your room, close the blinds, and dim your light.
6. Chew a Couple of Black Peppercorns
There is no clinical research to confirm that black peppercorns help break the high, but there are several studies that attest to the power of peppercorns’ caryophyllene compound on decreasing the unwanted effects of THC.
Based on anecdotal reports, people crush a handful of black peppercorns to chew on bits of them. They claim this technique to be effective in reducing their cannabis high.
7. Talk to a Friend
Call a friend, a family, or be with someone you can confide in. That way, a trusty companion can watch over you and help with anything. Company is a form of comfort and security.
8. Take a Bath
Cannabis overdose can temporarily increase your heart rate and body temperature. Taking a bath will help cool the heat you’re experiencing. It relatively clears your mind too.
How to Prevent Overdose from Cannabis?
There are several ways of preventing cannabis overdose, but the best way is getting to know your THC tolerance level. Your tolerance level is your body’s maximum cannabis dosage limit.
In familiarizing your body’s limit, start with the smallest dose possible and give it some time to kick in. If you think you can still handle more, slowly increase the dosage by increments. This isn’t done in a day. In fact, knowing your tolerance is a lifelong routine as your sensitivity and tolerance to THC constantly changes.
Aside from being careful around edibles, start with low-THC cannabis products. Most dispensaries and shops indicate the potency level or amount of THC in their concentrations, joints, raw cannabis strain, and so on. If you’re a beginner, start with products that have the lowest potency and adjust from there.