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Article Summary

Marijuana Overdose

Marijuana, also known as weed or cannabis - among other names - a psychoactive substance. It is used both recreationally and medicinally. However, taking too much of this drug can cause addiction, as well as an overdose.

Before learning more about how a marijuana overdose happens, you might first want to understand the different types of the drug, as well as the effects they have on the human mind and body.

That said, marijuana overdose is both complex and simple.

Overdosing On Marijuana

The short and quick answer to the question "can you overdose on weed" is no. However, there is more to this answer than meets the eye. We would, therefore, advise you to continue reading this guide to learn more about marijuana overdoses.

For starters, you might first want to know what an overdose is. For our context, an overdose refers to taking a toxic or lethal amount of an intoxicating substance. For instance, if you took too much cocaine, heroin, or alcohol, you might overdose - which could lead to sudden death.

With cannabis, however, it is close to impossible to overdose - unlike with other addictive and intoxicating substances. Essentially, all substances affect the mind and body in different ways.

To be more specific, the body receives different types of drugs in different parts. For instance, it absorbs opioids like morphine and heroin through the receptors found inside the brain (or the brainstem). This part of the body controls some basic functions, such as breathing. Therefore, if you take too much of these drugs, you may stop breathing - which could lead to death.

Cannabis - or THC and the other cannabinoids - on the other hand, will be absorbed by the body through its cannabinoid receptors. These receptors, however, are not found in the brain stem. As such, it might not be possible to take a lethal dose of the drug.

Although the cannabinoid receptors are not found in the brainstem, they still appear in other parts of the body - including your tissues, organs, and the brain. However, they do not affect essential bodily functions such as breathing.

However, this is not to mean that marijuana has not caused death - or been associated with it. Similarly, it does not mean that it is impossible to take too much of the drug and end up with an unpleasant and disconcerting experience.

Weed And Death

Deaths that are related to taking marijuana in excess are a different matter altogether. However, they are also all the more difficult to pin down. For example, if you were to be involved in a road accident while intoxicated on this drug, it might be difficult to tell if the marijuana is to blame or whether you would still have been in the accident if you had not taken the drug.

This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to related death with cannabis use. However, the law on the matter is quite clear, which is why you might be arrested and face certain legal consequences if you are found driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of marijuana (and any other body or mind altering substance).

That said, most of the deaths that are allegedly related to marijuana are as a result of taking edibles. This could be because edibles are different from blunts - or any marijuana that you take through smoking - in the sense that they will not hit you immediately after you take them.

Some people take edibles continuously because they do not feel the desired effects immediately. By the time the effects set in, they might have taken such a large dose that their bodies and brains cannot handle the effects. This may eventually lead to accidents as a result of losing their motor skills. Others even commit suicide as a result of the paranoia and anxiety that marijuana causes.

A good example is Colorado, which has legalized recreational marijuana use. For the large part, there have been no problems. However, a few deaths have been associated with the consumption of cannabis.

These include:

  • March 2014, when Levy Pongi - a Republic of Congo student - ingested weed cookies, which caused him to become aggressive and irrational; eventually, Levy jumped off his hotel room's balcony
  • April 2014, Kristine Kirk was shot by her husband; he had also taken marijuana edibles
  • March 2015, Luke Goodman committed suicide after ingesting more than five times the recommended dose of cannabis edibles

To better understand how marijuana might lead to an overdose - or cause fatal effects as a result of taking too much of it, it is imperative that you first learn about the different types of the drug. Read on to find out more:

CBD and THC

THC and CBD are the main chemicals in marijuana. Consider the following:

a) THC

THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. This chemical products most of the psychoactive effects derived from smoking or ingesting marijuana in other ways. As such, it mostly affects the brain - far much more than it affects the body.

There is another substance, however, referred to as anandamide. THC mimics anandamide to change the functioning of the brain in terms of fine motor skills, higher cognitive processes, and memories.

THC also has an effect on depression, hunger, fertility, and pain. This is why most people choose the strains of marijuana high in THC.

b) CBD

CBD, on the other hand, refers to cannabidiol. This is the other main psychoactive substance found in medicinal marijuana. Both CBD and THC interact and CBD influences the effects of THC, thereby weakening or strengthening some of its effects.

For instance, CBD can suppress the psychedelic effects of THC in some marijuana strains, which could improve marijuana's medicinal value. If it increases the same, the opportunities for an overdose significantly rise.

Commercial Types Of Marijuana

Growers plant marijuana in a variety of ways, and use different strains of the plant. Among both users and buyers, there are some types of the drug that tend to be more popular than others. These include:

  • Afghan
  • Big Bud
  • Bubblegum
  • Buddha
  • Citral
  • Durban Poison
  • Early Swazi Skunk
  • Hawaii Skunk
  • Hindu Kush
  • Ice
  • Jack Herer
  • K2
  • Master Kush and Northern Lights
  • Northern Lights
  • Northern Lights and Shiva
  • Shiva
  • Turtle Power
  • Venus
  • White Rhino
  • White Widow

Forms Of Marijuana

In the same way, marijuana appears in a variety of forms. The most common - which also cause the greatest incidences of marijuana overdose include:

  • Weed
  • Pipes, Bongs, Water Pipes, Chillums, and Vaping
  • Marijuana-Laced drinks and food
  • Marijuana Paraphernalia, including vaping, chillums, water pipes, bongs, and pipes
  • Marijuana Cigarettes, doobies, spliffs, or joints
  • Hashish Oil (also referred to as Hash Oil)
  • Hashish
  • Hash brownies
  • Dried weed
  • Dried marijuana buds

More On Marijuana Overdose

NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that marijuana is one of the most abused substances in the US, and that it is quite common and popular especially among the young.

Over and above everything, the marijuana that you buy today is more potent that what was on the market 20 or so years ago. As a direct result, it is highly likely that you may overdose if you take too much of it.

In particular, those who eat marijuana edibles tend to consume more of the drug than they might have intended. This is because edibles take much longer to digest, meaning that the intoxication might be delayed.

Today, some users have taken up dabbing. This form of use involves smoking resins with particularly high THC levels. Dabbing is quite dangerous and is one of the reasons behind the rising numbers of visits to emergency departments in hospitals as a result of marijuana abuse.

Marijuana overdose, however, is not similar to overdosing on other intoxicating substances. This is because overconsuming the drug is not particularly life threatening. However, using too much of it does have some adverse and hazardous effects, some of which might increase your risk of dying.

For example, if you consume too much marijuana, you might be unaware of your environment. This may lead to falls, slips, and accidents. Some studies have additionally linked marijuana intoxication to psychosis. This condition causes the affected individual to become disconnected and detached from reality. It typically results in extreme paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.

When you have a psychotic episode as a result of marijuana overdose, therefore, you may put yourself in dangerous situations arising from your detachment from reality and intense confusion.

One of the factors that could increase the risk of an overdose is mixing different intoxicating substances. When you buy weed on the streets, therefore, you may never know if it has been laced. Today, some dealers tend to lace marijuana with drugs like cocaine, crack, and PCP to increase its intoxicating effects.

On the other hand, you might intentionally mix your batch of weed with other drugs to make your high last longer. This practice, however, has been known to increase the risk of an overdose and other adverse effects.

Today, marijuana is quite popular and even legal in some states. However, what most people do not realize is that it comes with many risks as well as the potential for harm when taken in excessive amounts.

Signs And Symptoms Of Weed Overdose

Although a marijuana overdose is quite rare, it is still possible in a variety of cases. Some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for include, but are not limited to:

  • Chest pain
  • Decreased coordination that could lead to injuries and death
  • Decreased judgment
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Heightened heart rate
  • Higher risk of suffering a heart attack
  • Lower perception
  • Pale skin color
  • Psychotic reactions, where you become paranoid and lose touch with reality; it might be accompanied by delusion, hallucinations, and losing your personal identity
  • Seizures
  • Severe panic attacks
  • Sudden high blood pressure
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Unresponsiveness

If these symptoms are excessive or severe, it is essential that you seek medical help immediately. You can do so my calling 911 or getting someone to take you to the emergency room closest to you.

If someone you know is overdosing on marijuana, you should also monitor them for any dangerous side effects and complications. Most of the noticeable effects of smoking marijuana tend to last for 1 to 3 hours, although if you take edibles these effects might last longer.

Risk Factors

One of the main risk factors that could increase the chance that you will suffer a marijuana overdose is polysubstance abuse or use. This involves taking more than one drug to achieve the desired effects.

Some drug combinations, in particular, can be quite deadly and the overdose effects might increase particularly when you combine marijuana with alcohol. This mixture is one of the most frequently encountered in most road accidents.

Even if the mechanism behind the combination of alcohol and marijuana is as yet unknown - apart from the obvious risks associated with combining different intoxicants - what is clear is that alcohol might increase the levels of THC (the main psychoactive element) in the blood.

Other risk factors may include, but are not limited to:

  • History of marijuana abuse, including the duration of use and amount used
  • Pre-existing issues with your health, such as breathing or heart problems like asthma and heart disease; these problems may cause fatal side effects
  • Using marijuana together with prescription drugs

Marijuana Edibles

Marijuana edibles usually come in the form of cakes, brownies, cookies, and candies. Outwardly, they seem like harmless confectionaries that cause some people to assume that marijuana is safe but that it is also an innocent indulgence or treat.

However, this is not the case. Although if you take these foods - even without the marijuana ingredient added into them - may cause long term problems with your health (especially after years of overindulgence), overuse or even one time use of edibles laden with THC can prove to be life threatening, or even life ending for you.

Dangers of Edibles

Some of the dangers of taking marijuana edibles include:

1. Overdose

As mentioned earlier, Colorado has legalized marijuana. As such, edibles are now available to locals who can prove that they are older than 21. However, the state has witnessed several medical events relating to taking weed in this form.

For instance, two residents of Denver lost their lives after eating products laced with marijuana. Many more local residents have been admitted to emergency rooms and departments requiring treatment after they ingested too much of these edibles.

The main reason why marijuana edibles have such a high risk of causing an overdose is because it is so easy for users to overindulge on them. Most people take a cookie (or even two) without any thought.

However, if you take a single serving of a cookie laced with THC, which might be equal to about one portion of your daily dessert, can be detrimental. In particular, if you are not used to the effects of weed, you might end up eating too much of the edibles because the desired effects will take some time before they show up.

Even as medical marijuana becomes more popular in the treatment of various chronic ailments and as additional states continue approving the use of recreational weed, new businesses have started opening up to cater to this new market.

As a direct results, edibles are one of the main parts of the cannabis economy. However, this also means that it is becoming easier for people to have too much of the drug in their system as a direct result of taking snacks filled with weed.

One of the reasons for this could be because most people experience a better high when they ingest marijuana in the form of edibles. However, it might also take a bit longer for you to start feeling the desired effects.

Most people actually start feeling high in about 10 minutes when they smoke marijuana. The peak high, on the other hand, might happen after about 30 to 90 minutes. However, if you ingest cannabis edibles, you may have to wait for about 30 to 90 minutes before you start feeling the desired effects.

The peak high, on the other hand, will only hit you 3 hours after you took the first bites. As such, the recommended dose is a couple of small bites of a brownie or cookie. Not surprisingly, most novice users looking for a faster high may be tempted to eat the whole cookie or cake to speed the process up. Inevitably, this can lead to an overdose.

Although overdosing on cannabis will rarely lead to a critical situation, it can be quite unpleasant. Some of the effects that happen when you overdose on marijuana edibles, to this end, include:

a) Nausea, Shortness of Breath, and Dry Mouth

Medline Plus reports that eating too many edibles can cause unpleasant physical effects, including but not limited to an extremely dry mouth, shortness of breath, and red eyes (which is typical of those who are used to abusing pot).

Philly.com, on the other hand, reports that you can experience additional side effects, including intolerance to cool/cold temperatures, vomiting, and a faster than normal heart rate.

Even though doctors may sometimes prescribe marijuana edibles to deal with nausea, taking too many of these edibles can have the exact opposite effect. If you use the drug too frequently or on a daily basis, you also run the risk of developing CHS (the common abbreviation for Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome).

Some of the symptoms of CHS include cyclical vomiting, extreme vomiting, and abdominal pain. Doctors are now comparing it to the same condition pregnant women experience, namely morning sickness.

It is now thought that CHS occurs when you take too many marijuana edibles. This happens because the THC may overload your automatic nervous system (that controls automatic bodily functions like digestion and breathing).

When you stop using weed - at least temporarily - the symptoms of CHS might dissipate. However, this might be a costly venture particularly if your doctors are unable to recognize that you have the syndrome, requiring you to take many tests to uncover the problem.

b) Short-Term Memory Loss

Marijuana edibles have long been linked to short term memory loss. When you eat them, there will be changes in your brain chemistry. This is because the THC content might inhibit the functioning of the neurotransmitters that your brain uses to transfer information between nerve cells. In the short term, this memory loss might impair your memory and problem-solving skills and abilities.

In the long run, however, marijuana edibles might aggravate these problems. This means that when you eat them regularly you may end up compromising your natural ability to remember information, focus, and learn. It may also decrease your motivation to perform and accomplish most tasks, even after you are over the initial high.

Overusing or long term use of edibles sometimes causes permanent damage according to The Washington Post. However, medical studies that these findings have been based on show that eating marijuana edibles needs to be intensive for the problems to be severe.

c) Impaired Motor Skills

When you eat marijuana edibles and the effects kick in, you might feel relaxed. However, this could lead to delayed responses and slower reaction times. If you are resting somewhere, such as your living room, this might not seem like much of an issue. However, it will turn into a big problem when you decide to operate heavy machinery or drive a car.

NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has however pointed out that the number of cases where delayed reaction time lead to a car crash (or any other incident) as a result of eating edibles is quite low. Still, you should keep in mind that the THC component in these foods and bites can severely delay or impair your motor functions. This is particularly if you ingest more of the drug than your body is accustomed to, leading to an overdose.

That said, scientists are yet to agree on the THC levels in the bloodstream that point to actual physical impairment that could cause a hazard. However, if this should happen, the overuse of weed can cause errors of commission, particularly when you are driving. As a direct result, you might drive to slowly or experience delayed reactions.

d) Paranoia

Although anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations are not universal effects arising from overdosing on cannabis, they might still affect you if you eat marijuana edibles. These psychological symptoms might also include disorientation, mania, and fear.

The Guardian, for instance, reports that there is a relationship between paranoid thoughts and cannabis overuse, and this relationship can affect at least 50% of all marijuana takers.

Edibles lead to paranoia because the THC content in them may negatively alter your view of self and mood. These negative emotions can cause the stereotypical paranoia that most cannabis users have reported, especially when they are coupled with worry.

2. Addiction

Marijuana edibles are also dangerous. In particular, it is quite easy to eat more than your body and brain can handle. This is because the THC content comes in a form that is easy to use and palatable.

Over time, you might start eating edibles more regularly. You may combine this mode of use with smoking and using other intoxicating substances. In the process, the marijuana my soon became a serious problem for you, with all the mental health and social issues that tend to characterize marijuana addiction.

3. Harming Yourself or Others

When you take marijuana edibles, you might start feeling the effects of the drug. In the process, you may suddenly become unaware or violent. You may, additionally, hurt yourself and/or others around you while you are in this state of intoxication.

Irrespective of the type of marijuana edibles you took, it is imperative that you remember that once your use of the drug starts becoming problematic, the only way you can save yourself is by checking into a rehab facility. While there, you might benefit from some of the rehab programs that the doctors will design to help you get right back on your feet. There will also be medical assistance although the primary focus might be on the therapeutic healing and growth that comes with seeking treatment.

The rehabilitation might also help you start getting back on track. In the process, you will get all the tools you require to start living life normally, comfortably, and completely devoid of drugs and other intoxicating substances like marijuana.

Marijuana Oils

If you are a first time user of cannabis, you might want to know whether it is possible to overdose on marijuana oils. Essentially, you can easily overdose on these oils. This is because there are many ways of taking the drug.

As such, it is imperative that you inform yourself about the products you wish to try, or are trying. Alternatively, you may want to look for other modes of use that will not cause intoxication.

One good way to avoid overdosing on marijuana oils is to choose oils with a high CBD ratio (cannabidiol), since these oils might not have the common psychoactive tendencies of using marijuana.

CBD works by healing different chronic ailments. It, however, might cause you to relax, which is useful for treating and managing depression, anxiety, lack of appetite, insomnia, and inflammation.

Some of the unpleasant sensations and feelings you may experience when you overdose on marijuana oils, on the other hand, include:

  • Anxiety
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling somewhat abnormal
  • Paranoia

Marijuana Dabbing

The recent trend of marijuana dabbing is quite dangerous because of the risk of suffering an overdose. In particular, when you dab, it is easy for you to become so intoxicated on marijuana that you will pass out.

At the moment, the passing out caused by marijuana dabbing is currently the only way you can die as a result of taking too much of the drug. Other dangers of dabbing include sense paralysis and a numbing of the mind.

Dealing With A Marijuana Overdose

In case you (or someone close to you) overdose on marijuana, you should seek help by doing the following:

  • Administering CPR (if you have the necessary training) in case they stop breathing; at the emergency room, they might be given breathing support, IV fluids, a sedative, chest X-Ray, and/or medicine to relieve these symptoms
  • Calling 911
  • Getting someone else to help you in case you are suffering an overdose
  • Rushing to the emergency room closes to you
  • Staying with the overdose victim to monitor their symptoms

Preventing Marijuana Overdose

You can also prevent a marijuana overdose by:

  • Abstaining from using the drug
  • Avoiding all drug combinations
  • Being aware of any decrease in your tolerance levels if you have been abstaining from marijuana
  • Changing friends, places, and people to decrease or completely eliminate your exposure to this drug
  • Ensuring that you know of any other additional chemicals that might be in your batch of marijuana
  • Informing yourself of all the health conditions that are sometimes worsened by regular marijuana abuse
  • Informing yourself of the potentially fatal interactions between marijuana and alcohol
  • Lowering the amounts of the drug you abuse
  • Seeking help for your marijuana addiction
  • Staying hydrated always

Additionally, you may want to avoid any situation that involves marijuana and which might be deadly. This includes driving or operating heavy machinery which still intoxicated by the drug. AAA has reported that fatalities involving cannabis has been increasing from about 8% (2013) to over 17% (2014).

Conclusion

There are tons of risk that are now associated with abusing marijuana and overdosing on it. Luckily, you can be treated and eventually beat your addiction to the drug. Although most of the symptoms of a marijuana overdose tend to be quite mild - which might negate the need for emergency medical assistance - you might find that some drug treatment options are useful in helping you overcome the residual effects of an overdose.

Some options to consider here include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient therapy (IOP)
  • Outpatient therapy
  • Partial hospitalization

Overall, if you abuse marijuana or you are addicted to it - or if you have overdosed at one point or the other - and you are now concerned about it, you should seek treatment immediately.

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