People say a lot of contradicting facts when it comes to marijuana. And since it is a relatively new drug in the science and research world, it’s difficult to find information to trust. So who’s right, the person who claims weed causes hundreds of deaths per year or the one who says it is impossible to die from marijuana? Well, both and neither.
The truth is, it is impossible to overdose from ingesting weed. However, marijuana impairment can cause incidences that lead to death. The real answer remains ambiguous. There are two sides to the same coin. On the one hand, science has proven marijuana is not a primary cause of death. So, sitting on the couch smoking copious amounts of weed will not kill you. That being said, smoking marijuana with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions can cause complications and death. Likewise, impairment resulting from the drug can lead to fatal car crashes. In many cases where death occurs, the use of marijuana was mixed with other substances such as alcohol or opioids.
Determining weed as the primary cause of death is a difficult task to do. Whether marijuana is the cause of fatality or the death and the ingesting are two separate events that occur at the same time is what researchers and scientists are trying to figure out.
Weed Overdose Facts
The Drug Enforcement Administration released a drug fact sheet on marijuana stating, “No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.” A test called an LD-50 determines the dosage needed to overdose on marijuana. The ratio is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. Meaning it will take 20-40,000 times the amount of marijuana consumed in order to overdose. That’s over 100,000 hits of a blunt in one sitting. In some cases, that’s more than people will smoke in a lifetime. To read more about the facts of a marijuana overdose, click here.
An eight-year study in Oregon further determined the likelihood of marijuana overdose. There were zero cases where marijuana, cannabis, and cannabinoids were the primary suspect of death. In the Providence Journal, Joycelyn Elders, MD writes, “Unlike many of the drugs we prescribe every day, marijuana has never been proven to cause a fatal overdose.”
Even after all that, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance, the same category as heroin. So, though weed is the least dangerous drug, there remains a negative stigma making people think overdosing is a much larger risk than it really is. Some still insist weed is dangerous and should remain illegal. That it is possible to overdose from smoking too much. Well, they’re not completely incorrect. There are reported cases of marijuana as a secondary suspect in the cause of death, meaning it may contribute to other causes of fatality.
Fatal Cases Involving Weed
A short answer to “can you die from weed?” is that weed itself does not kill, but the use of it can cause side effects and incidences leading to fatality.
In the study from Oregon, Liliana Bachs, MD wrote, “we report six cases where recent cannabis intake was associated with sudden and unexpected death. An acute cardiovascular event was the probable cause of death.” Dr. Bachs’s findings acknowledge a cannabis cardiovascular risk, though remaining that weed is not the main cause. Meaning, a person with pre-existing heart problems are at a greater risk.
Smoking or ingesting marijuana increases your heart rate by 20-100% and will remain that way for up to three hours. Likewise, marijuana can change heart rhythms and cause irregularities. This means weed users are 4.8% likely to develop heart problems. And in the case of a pre-existing heart condition, can indeed end in death.
A recent 2016 AAA study found that fatal car crashes doubled in Washington after the state legalized marijuana. One in six drivers involved in fatal car crashes in 2014 had marijuana in their system. Since the legalization of marijuana is very new, legal parameters are still being worked out, such as the legal limits of marijuana and driving. So far, the limit is arbitrary and yet to be supported by science.
There is no avoiding the fact that weed is a drug that causes impairment of the senses and judgment. And driving while impaired has a higher risk of fatality. Like any drug, operating heavy machinery is never a good idea. But figuring out the legal limit of THC in the blood while driving is still an issue that needs solving.
To date, only Washington and Colorado have defined limits, 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood. However, other legal states such as Alaska and Oregon do not. Not knowing the limits is dangerous while driving and though the drug is involved, it is not a causation of the crashes.
Maybe you’ve heard of the guy who threw himself over a balcony after ingesting too many marijuana cookies. Is this something marijuana users should be worried about? A number of studies confirm there is a link between marijuana use and mental disorders.
However, similar to the heart condition, the effect of marijuana on mental health is determined by its pre-existing condition. People with anxiety, depression, personality disorder, and/or schizophrenia are at a higher risk of fatal incidences while high. Americans for Safe Access is a helpful site for information about marijuana and determine if it’s safe for you.
In conclusion, no, you cannot die primarily from weed. At the same time, yes, you can die in tragic incidences caused by pre-existing health issues and impaired judgment.