Is it possible to overdose on marijuana?
Can you overdose on marijuana? In the U.S., cannabis is a Schedule I banned substances. Drugs in this category are defined as the most dangerous. Along with weed, this category includes things like heroin. The government’s argument is that cannabis is dangerous, and that’s why it needs to be illegal. But is this really true? One good indicator of a drug’s danger would be how likely it is to produce a lethal overdose. So what’s the deal with cannabis? Can you overdose on marijuana? As it turns out, the answer is a pretty clear no.
A Marijuana Overdose Official Report
The question: can you overdose on marijuana is a commonly asked one. In fact, this topic was the subject of a fascinating court hearing back in the late 1980s.
As part of an investigation into whether or not marijuana should be reclassified, a formal summary of scientific evidence was provided to the court. Here’s what that report had to say:
“The most obvious concern when dealing with drug safety is the possibility of lethal effects. Can the drug cause death? Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.”
To provide a little context, the report goes on to make some shocking comparisons. “By contrast aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year,” the document said.
“In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.”
The Science: Can you overdose on marijuana?
In case that official report left any room for doubt, let’s dig into the actual science a little bit. Researchers have come up with a method for testing what the “lethal dosage” of a substance is.
Lethal dosage is the point at which something will become so dangerous it could kill a person. And to figure out a substance’s lethal dosage, scientists use what they call the LD-50 formula.
Basically, in an LD-50 test, scientists give a substance to small lab animals. They keep increasing the dosage until 50% of the test animals die. When that happens, that dosage becomes the LD-50, the point at which we assume it becomes very dangerous.
Good news for people wondering: can you overdose on marijuana. Scientists have tested its LD-50. Small test animals like mice and rats eventually reached incredibly high dosages at which they started to die. But in tests with larger animals, scientists never reached that point. They couldn’t find a lethal dosage for cannabis.
The most that researchers have been able to come up with are rough estimates. Theoretically, can you overdose on marijuana? Yes, but only if they consumed an impossibly huge amount of it. Here’s how that same court document explained it:
“It is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms, this means that to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette.”
“A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.” Translation: You couldn’t die from cannabis even if you tried.
Adverse side effects of Marijuana
With all that said, there still can be some nasty side effects from using cannabis. That’s especially true if you’re a rookie user, or if you consume an enormous amount of it. In those cases, you may experience:
- couch lock, where you’re so high you basically can’t even move
- dry and red eyes
- cotton mouth
- shortness of breath
- Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome
- increased heart rate
- pupil dilation
- general disorientation, confusion, and sometimes hallucinations
- shaking and trembling
- feeling hung over
These are all short-term effects. And they pretty much all go away on their own. If you ever experience any of these side effects, it’s best to drink a lot of water, relax, and take it easy. Whatever discomfort you’re feeling will eventually fade away.
In very extreme cases, people may seek medical help. When that happens, pretty much the only things doctors can do is give you anti-anxiety meds or meds that help lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Ingesting Vs. Inhaling Cannabis
People tend to experience adverse side effects more when they eat cannabis rather than smoking it. The difference has to do with how our bodies metabolize cannabis.
When you smoke weed, the THC and other cannabinoids enter your bloodstream directly through your lungs. But it takes a different route when you eat it. In that case, cannabinoids like THC are processed by your liver. This creates a slightly more delayed, and often more intense high.
The other reason people tend to experience more adverse effects when they eat pot has to do with how people consume it. A lot of times, people eat an edible and expect to get high right away.
When they don’t feel it as quickly as they thought they would, they eat more. And by the time it finally kicks in, they’ve eaten too much. The final result is a high that’s just too intense.
So if you’re trying edibles, go slow and be patient. Give it time before you go crazy shoving those weed brownies into your face.
The Final Hit
There are a few important things we should take away from all this. First, cannabis is quite safe.
When you get high, the main thing you have to worry about is doing something stupid. But as long as you’re responsible and you keep yourself safe, you don’t have anything to worry about from the weed itself.
The other important thing has to do with cannabis law. The government’s claim that there’s something deadly about cannabis is bogus.
As researchers and legal reports have all demonstrated, there are many other substances—especially legal prescription drugs—that are far more deadly. In fact, some researchers think that cannabis might help decrease the rates of death associated with dangerous prescription drugs like opioids.
If the government wants to keep marijuana illegal, it needs a better reason than that it’s dangerous. The data just doesn’t back it up. From what we can tell, there is no chance you can overdose on marijuana.
In fact, keeping cannabis illegal is what introduces any element of danger. That’s because if you don’t live in a place where you can get it legally, you have to rely on the black market. And that makes you vulnerable to getting bad weed, contaminated weed, or herb that’s laced with something that could be dangerous. Here’s how to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
OK, now you know everything you need to know about overdosing on cannabis. And that’s enough reading. Time to get lit, especially now that you know you can’t overdose on marijuana.