Whilst a Marijuana overdose won’t carry the same potentially fatal consequences as overdosing on heroin or cocaine, it can have some dangerous effects that can be very distressing for the sufferer.
Cannabis is the most widely used drug in the world, and contrary to popular belief, it is addictive. Approximately 1 in 10 people who use Marijuana will develop an addiction. This increases to 1 in 6 when cannabis use commences before 18.
While science is at odds with whether you can clinically overdose on Marijuana, you can certainly take too much. The symptoms of a weed overdose manifest medically as marijuana toxicity (poisoning). The effects of this are unlikely to be long-lasting or fatal. They can, however, be highly unpleasant.
This article details the health risks associated with taking too much THC. We also look at the signs of weed overdose and the treatment. Further on, we highlight when to seek professional help and medical intervention.
What Is Marijuana?
Before looking at information on overdosing on Marijuana, it is helpful to understand the substance. There are many potential misconceptions regarding what constitutes this commonly abused drug.
A variety of names and slang terms refer to Marijuana. These may vary depending on a person’s age and geographic location. Weed comes from many different strains of the Cannabis Sativa plant and is a critical ingredient in many other cannabinoid products.
Marijuana Is Also Known As:
Marijuana has two main psychoactive cannabinoid compounds: THC and CBD. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana, which causes high feelings of euphoria and increased appetite. The CBD in Marijuana does not cause you to feel high; instead, it is linked to feelings of increased well-being.
CBD is a very safe compound that is not associated with death. However, as with any substance, it is possible to overdose. Taking too much may cause you to feel sleepy with a dry mouth and increased fatigue. It may also interact with other medications. For this reason, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting use. Many people turn to CBD to relieve symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and depression.
What Is A Weed Overdose?
By clinical definition, an overdose is when a person takes so much of a toxic substance that it overwhelms the body and brain. In everyday understanding, overdose is also associated with taking too much or more than is recommended.
An overdose may involve one or more substances, including prescribed medicines, legal and illegal substances, and over-the-counter medicines. Most overdoses occur due to a mixture of drugs.
People are more likely to overdose on weed if they mix it with another substance, such as alcohol or opioids. This may cause them to lose track of the amount of the other substance they are taking, leading to a potentially fatal overdose. Additionally, a Marijuana overdose is more likely when there is a delayed onset of action, such as when it is taken in edible form.
Drug Overdoses happen in the following ways:
- Combining substances that increase the effects of all of the drugs taken
- Combining substances that cancel out the effects of different drugs leads to an increased intake
- Lack of tolerance to strength
- Method of ingestion can delay and improve the results of a substance
- Taking excessive amounts of a drug
- Being unaware of the chemicals contained within a drug and the associated risks
Weed overdose can happen when a person combines Marijuana with another substance, increasing the effects of both substances taken. The active ingredient in weed is THC, which has psychoactive properties. THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is a compound that a person can take too much of, but it does not cause death.
It is important to note that not all overdoses are fatal, but they can have serious health complications, even with medical treatment.
The Effects Of Too Much THC
One study on Marijuana Toxicity found numerous serious side effects from the ingestion or inhalation of THC.
As every person reacts differently to this compound, taking too much THC can look different for different individuals. However, severe symptoms of a THC overdose can arise starting anywhere above 7.5 mg/m2 inhaled in adults and between 5-300 mg when taken orally in children
Effects of a THC/Weed overdose include:
- Abnormally low blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Respiratory depression and distress
- Impaired memory function
- Delirium – A disturbed state of mind
- Psychosis – Detachment from reality
- Loss of control of body movements
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Hyperkinesis – Persistent restlessness and agitation
Are Marijuana Edibles Safe?
Marijuana edibles, out of all weed products available, are the most likely to cause a person to overdose. Because edibles are ingested, there is a delayed onset of action, which can be affected by many variables.
Weed products can be added to food and come in pre-made edible form – most commonly sweets. Unlike smoking pot, there is no instant high, making it difficult for the user to determine the strength and effects of the edibles they consume.
Edibles can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to start working, with the effects peaking at around 4 hours. A person consuming edibles, especially a new brand, or trying them for the first time may think that the edible hasn’t worked or isn’t strong enough. This can lead to overconsumption and, consequently, a weed overdose.
The effects of edibles can last up to 12 hours, with residual effects lasting even longer. This can seem like a lifetime if you have consumed too much edible Marijuana and are experiencing hallucinations, sensory distortions, delayed sense of time and paranoia.
What A Weed Overdose Feels Like – When You Take Too Much THC
When someone uses marijuana/weed recreationally, they may experience feelings of euphoria, changes in how they perceive time and space, heightened senses, and slowed motor skills. Not everyone likes these effects; some can become anxious, paranoid or depressed.
Marijuana use also impacts the heart and blood vessels, increasing heart rate and low blood pressure. It can also slow down the central nervous system and breathing when taken in large amounts and high-strength doses.
Research shows that even small amounts of THC (2-3 mg when inhaled or 5-20 mg when ingested) can cause problems with attention, memory, decision-making, and short-term memory.
The Effects of Weed Can Vary Based on a Few Different Things:
- How much you take
- The strength of THC content within the product
- How it’s taken (like smoking or eating)
- If you’ve used it before and your tolerance levels
- Your thoughts/feelings about the drug
- The environment and who you’re with when you’re using it.
People taking too much THC will likely feel out of control and experience severe anxiety, hallucinations and paranoia.
“I was drinking beer, and they broke out the hash brownies.
I ate more than I should have and wasn’t aware of the dangers. A couple of hours later, I was vomiting and felt very dizzy.
I had no sense of time; a minute felt like an hour.
I couldn’t feel my feet or hands and was convinced those around me wanted me dead. This living hell lasted two whole days. I still have flashbacks.”
Treatment For Weed Overdose & THC Poisoning
Unfortunately, there is no medical treatment that can reverse a THC overdose. Treatment within emergency departments mainly consists of monitoring and symptomatic relief until the effects have passed.
If chest pain or breathing difficulties are present, medical professionals may conduct blood work and an ECG to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Screening for other coexisting substances may also be undertaken to understand drug toxicity levels clearly.
In some instances, particularly in elderly patients and children, additional testing may be required to check electrolyte levels, blood sugar levels and gases. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the effects of THC, even at low doses. There have been several cases of accidental Marijuana poisoning in geriatric patients and children, which have resulted in intensive care admissions due to central nervous system depression.
Preventing A Marijuana Overdose
Whilst a weed overdose is rarely life-threatening, it is often extremely unpleasant and distressing and is something you want to avoid. Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to minimise your chances of overdosing on Marijuana and THC.
How To Avoid Overdosing On Weed:
- Abstain from using Marijuana
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding combining Marijuana with other substances such as alcohol, opiates and stimulants
- Use lower amounts of weed
- Avoiding more potent strains of Marijuana and edibles
- Be aware that your tolerance to THC will decrease after a period of abstinence
- Avoid using synthetic cannabinoids, which often have unknown amounts of THC combined with other toxic chemicals
- Abstain if you have mental or physical health conditions that can be worsened by Marijuana use
- Minimise exposure to Marijuana by avoiding certain places, events or groups of people
- Seek professional help for a marijuana or weed addiction
Whilst marijuana poisoning may not kill you, it is well worth considering the increased risks you are likely to take when hallucinating or feeling intense fear. Additionally, when acutely intoxicated by weed, your decision-making skills, judgment, cognitive processing, memory, and motor skills will all be negatively impacted. This could lead to you being involved in a fatal accident.
Driving whilst intoxicated by Marijuana increases your risk of a road traffic accident. 25% of road traffic accidents involve individuals over the safe drinking limit for alcohol, and many of these are also found to have THC in their system.
What You Should Do If You Suspect A Weed Overdose
If you are worried that a friend, family member or someone you know has overdosed on weed, keeping them as calm as possible is essential. Try to reassure them that what they are feeling, thinking and seeing is caused by the drug and that these symptoms will pass.
If possible, manage their environment, which may be causing them additional stress. Loud noise, bright lights and having a lot of people around can contribute to feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Instead, try to take them somewhere quiet where they can focus on their breathing and stay calm.
If you are worried about an older adult or a child, they must be checked out by a healthcare professional.
Please seek emergency medical care for the following symptoms:
- They are experiencing breathing difficulties or chest pain
- You worry they may harm themselves or someone else
- They are excessively sleepy/tired and find it difficult to wake
- They are unresponsive
When contacting your local services for medical help, tell them if they have taken anything besides Marijuana. Information about the method of use, how much, their standard patterns, and any medical history will also be beneficial.
The effects of a weed overdose are rarely long-lasting. In an occasional marijuana user, all drug traces should leave the system within 13 days. However, in a person with a cannabis use disorder who frequently uses cannabis, this time frame can become weeks and months
Treatment For Weed Addiction
If you are a person who frequently uses cannabis and has experienced overdose on several occasions, it may be that you have a substance use disorder and need professional help.
Someone who suffers from an addiction to weed will feel compelled to use it, even if they want to stop. This makes quitting the drug extremely difficult. They will also be more prone to overdose than your average recreational user.
Some Signs of Weed Addiction Include:
- Compulsively seeking and using weed
- Progressively taking more or more potent varieties as time goes by
- Unable to stop despite mounting consequences or having a genuine desire to do so
- Using more weed or for more extended periods than initially intended
- Your weed use is causing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or paranoia
- Your career is being affected by your marijuana use
- Withdrawal from family and friends
Immediate help and treatment are available for anyone who wants to stop using weed but finds themself unable to. Call and speak with one of our trained experts today, who will conduct a free and confidential substance use assessment and guide you through the following steps towards a cannabis-free life.