Can You Overdose on Cannabis?

Are you curious about the safety of marijuana and whether or not it’s possible to overdose on it? Cannabis contains over 100 compounds known as cannabinoids, the two most well-known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD does not produce a “high” and is more commonly associated with potential therapeutic benefits. Conversely, THC is responsible for the psychoactive or “high” effects commonly associated with cannabis use. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system in our body, primarily affecting the brain and central nervous system. The high that cannabis gives often leads to dependence and cannabis addiction. Thus, there may be a tendency to overdose.

Key Takeaways

  • Marijuana overdose is rare but possible, and it can result from excessive intake of THC.
  • Symptoms of THC overdose may include increased heart rate, anxiety, and hallucinations.
  • Edibles can have a stronger and longer-lasting effect, making it difficult to control dosage and leading to unintentional overdose.
  • Treatment options for excessive marijuana use include behavioural therapy, support groups, counselling, detoxification for heavy users, and addressing underlying mental health issues.
  • Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

Overdosing on marijuana is possible, but it is less likely to result in death due to its better safety profile than other illegal substances. Unlike other substances, such as opioids or alcohol, marijuana has a very wide margin of safety, and the amount required to cause a fatal overdose is estimated to be so high that it is practically impossible to consume in a single session.

A study in England and Wales by the Office of National Statistics revealed that drug overdose deaths involving marijuana averaged 0.6 deaths per million people in 2020. Excessive intake of THC, the main chemical in marijuana, can still lead to adverse effects and potential harm.

While the likelihood of dying from a marijuana overdose is low or unlikely, overconsumption can result in uncomfortable symptoms such as increased heart rate, anxiety, and hallucinations.

Does That Make Cannabis Less Harmful Than Other Substances?

According to WHO, cannabis is the most abused illegal substance worldwide. However, It’s true that marijuana has a better safety profile compared to other illicit substances, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Here are four things to keep in mind:

  1. Cannabis can negatively affect your physical and mental well-being, especially if used excessively or by individuals with underlying mental health issues. Cannabis increases dopamine levels in the brain, triggering anxiety or psychotic episodes in vulnerable individuals.
  2. Chronic marijuana use can lead to addiction and impair cognitive function and memory. Using it excessively increases the risk of developing a dependence on the drug. This can lead to difficulty controlling your cannabis use and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.
  3. Mixing cannabis with alcohol/substances or using high levels of THC products can trigger adverse reactions.
  4. Cannabis use is linked to an increased risk of fatal accidents. Cannabis impairs coordination, reaction time, and judgment, which increases the likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident while under its influence.

Edible vs Joint – Which Is More Likely to Lead to OD?

Overdose in marijuana usually refers to consuming more than the desired amount, resulting in harmful effects rather than life-threatening ones. Between edibles (such as cannabis-infused foods) and joints (smoking or vaping marijuana), edibles are more likely to lead to an overdose-like experience for several reasons:

  1. Delayed Onset: Edibles typically take longer to take effect compared to smoking or vaping. This delay can lead you to consume more edibles, thinking you haven’t taken enough. This can result in consuming too much when the effects eventually kick in.
  2. Intensified Effects The effects of edibles can be more potent and longer-lasting than those from smoking or vaping. This can lead to discomfort and unease if someone consumes a higher dose than they are accustomed to.

What to Do in the Event of a Cannabis OD

If you have consumed too much cannabis, you will likely feel anxious, sick or overstimulated to the point you cannot focus on usual tasks. You may also experience hallucinations or confusion, but it’s essential to stay calm and remind yourself that it will pass. Here are some ways to alleviate the overdose symptoms:

Eat & Drink Water

You may experience a dry mouth, so staying hydrated is important. Try to eat something if you feel nauseous or shaky.

Sleep

We recommend that you sleep off any ill effects of excessive cannabis consumption. It’s an excellent way to pass the time, allowing the body to return to a normal functioning state.

Stay Calm & Avoid Stimulating Tasks

If you are experiencing anxiety or paranoia, self-soothing and turning off background noise can help you feel calmer as the effects subside. Try to meditate by focusing on your breathing.

Speak to a Professional in the Event of a Mental Health Crisis

If you or someone you are caring for is experiencing severe mental health symptoms, such as delusions or suicidal thoughts, call 999 immediately.

Seek Haven from Providence Projects

If you or someone you know needs support after experiencing discomfort or negative effects from cannabis consumption, seeking assistance from the Providence Projects could provide a haven for recovery.

The Providence Projects, with our expertise in addiction treatment and recovery services, offer guidance, counselling, and a safe environment to help you navigate and manage an overdose. Responsible cannabis use is important, but if you need support, contact us at the Providence Projects to help you.