As a result of legalization laws, medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana use is on the rise across the globe. New cannabis products, such as edibles, resin, CBD oils, and so on, have surfaced in countries where marijuana is legalized as the cannabis market only continues to grow.
As marijuana use increases, so do stories about alleged marijuana overdoses, increased heart rate and heart attacks, lung cancer, and suicides as a result of cannabis abuse in the United States and all around the world.
And while there are no marijuana overdose deaths registered, can recreational use have such adverse side effects? Moreover, can marijuana cause overdose deaths just like other illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines can? And how likely are cannabis-related deaths today? Read on to find out the answers.
Have People Died From a Marijuana Overdose?
For the longest time, there has been no evidence to suggest drug overdoses as a result of excessive marijuana use compared to overdose deaths as a result of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and other opioids. Besides, the risk of death is higher from alcohol poisoning or a fatal overdose from other drugs, than it is from marijuana.
A study conducted by the United States National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse suggests that it would not be possible for a person to overdose on weed, since the amount of THC needed for that is really high. A dose of 3000 mg/kg Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) tested on dogs and monkeys, would be equal to a 154-pound human smoking almost three pounds (1.28 kg) of marijuana in a short amount of time for it to be lethal.
Although there haven’t been cases of overdosing, marijuana has been noted as a gateway drug that can lead to the use of other illicit drugs. (Roberto Secades-Villa et al, 2015)
Additionally, coroners have documented deaths that were probably triggered by cannabis toxicity and cannabis cardiotoxicity, as well as other marijuana-related reasons.
Even though there haven’t been any cases of people overdosing on cannabis, there have been a lot of cases where people consumed too much weed and did something dangerous that had a terrible outcome.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has posted a report concerning a student who committed suicide in Denver Colorado after eating a cannabis-infused edible in March 2014.
- Forensic Science International posted a case report in 2013 about the death of two young men and the cause of death listed was sudden unexpected death under the acute influence of cannabis. The results of the toxicology report, post mortem autopsy, and other examinations showed that the boys experienced “fatal cardiovascular complications evoked by smoking cannabis”.
- In 2013, a mother of three from Britain was found dead as a result of cannabis toxicity from smoking marijuana.
- In 2014, a coroner confirmed the death of a UK male as a result of cannabis cardiotoxicity, a condition that triggered a heart attack after the user had been smoking marijuana consistently for the past 10 years.
- In 2018, a 17-year-old boy passed away as a result of kidney failure from Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) caused by the continuous use of cannabis.
Cannabis Use and Drugged Driving
There have been a number of deaths associated with smoking marijuana and drugged driving. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, driving under the influence of marijuana poses a threat to drivers and may increase the risk of car accidents.
This happens as a result of the psychoactive effects of THC which can impair the judgment and motor skills of the driver and may increase the risks of getting into an accident.
Testing after accidents often shows signs of alcohol and drug presence in the blood of the driver which can be a contributing factor for deaths caused by car accidents.
Even though there are beneficial compounds in weed, such as cannabidiol (CBD), weed still has its side effects, which can manifest while driving. Make sure you wait an appropriate amount of time before you get behind the wheel.
Can People Die from Synthetic Cannabinoid Use?
Although weed overdose from regular marijuana is unlikely, there have been a number of weed overdoses from synthetic marijuana. Compared to regular marijuana, synthetic marijuana poses more health risks.
These overdoses have happened as a result of bad batches of synthetic cannabis, or people overdosing on Kush and K2 and wandering into traffic, having strokes, or being left paralyzed. Moreover, one new synthetic pot substance MDMB-CHMICA is even thought to be responsible for 42 overdoses and 29 deaths in Europe.
Side Effects From Marijuana Use
Even though weed isn’t known to cause overdoses, there can be various side effects that can come from consuming marijuana over a longer period of time, including paranoid psychosis, anxiety, and panic attacks. Moreover, marijuana use can cause serious health effects on certain population groups like adolescents and pregnant mothers if used excessively:
- An extensive study researched the effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain and concluded that youths risk the danger of exhibiting risky behaviors such as aggressive and delinquent behaviors as a result of using marijuana. (Jacobus et al, 2014)
- Another study researched the Pharmacokinetics and Effects on Child Development as a result of Cannabis use during pregnancy and concluded that pregnant women should not assume that it’s safe to use cannabis during pregnancy because it may negatively impact certain aspects of cognition, and heighten the occurrence of behaviors that are consistent with anxiety in kids. (Kimberly S. Grant et al, 2018)
- Research about cannabis use in youth aged 12-18 has shown that adolescents using cannabis have a greater estimated risk for developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) and Cannabis use disorder (CUD) further in life. (Ken C. Winters at al, 2008)
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Overdoses?
Compared to other illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids, cannabis use isn’t likely to cause an overdose, although there are physical and mental health risks associated with weed use.
There are records of cannabis-related deaths where cannabis abuse was combined with pre-existing medical conditions, cannabis was used with other drugs, prescription medication, or alcohol, or people drove drugged. Often these cases end in trips to the emergency room, serious injuries, and even death.
Because of that, if you are using weed medicinally, it’s important to be responsible and vigilant when consuming it together with other prescription drugs.
Also, adolescents and pregnant women should avoid using weed since it can cause serious physical and psychological repercussions.
Smoking weed shouldn’t be taken lightly if you plan to drive. Make sure you wait enough time after smoking for the weed to flush out of your system.
Secades-Villa, R., Garcia-Rodríguez, O., Jin, C. J., Wang, S., & Blanco, C. (2015). Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: a national study. The International journal on drug policy, 26(2), 135–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.07.011
Jacobus, J., & Tapert, S. F. (2014). Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain. Current pharmaceutical design, 20(13), 2186–2193. https://doi.org/10.2174/13816128113199990426
Grant, K. S., Petroff, R., Isoherranen, N., Stella, N., & Burbacher, T. M. (2018). Cannabis use during pregnancy: Pharmacokinetics and effects on child development. Pharmacology & therapeutics, 182, 133–151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pharmthera.2017.08.014
Winters, K. C., & Lee, C. Y. (2008). Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: association with recent use and age. Drug and alcohol dependence, 92(1-3), 239–247. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005