When talking about marijuana, one of the more commonly discussed topics is marijuana’s toxicity and whether or not there is such a thing as marijuana overdose. These debates are important as the availability of weed has increased due to the changing legalization laws. Many states are optimizing the medical marijuana programs so they can be more available to users, but the use of recreational marijuana is also increasing.
Even though we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding the complexity of this plant, we have some answers regarding this topic that we’d like to share in today’s article.
Side Effects of Excessive Marijuana Use and Causes
Weed is awesome, however, as with many other things, too much weed can cause some very unpleasant side effects that can not only ruin your experience but also make you think twice next time you’re offered a joint.
If you’ve ever taken too much weed, you’re all too familiar with the side effects it causes. There are some mild side effects that are very commonly felt, such as cottonmouth (dry mouth) and red eyes, but there are more severe ones that can feel scary and very uncomfortable, such as:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Severe motor impairment
- Acute psychosis (delusions or hallucinations)
- Nausea and/or throwing up
Fortunately, the side effects are usually short-term and can last for a few hours, or until the effects of weed start subsiding. If you had a particularly intense experience, you might need some time to calm down and feel grounded, but within 24 hours you should start feeling better.
Who’s to Blame?
The culprit behind all of these unpleasant effects is the very psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you stoned, aka THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Since THC binds to important cannabinoid receptors in the brain responsible for key cerebral functions (movement, memory, thinking, sensing, etc.), when you take a larger amount of THC, it overwhelms the nervous system resulting in all those side effects.
You’re less likely to experience side effects if the strain you’re consuming has high CBD levels because CBD has calming properties and controls the intensity of THC. But, regardless of the THC/CBD ratio, you’re still at risk if you consume a lot.
That being said, due to these side effects, individuals who are prone to psychiatric disorders should use weed with caution, as per the recommendation of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Can You Overdose on Marijuana and How Much Does It Take?
While marijuana can cause some really uncomfortable (and unwanted!) side effects, the good news is that so far, there haven’t been any reports of people fatally overdosing on just marijuana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that to date, there haven’t been any reports of fatalities due to cannabis use.
However, just because marijuana overdose isn’t fatal like other drug overdoses, like opioids, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be harmful and cost you a trip to the emergency room. Cannabis is a powerful substance and using it correctly will get you all the benefits you need while avoiding any frightening experiences.
You might wonder how much weed is too much, but the truth is, this is highly individual. Cannabis tolerance varies greatly from person to person, plus it increases the more you consume weed. Weed tolerance is flexible like that – you start with a lower tolerance which increases with use. To avoid the unpleasant side effects of marijuana, it’s always advised to stick to the lowest effective dose and to listen to your body.
Which Users Are More Vulnerable to Cannabis Overdose?
Even though overdosing on cannabis is different for everyone, some users are more vulnerable to the effects of THC than others.
Beginners are the obvious group that should be careful the first few times when consuming weed. If you’re a beginner, not only will you want nothing to ruin your experience, but you’ll also want to explore in what ways weed works for you, and experiencing side effects will hamper that greatly.
There are also some individuals who are naturally sensitive to THC that even a small dose will cause a reaction. Of course, cannabis is a plant with a complex structure, so other compounds will also play a part in how your body reacts to it. In order to avoid a sensitive reaction, it’s better to look for strains with a considerable CBD content and/or with the terpenes linalool and beta-caryophyllene because they lessen the intensity of THC.
Which Methods of Consumption Can Lead to Marijuana Overdose?
All methods of consumption are safe when used properly, however, with some, it’s easier to underestimate how much weed it takes to get you comfortably high (and you may end up taking too much).
For example, with smoking you feel the effects in just a few minutes, so you’ll soon know whether you need another hit or you’re good. But with ingestion, it’s different.
Edibles take at least 30 minutes to start feeling the effects, sometimes an hour or even longer, so it’s easy to take more than you need if you don’t know this. Many cannabis users have had an unpleasant experience with edibles just because they were misguided and didn’t wait for long enough to feel the effects. So, before you have another brownie, wait for an hour or so to see how you feel.
Also, edibles bought from the dispensary can be dosed in a controlled way as their cannabinoid content is listed on the package. On the other hand, homemade edibles can turn out to be more potent than intended, so caution is advised.
Dabbing is equally tricky, although you start feeling the effects relatively quickly. Concentrates are very powerful cannabis products and the smoke they produce is way less harsh than the smoke from a joint, but also more flavorful, so it may make you think you can handle it. But don’t try this unless your THC tolerance is already high.
How to Tell You’ve Taken Too Much
If you’ve taken too much weed, you’ll definitely feel it. Normally, being high should feel relaxing, euphoric, and blissful, rather than mentally and physically uncomfortable.
Noticing an increased heart rate and anxiety and paranoia building up are usually the first signs. You may also experience confusion and an inability to stand or walk properly. It’s important to know that these are short-term effects, but if you ever feel like you need medical help, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
Otherwise, the best thing you can do is to try to find a comfortable spot and distract yourself from what you’re feeling by watching TV or talking to a friend. Eating snacks and drinking water can also help, as well as taking CBD oil or chewing on black peppercorns.
Bottom Line – No Lethal Dose, but Definitely Bad Side Effects
Weed can be fun and helpful, but it can also lead to some unpleasant side effects if you take too much. The main culprit is THC, the active ingredient in weed that gets you high because it influences key parts of the brain. However, even though unpleasant, marijuana overdose isn’t lethal as there haven’t been any reports of fatalities due to marijuana use.
Beginners and people who are sensitive to THC are more vulnerable to the side effects of weed and therefore should consume it in the smallest effective doses. The side effects are temporary and will subside when the weed starts to wear off, but it’s important to stay comfortable and give yourself time to come out of it.