As a result of the increase of legalization and decriminalization laws around the US and all over the world, both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana use are on the rise. People are now using CBD as an aid to sleep better at night, as part of their beauty regime, or to manage their chronic pain, whereas THC is mostly used in social situations, in spiritual practices, and for relaxation, so naturally the market is expanding rather fast.
The cannabis plant has been consumed for thousands of years, dating back to ancient civilizations. The preferred method of consumption varies from person to person – some prefer ingestion, others inhalation, and some even use topicals for treating localized pain. However, the topic of this article isn’t cannabis consumption methods, rather the effects of marijuana and how much weed it takes to kill a person.
So, let’s dig into the side effects of cannabis consumption and allegations of marijuana overdoses, like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and heart attacks in cannabis users, and give you the answer on whether too many weed brownies or joints can kill you.
Is a Marijuana Overdose Possible?
This is a subject that has been debated among scientists and researchers for the longest time, and the answer is a definitive no. Let’s explain why.
The cannabinoid receptors, which are found in the brain and all over the body, are affected by the consumption of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the sedative cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), as well as the other cannabinoids and compounds in weed. They affect the nervous system, metabolism, memory, coordination, and other systems and functions throughout the body. However, these cannabinoid receptors aren’t found in the areas in the brain that control breathing, therefore, a lethal overdose from cannabis is impossible according to the National Cancer Institute.
Keep in mind that even though a lethal overdose is impossible, cannabis isn’t harmless and was once considered a gateway drug to using other illicit drugs and opioids, but this has now been debunked, so the only thing to be careful of are the unpleasant side effects. Marijuana gives users the well-known high, and has a number of physical and mental effects which we’ll go into detail below. (Roberto Secades-Villa et al, 2015)
Have There Been Any Marijuana-Related Deaths?
While there haven’t been cases of people overdosing on weed, there have been cases where people who were under the influence of weed had health complications which resulted in death:
- In March 2014, a Colorado student committed suicide after consuming a cannabis-infused edible.
- In 2013, two young men died unexpectedly after they had cardiovascular complications as a result of smoking cannabis.
- In 2014, a UK male died as a result of a heart attack. The user had been smoking marijuana consistently for 10 years.
- In 2018, a boy passed away as a result of kidney failure caused by Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS).
- Throughout the years, coroners have had a number of documented deaths caused by cannabis toxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Marijuana Consumption and Drugged Driving
The National Institute on Drug Abuse gave a warning that smoking weed and driving under the influence of weed may increase the risk of car accidents. Since the effects of THC impair the motor skills and judgment skills of drivers, consuming weed prior to driving may increase the chances of drivers getting into car accidents.
To prevent this, police officers have started roadside drug testing for cannabis orally, although new breathalyzers are currently developed which will enable officers to check for the presence of weed at the scene.
If you and your friends are thinking about smoking weed, make sure you have a designated driver who hasn’t been smoking to make sure you’re safe when you’re in the car. If everyone has been smoking weed, wait a few hours before getting behind the wheel to give your body time to detox from the psychoactive effects of THC.
What Is the Lethal Dose of Cannabis?
Research on animals regarding cannabis toxicity proved that a dog would need to consume 3000 mg/kg of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in order to overdose on weed. The same isn’t true for people.
Research on drug abuse has been done for years in order to answer whether weed consumption can be fatal. A crucial point in the 1988 Department of Justice brief in the matter of the “Marijuana rescheduling petition” concluded that a person needed to “consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.” The marijuana cigarettes supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) contained 0.9 grams of weed, therefore a smoker would need to smoke between 20,000 and 40,000 joints to die.
What About Synthetic Cannabis?
The above-mentioned information is in regard to naturally produced marijuana. Synthetic marijuana, on the other hand, has more health risks for users. In the past years, there have been cases of marijuana overdoses caused by bad batches of synthetic cannabis, people overdosing on synthetic weed and wandering into traffic, or experiencing other negative effects. A few years ago, a record of 42 overdoses and 29 deaths were recorded as a result of a synthetic pot substance MDMB-CHMICA. As time goes by, we can only expect more of these products to hit the illegal cannabis market.
Side Effects From Weed Consumption
Apart from the not-so-serious effects caused by weed consumption, like a case of the munchies, bloodshot eyes, cottonmouth, and others, weed can have other physical and mental health effects on users.
- Cannabis may trigger a genetic predisposition for psychosis or schizophrenia in users;
- Young adults who have been consuming weed for a long time may exhibit risky behaviours and aggression, as well as other side effects.
- Pregnant women who are using cannabis can expect it to negatively affect their children and increase the chances of the child developing anxiety and other impairments in cognition.
- Adolescents who use cannabis aged 12-18 have a greater risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) and cannabis use disorder (CUD) later in life.
- Smoking marijuana can also affect heart health including heart rate and blood pressure, therefore, individuals with heart conditions should refrain from smoking marijuana.
The amount of weed it takes for a fatal outcome as a result of cannabis consumption is far greater than what a person can consume in a short period of time. Cannabis users need to consume about 1,500 pounds of marijuana within 15 minutes in order to die from it, which is smoking about 20,000 – 40,000 joints.
However, overconsumption of cannabis can lead to other unwanted short-term and long-term side effects including the less serious ones like the munchies, cottonmouth, and others, to the more serious ones like effects on heart health, adolescent brain, mental health, and others.
If you do use weed either recreationally or medically, make sure you consume doses appropriate to your tolerance level or the condition which you’re treating, in order to be on the safe side and minimize any negative effects.
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