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Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

a person rolling a joint wondering if they can overdose on marijuana

In the last couple of decades, the United States has seen a rise in the number of states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. In the last decade, some states have approved marijuana for recreational use as well, taxing it similar to the way states tax alcohol. As of 2020, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in 11 states, and a further 21 have legalized marijuana for medical uses. Though a substance is made legal, it does not mean it is without risks. A drug overdose occurs if an individual uses extremely high levels of a drug, resulting in life-threatening symptoms or death. By this definition, it is not possible to overdose on marijuana. However, while a fatal overdose of marijuana is extremely unlikely, this doesn’t mean that marijuana use can’t have some adverse effects. 

In order to understand how and why some of these adverse effects may occur, it is essential to know how the psychoactive components of marijuana affect the brain. In addition, if you are dependent on marijuana, then call Vertava Health to learn about our marijauana addiction treatment program

The Science Of Cannabis Use

The reason why marijuana still remains a controlled substance in much of the country because it contains mind-altering compounds that can affect both your brain and body. The main psychoactive component of marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is what is known as a cannabinoid. The human body produces its own cannabinoids with naturally-occurring chemicals called anandamide and arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) as part of its endocannabinoid (EC) system. The EC system is found in many areas of the brain, which explains why it affects so many different body functions. Other cannabinoids influence by regulating how cells send, receive, and process messages. In most cases, cannabinoids act as a buffer, slowing down the communication between cells, leading to several different physical and psychological impairments.

When someone consumes marijuana, THC enters the brain through the bloodstream and attaches itself to the cannabinoid receptors that make up the EC system. The body’s EC system is finely tuned to react appropriately to incoming information. When an outside source enters the EC system, such as THC from marijuana, it can prevent the natural chemicals from doing their job correctly and throws the whole system off balance. This leads to the common side effects of marijuana.

While weed contains no physically addictive compounds, there is still potential for mental and emotional dependence, so marijuana treatment services are helpful. 

Method of Marijuana Ingestion Matters

People consume marijuana in a number of different ways. Each method of ingestion can cause THC to enter the bloodstream at vastly different rates and concentrations. As more medical and recreational marijuana shops open up across the country, people have more access to different forms and potencies of marijuana.

People consume marijuana in the following ways:

  • Eating edibles, such as brownies, gummies, cookies, or candy
  • Eating or smoking marijuana extracts or potent THC resins, such as hash oil, honey oil, wax, or shatter
  • Orally ingesting cannabis capsules
  • Smoking the dried flower in pipes, bongs, blunts, or rolling papers.
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) THC tinctures, or adding it to food or drink

When marijuana is smoked or vaped, it enters the bloodstream through the lungs, leading to the rapid transmission of THC to the brain and near-immediate effects. The effects of marijuana products vary when consumed orally. THC is introduced to the bloodstream through the stomach and intestinal lining when eaten.

The rate at which the effects of marijuana can be felt when using this method can often be unpredictable. Everyone metabolizes food at a different rate. Therefore, the strength of marijuana’s effects can be impossible to anticipate. Eating marijuana products can easily lead to overconsumption of THC and many adverse effects.

Symptoms of Weed Overdose

As mentioned above, a fatal overdose on marijuana is extremely unlikely. This doesn’t mean that irresponsible marijuana use can’t have some very uncomfortable adverse side effects. Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for when dealing with potential marijuana overconsumption:

  • Panic attacks, severe anxiety, extreme
  • Psychotic reactions in which the person loses touch with reality
  • Hallucinations, delusions, or loss of personal identity
  • Elevated heart rate, chest pain, elevated blood pressure, or palpitations
  • Uncontrollable shaking or even seizures
  • Pale or flushed skin color
  • Unresponsiveness

Signs and symptoms of overdose can last longer depending on the method of THC ingestion. When smoked, the symptoms of marijuana intoxication typically last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. These effects can last hours longer when ingested as an edible or drink.

Dangers of Polysubstance Use

We’ve established the unlikelihood of a fatal overdose on marijuana alone, but it can create more serious issues when used in conjunction with other mind-altering substances. Polysubstance use is a term that refers to the use of two or more physically or mentally impairing substances at the same time. Certain combinations of drugs can be fatal.

The most common example of polysubstance use involving marijuana is mixing the drug with alcohol. When used together, alcohol and marijuana work in tandem to further impair judgment and motor skills. This combination of drugs is one of the leading factors in automobile accidents that involve intoxication.

What to Do When You’ve Ingested Too Much THC

While the overconsumption of marijuana alone doesn’t necessarily have fatal consequences, it can induce uncomfortable side effects. You can do things to help keep yourself safe until the effects of marijuana run their course in your body.

  • Remaining calm is key. Therefore, to avoid a panic attack or similar undesired effects, it is very important to remain calm and remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is temporary. Reassure yourself that you will feel better in 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Find a relaxing, quiet place to wait out the effects of marijuana. It can also be a huge help to have a trusted person by your side during the difficult parts of marijuana intoxication. This can help you avoid paranoia and calm your mind.
  • Distract yourself by putting on a favorite movie, television show, or album. Even having conversations with trusted people can help distract you from the negative effects of marijuana intoxication.
  • Taking a shower can be a relaxing experience that may help you ride out any negative feelings.

Using Marijuana Safely And Responsibly

It is essential to respect marijuana as a powerful drug and to acknowledge that it has the potential to induce some severe negative side effects. It’s straightforward to prevent the overconsumption of marijuana by following the guidelines below:

  • Abstain from or lower the amount of marijuana used.
  • Educate yourself about the potential dangers of polysubstance use, especially marijuana’s interaction with alcohol. It’s best to avoid this combination and any other drug combinations.
  • Be aware of a decrease in tolerance after a period of marijuana abstinence. This can easily lead to marijuana overconsumption.
  • Know the importance of staying hydrated when consuming marijuana.

Educate yourself on the potential health conditions that can be exacerbated by marijuana use.

Seek Treatment at Vertava Health

If you’re suffering from dependence on marijuana, we can help. Vertava Health offers marijuana addiction treatment that can help you overcome your addiction and regain control of your life. We offer a variety of programs to accommodate your needs, including inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Don’t let marijuana addiction control your life. Contact us at 844.470.0410 today for more information.