Marijuana Overdose: Is It Really Possible to Die from Cannabis?

Everyone knows that you can overdose on painkillers or tranquilizers, especially if you mix them with alcohol. Is the case the same for cannabis?

So, the big truth is that drug overdose is on the rise.

According to the stats I found, 64,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2016, from both illicit and prescription drugs.

In the same year, at least 2458 Canadians died from an opioid-related overdose.

These unfortunate cases are most commonly caused by heroin and benzodiazepines (a class of anti-anxiety prescription medications like Ativan and Xanax).

But what about cannabis? Is there such thing as a marijuana overdose?

To put an end to your suffering, I’ll address this with a straight-to-the-point answer.

Weed is not even in the same ballpark as pharmaceuticals and heavier illicit drugs. No one has ever died from consuming too much cannabis.

In fact, there is not a single record of a person in this world who overdosed on marijuana, ever.

Of course, there are certainly some unpleasant side effects that may happen if you do take too much weed — impaired motor skills, sleepiness, increased heart rate (and even palpitations) and cannabis-induced paranoia are just some of the more common ones.

The reason why weed is so safe is because its mechanism of action in the human body does not inhibit our vital functions.

But let me elaborate.

The science behind overdosing

Opioids and anti-anxiety meds produce their effects by activating certain receptors in the human body. We cannot possibly put all of this under one umbrella but I’ll water it down for you:

There are thousands of biochemical processes that take place in our bodies each day. They mostly happen on a cellular level.

Each function is regulated through a series of cellular receptors and activators.

On the membrane of a cell there is a thing called a receptor — once activated, it tells the cell what to do. You can think of this as a little lock on our cell.

The activator (or the key that unlocks this cell) is either a neurotransmitter or a hormone.

The end result — a biological response.

The human body makes its own activators (called endogenous agonists).

So, when we take too much of external activators (or other drugs that inhibit degradation of those activators), we can suppress certain vital functions, like breathing.

That is how most drug overdoses happen — through a combination of complete sedation and a reduction in respiratory function.

The big problem here is that people often times do not take only opioids, but also benzodiazepines.

In fact, more than 30% of opiod overdose cases involve benzodiazepines.

When combined and taken in extreme amounts, these two groups of drugs impair and act against several vital functions. In simple terms, they can be lethal.

Marijuana works differently, as it activates receptors that do not impair vital functions. 

Unlike the opioid receptors, cannabinoid receptors are located all over our body and they do not interfere with vital functions such as breathing. They are mainly located in the central and peripheral nervous system and several organs like liver and thymus gland. Therefore, marijuana cannot lead to lack of oxygen in humans.

However, since the cannabinoid receptors are located in the central nervous system they may cause low blood pressure and short-term memory loss, increased heart rate, reduction in motor skills and a few other side effects that may inhibit performance in several day to day activities.

So, to conclude — there is no such thing as cannabis poisoning but there are a few side effects that should be taken into account when consuming cannabis products.

Is there a deathly dose of marijuana?

The lethal dose of cannabis is theoretically elusive.

It’s simple as that.

According to a report by the United States Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration:

“At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette.”

But, let’s see how much weed would you actually have to take to die, just for the fun of it.

How much marijuana would you have to smoke to overdose?

As the report said, a person would have to take 40,000 times more weed than usual to actually die from it.

This means that you would have to take 1,500 pounds of cannabis within 15 minutes in order to overdose.

In other words, you’ll have to smoke between 20,000 and 40,000 above average size joints (with at least 0.9 grams of weed) in a quarter of an hour to die.

And we can all agree that it’s practically impossible to consume that much cannabis in such a short time. Or ever.

Even if you do manage to smoke 40,000 joints in 15 minutes, the main cause of death would probably be carbon monoxide poisoning.

Can you overdose on dabs?

A lot of us smokers were interested in this question at some point, but in this instance, the doubt is fair enough, since dabs are much more potent than marijuana buds.

The same goes here, you will have to take more dabs than you can even imagine in 15 minutes.

And the thing is, people usually get too high after just a few hits (sometimes even one).

There is no way someone can consume hundreds of pounds of dabs so quickly.

How much edibles would you have to take to overdose?

When it comes to edibles, it’s a little bit of a different story but you still can’t overdose on them.

Even if you do take too much edibles and feel like dying — you won’t. The paranoia will go away eventually.

You would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times more marijuana than usual. No one can eat that much food, not even edibles.

The usual problem with edibles is that it takes more time to feel the effects when compared to smoking.

When you smoke a joint, the THC goes straight into your bloodstream.

When you consume an edible, it goes to your stomach and takes much more time for the digestion process to start.

That’s why most people don’t feel the effects right away, so they take more and more. And once THC kicks in, they’ve already taken too much.

This can be a very uncomfortable experience. You could feel more anxious and paranoid, even not being able to move properly. But, if that happens, just try to stay as calm as possible, take deep breaths and keep in mind that it will all go away.

Scroll down to the bottom of this article to find out how to relieve negative side effects of taking too much weed.

Joint overdose

Marijuana-related deaths

We can’t overdose on marijuana itself, however, we can die as a result of other circumstances while consuming cannabis.

For instance, driving while being very high on marijuana can lead to a car crash, which is sometimes fatal, but even then we cannot say for sure that it was all because of cannabis.

There have been several news stories on marijuana-related deaths.

A woman was shot to death by her husband after he used cannabis edibles in Colorado. A guy who killed himself after eating five times more edibles than recommended. I mean, these things certainly do happen, but you will agree that these are most likely caused by underlying mental issues and not even remotely related to cannabis alone.

There are millions of people consuming cannabis on a regular basis and I don’t see all of us running around and killing people as a result.

What we should all keep in mind is that marijuana-related deaths are caused by actions taken while accidentally being under the influence of cannabis at the same time, and not the herb itself.

Synthetic and laced weed overdose

I’ll just keep it brief on this one.

Synthetic and laced cannabis is nothing like real, carefully grown marijuana.

Laced weed is cannabis mixed with other drugs and chemicals to enhance its poor starting potency. Laced weed is rare but very dangerous.

Synthetic cannabinoids bind to the same receptors as cannabinoids found in cannabis, but they have nothing to do with the plant. Synthetic weed, also known as K2 or Spice, should not be mistaken for Marinol, the synthetic THC which is even FDA approved.

Unfortunately, there have been many reports of deaths caused by synthetic and laced marijuana. The reason for that is because the artificial chemicals interfere with receptors involved in breathing.

Weed and pills

Marijuana overdose symptoms and first aid

You never know what weed paranoia is until you take too much cannabis for the first time in your life. Excessive THC can trigger paranoia and anxiety, panic attacks, increased heart rate, slowed coordination, short-term memory loss and a myriad of other symptoms.

There’s not much you can do in that situation except to keep yourself as calm as possible.

If you or someone you know is having an unpleasant experience from taking too much weed, try to stay hydrated, breathe deeply, relax and it will all go away sooner or later (you’ll just have to suffer a bit for few hours).

The first aid for people who take too much cannabis is pepper lemonade. Pepper contains terpenes which help diminish the side effects of THC. Lemon helps you stay hydrated and relieves the dry mouth syndrome.

Categories Basics

In charge of Greencamp’s health section, with a decade-long experience of using cannabis for stress relief. Her spare time is mostly divided between dancing, traveling and reading.

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