If you believe your or someone you know has overdosed on marijuana, call 911.
Many people associate drug overdoses with death. But an overdose simply involves taking an excessive dose that causes dangerous health effects. So while certain drug overdoses can be fatal, many others are not.
Can you overdose on marijuana? Although no marijuana overdose deaths have been recorded in the United States, ingesting too much of the drug can still cause serious problems that affect a person’s immediate and long-term health.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in cannabis that gets you high. However, this mind-altering chemical can cause an overdose if someone uses too much marijuana.
Symptoms of marijuana overdose include:
Edibles and other highly potent forms of marijuana can also lead to an overdose. The New York Times reported that hospitals in Colorado have treated a rising number of adults and children poisoned by high doses of marijuana edibles since the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2012.
Marijuana may also cause suicidal behavior or irrational behavior that leads to death. A 19-year-old college student in Wyoming jumped off a hotel balcony in March 2014 after eating a THC-infused cookie, according to The New York Times.
In some cases, a marijuana user may not recognize the signs of overdose. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of marijuana use to better understand the potential side effects of the drug.
Several factors can increase someone’s chances of experiencing a cannabis overdose. People may consume a toxic dose because they lack knowledge about the dangers of the substance. Inexperience with the drug or its more potent forms can also lead to an overdose.
Risk factors for marijuana overdose include:
Children who use marijuana are at increased risk for an overdose. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that children who accidentally ingest marijuana can experience respiratory failure and coma.
Living in a state where marijuana use is legal increases the risk of unintentional overdose injuries among children.
Mixing marijuana with alcohol or other substances can also increase a person’s chances of experiencing an overdose. For example, mixing marijuana and cocaine can lead to increased heart rate or elevated blood pressure — symptoms that might require medical attention.
Laced marijuana can also cause an overdose. Drug dealers have sold marijuana mixed with a more powerful substance such as cocaine or PCP. The buyer has no way of knowing if another substance has been added, and marijuana laced with a more potent drug can cause coma or death.
Individuals can take steps to avoid a marijuana overdose. The most effective way to prevent health issues is to reduce marijuana use or stop using it entirely. Avoiding people who smoke weed may be necessary to quit successfully.
Marijuana users can also prevent an overdose by:
To learn more about how to prevent a cannabis overdose, call a marijuana hotline. A representative can provide prevention strategies and information on the effects of marijuana abuse.
You can also attend Marijuana Anonymous meetings. This 12-step organization provides a forum for people to talk about problems associated with cannabis use. Through these meetings, people can learn new ways to reduce drug use and share stories of hope with one another.
No antidotes for treating a marijuana overdose exist. Overdosing on the drug may require medical attention.
Medical professionals can provide supportive care to control vomiting, anxiety and respiratory and cardiovascular distress. According to the Maryland Poison Center, most marijuana overdose patients are treated, evaluated and released from the emergency room without aggressive treatment.
If you believe someone has overdosed on marijuana, call 911 immediately. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222. The helpline can instruct you on how to overcome a marijuana overdose.
If you are dependent on marijuana, you might need rehab to quit. Treatment for marijuana abuse involves behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy and contingency management. A combination of treatment and social support can help you overcome marijuana dependence and live a healthy, drug-free life.
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