Overdosing on marijuana is rare, but does occur. Because marijuana use is popular, even in areas where it is illegal, people who use marijuana contest that it cannot lead to any kind of overdose, even though science has shown this to be false. While severe, fatal marijuana overdoses are quite rare, mild to moderate marijuana overdoses do occur and create unpleasant sensations that typically resolve on their own. This non-fatal type of overdose is often referred to as “greening out” or “whiting out.”
Typically, most people who use marijuana will not experience an overdose unless they are using highly concentrated marijuana or are using strong marijuana without any previous exposure to marijuana.
Can You Overdose on Marijuana?
Science has shown that concentrated amounts of the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can be fatal in animals and have probably been fatal in a few humans cases. Those who are addicted to marijuana contest that marijuana fatalities in humans are due to other factors, such as underlying heart conditions or other medical problems. While there are no recorded cases of marijuana overdose itself definitively being fatal, there are cases of deaths related to marijuana overdose including a young adult who jumped from a balcony while experiencing agitation and hallucinations caused by THC overdose.
While it is very unlikely that someone will die from overdosing on marijuana, overdosing on marijuana is still possible and can cause many unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms are almost always temporary and will resolve as marijuana is processed by the body. Those who overdose on marijuana will typically be using concentrated marijuana. This is called dabbing and involves using substances that have up to 80% THC, compared to the 12-20% that a typical joint has. Additionally, those who overdose on marijuana will also likely be combining alcohol and marijuana, which can make the effects of marijuana stronger than normal.
Signs Of Marijuana Overdose
- Symptoms of Marijuana Overdose
Labored or rapid breathing
The only thing that is reported to help these symptoms is lying down. In severe cases, difficulty breathing and, rarely, death may occur.
Causes Of Marijuana Overdose
Someone who has never used marijuana before and tries it for the first time in large quantities or in high strength may overdose. Someone who has built up a tolerance for a large dose of marijuana and then stopped using it may also overdose if they begin using the same doses again after the tolerance has worn off.
Those who use marijuana with alcohol are more likely to experience an overdose because alcohol causes the THC in marijuana to absorb more quickly. Another common source of overdose is those who inject marijuana and are not aware that edible marijuana takes longer to act. This leads to people assuming they need to eat more and ingesting more than they should.
Marijuana Overdose Complications
There are not many complications that are caused by marijuana overdose, but complications can still happen. A complication that may be caused by marijuana overdose is injury that happens during the disorientation and change in perception that occurs with marijuana intoxication. Vomiting that happens with moderate marijuana overdose could lead to breathing problems or pneumonia if it is aspirated. Marijuana that is vaped can also lead to lung disease and has been fatal in some cases.
Treatment for Marijuana Overdose and Addiction
Marijuana overdose typically does not require medical treatment and may normally be treated by lying down. Someone who is vomiting, hallucinating or is acting erratically or in a manner that could lead to injury should seek immediate medical treatment. The best way to avoid marijuana overdose is to stop using marijuana altogether. Marijuana can lead to the use of other drugs and can lead to legal problems or loss of employment.
If you or a loved one are struggling to stop using marijuana or have overdosed on marijuana, then you should consider seeking professional help. The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health has a strong record of helping those with marijuana addictions to achieve lasting recovery. Reach out to one of our understanding team members to learn how you can start on your path to recovery today.
Brouhard, Rod. “Can You Overdose on Marijuana?” VerywellMind, September 26, 2019. Accessed October 19, 2019.
Hancock-Allen, Jessica B.; et al. “Notes from the Field: Death Following Ingestion of an Edible Marijuana Product — Colorado, March 2014.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 24, 2015. Accessed October 19, 2019.
Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia. “Illicit Drugs and Young People.” December 2014. Accessed October 19, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping.” October 17, 2019. Accessed October 19, 2019.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “The Facts About Marijuana Concentrates.” 2019. Accessed October 27, 2019.
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