There has been much hysteria and misinformation surrounding cannabis over the last century. Following prohibition, many myths arose, including ideas that cannabis was associated with increased crime and violence. Another popular myth is that is it possible to die from a cannabis overdose. While it is technically possible to die from consuming too much cannabis, it is also possible to die from an overdose of peanuts, water, cucumbers, bananas, and oxygen, if you forget to exhale. If you take incredible amounts of cannabis and your system is not used to it, it is possible to get dehydrated to such an extent that you will die of dehydration.
How Cannabis Works?
The main effects attributed to marijuana are because of the psychoactive compound, THC. THC acts like a natural endocannabinoid found in the body, anandamide, and slots into cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system is the name given to endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. A deficiency of cannabinoids will result in many conditions, given that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for emotional processing, cognitive functioning, temperature, pain, pleasure, sleep, appetite, and mood. A poorly functioning endocannabinoid system has been linked to many diseases including Parkinson’s, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, Depression, Bi-Polar and more. And this is one of the main reasons why scientists believe that marijuana is effective in treating these diseases. Because the cannabinoid receptors are not located in the brain stem it is not actually possible to die from a lethal dose of THC.
Is it really possible to die from Cannabis?
It is possible, just extremely unlikely, to die from a cannabis overdose. It is possible to die from drinking too much alcohol, as your lungs may literally drown in a fluid. But this has nothing to do with the alcohol. It is possible to die from alcohol itself when it slowly over the years erodes your liver and you get an associated disease. It is also possible to drink too much alcohol and drive off a cliff, and the same thing could happen when you ingest too much THC from cannabis. However, even this is less likely, as studies have proven that marijuana is a much safer alternative to alcohol when it comes to road accidents and road fatalities. In every single state where legalization has taken place, road deaths and accidents have gone down, contrary to popular belief.
There are specific cases and instances where death as a result of cannabis might occur. Many are familiar with “whities”, where the person “whites out”. The person experiencing a “whitely” will faint and/or throw up. The reason it is so termed is because the skin will begin to turn white after ingestion of too much marijuana. These episodes usually last about 15-20 minutes and people are perfectly ok the next day. The official reason that people have whities is due to a combination of tiredness, lack of fluids and food, a hot environment, and of course too much THC in too short a time period. All these factors combine into a whitey. They are usually one-off events which happen to people who are not familiar with how much cannabis they should take. The same way that teenagers often take too much alcohol.
More people die from cannabis-related incidents due to the consumption of edibles as opposed to inhalation. This is because it takes a while for the high associated with edibles to kick in and the individual may misjudge how much they need, taking more edibles in the meantime. There are many cases where marijuana consumption has resulted in death. There was a case in 2014 where a husband shot his wife, and another in 2015, when there was a suicide after too much marijuana, was ingested. But these people were predisposed towards doing these actions anyway, they did not die because of the cannabis itself. It is like saying that balconies and cliffs are responsible for suicides or that guns are responsible for murders when it is people who commit the acts.
Aside from accidents resulting from individual error and judgment, the main potential cause of death directly associated with marijuana would be anxiety attacks which induce heart attacks which result in death. An anxiety attack and a heart attack are not the same things. It is definitely possible for someone to have an anxiety attack after ingesting too much marijuana. However, it really only happens among those who are prone to anxiety attacks anyway. Anxiety attacks are rarely fatal. But the risk of dying from a heart attack is much greater. There have been studies suggesting that cannabis can lead to heart attacks, and studies have shown that regular cannabis users are 3.4 times more likely to die as a result of hypotension.
If you see someone who you think may have had too much weed, then the first thing to do is to get them into a relaxed and comfortable state, make sure they can breathe and make sure they are hydrated. After this call a doctor or someone who is qualified in the field of health.
Synthetic v Organic Marijuana
Many of the tales about people dying from marijuana most likely originated from low-quality marijuana with all kinds of chemicals sprayed on them, in days when marijuana was criminalized. But there are still some very questionable substances out there. There is something known as synthetic marijuana, where manufacturers spray whatever chemical they want the plants to increase profits and make the plant look bigger and brighter. There have been a number of deaths linked to synthetic marijuana, and none with organic marijuana. This is a fact. Usually, the cause of death is that synthetic marijuana causes the user to stop breathing. Hopefully, with legalization of marijuana, synthetic marijuana will become a thing of the past.
It’s not Really Possible
To sum up, it is simply not possible to overdose on cannabis, and there has been no case where THC is a direct cause of death. While research suggests that cannabis may cause heart attacks, there are few, if any at all (I was not able to find any) heart attack deaths directly attributed to cannabis consumption. It stands to reason, as THC mimics a natural substance in the body. The closest thing that THC does is that it may alter judgment in people whose judgment is already impaired. Generally speaking, the idea that you can overdose on marijuana is a false alarm and the closest you will come to death is a 20-minute whitey.