This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
As cannabis continues to mainstream, more “new” users ask smart questions about the drug. One thing that everyone asks – and its an easy to answer question. “Can you fatally overdose from cannabis?” The answer to that question is a resounding no.
The warnings about cannabis are legion. We have all heard them. The drug war spawned a host of lies about the drug. That starts with its “addictiveness.” Yet for all the scare stories, there is still one “fact” no one can prove. Despite marijuana’s regulation as a Schedule I, it has distinct differences from other drugs in the same category. This includes opioids and cocaine.
NOBODY HAS EVER DIED FROM A CANNABIS OVERDOSE
Despite all the hoopla, one thing is very clear. It is impossible to get a fatal overdose of smoked cannabis.
There is no data recorded on any federal database anywhere.
In comparison, however, prescription pain drugs including opioids, kill increasing numbers of people every year. This is because opioids literally shut down the body’s instinct to breath.
Alcohol is also a deadly albeit legal substance. It routinely kills millions of people a year. It is also in the top killer category in every country where such statistics are kept.
That has never been true of cannabis.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM IS A MASTER REGULATORY SWITCH
There is also increasing evidence that the ECS of the body has a role in this. In every systemized study of cannabinoids as medication, one thing is clear. Even when cannabinoids stop seizures, they are working to moderate systematic functioning. In other words, they work throughout the body when needed.
It has been calculated, however, that theoretically, it is possible to overdose on THC. This has come from using mathematical models used to predict poisoning and toxicity. However, it is currently impossible to consume that much cannabis from conventional sources. Kilogram to kilogram, the average person could not consume or otherwise ingest that much weed in so little time.
WHAT ABOUT CONCENTRATES?
By definition, concentrates are a different story. Today, there are clearly concentrates which knock the socks off results achieved by the natural plant. However, even here, there have been no reports of overdosing. Burns and explosions are the most common injury leading to death in this part of the market, and are linked to concentrate production. Dabbing has attracted a great deal of criticism as a result.
However, it was not just the United States that has been concerned about concentrates. In both Canada and the Netherlands, this issue was a hot topic of concern for several years. Recently, it even led to the authorities shutting down the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam in 2014. The problem again, however, is regulation and administration.
Concentrates are just that. If ingested in small amounts, it does not matter how strong the substance is. The user is obtaining a regulated “dose” of a certain mix of cannabinoid compounds that have been measured.
Ironically, for this very reason, concentrates are set to dominate the early EU medical market. It started with Croatia last summer. However, it also seems that this will be the direction of the German market too. The first tender bid for growers noted that delivered cannabis could be 100% pure cannabinoid. That means, by definition, this is some kind of distilled concentrate. There are no cannabis plants in nature that grow that way.
The answer to the overdose question, in other words, has just been answered fairly definitively by the German government. The rest of the world will catch up. As written into law, currently a patient who receives even the most liberal prescription, will not be able to overdose on the same.
CAN I GET SICK FROM CANNABIS?
This is a very different question. The answer is yes – and via two ways.
The first is that despite the disbelief, people can be allergic to cannabis. These allergic reactions can also be deadly. Most commonly this is seen in people who actually work in the industry. Exposure to THC through the skin is one way to absorb cannabinoids. As a result, workers who do not protect their skin (and in some cases respiratory passages) when closely working with the plant do seem to develop negative physical reactions.
There are also users who have reported severe allergic reactions after smoking the plant. There is beginning to be evidence that in fact, just like other flowers and plants, cannabis plant allergies are real.
In addition to such allergies, there are other ways people have reported getting sick from cannabis. This includes allergies not to the plant itself but what is used to fertilise it. And how the plant is cured.
Contaminants from pesticides or other heavy metals in the ground is one source of allergy. Mould and contaminants that the drying flower develops or is exposed to is another source of allergen.
Unfortunately, given the lack of research, not much more is known. Clinical studies are still far away. Most of the evidence has been reported from hospital emergency rooms in legalising states.
For those who experience allergic reactions after a first toke, consider what might have caused the same. Those people who seem to be allergic to cannabis as a plant usually only develop such symptoms after a period of long exposure.
For them, however, as well as workers in the industry who cannot prevent extreme exposure, there is only one answer. That is permanent abstinence.
Such reactions, however, are relatively rare. That includes jurisdictions where more people use the drug for medical or recreational purposes. Most reports of such phenomena in the recent past, also appear to come from jurisdictions on the cusp of legalisation.
CANNABIS CAN BE HARMFUL
All responsible education comes with reasonable information from both sides. Here is the skinny on the negative side. Cannabis is a drug. It changes the way the body and mind work. Like even food, it can be addictive in certain individuals. However, when people are using the drug to manage chronic conditions, this distinction moves into a different room.
What has never been properly examined is how people with underlying conditions use the drug to manage them. In this, cannabis is very much unlike alcohol and opioids. Starting with the fact that users can not overdose. In such situations, there is always the hope that supposed “addicts” are then treated for their malady. And the remedy could, in fact, be cannabis.
There are other distinct populations of people who should avoid cannabinoids, however. The first is expecting or nursing mothers. The impact of cannabinoids on the developing foetus has already been shown to have a negative impact on development in children. The low-THC varieties of cannabis given to child epileptics appears to fall in a different space. This is the one exception.
Because of the impact of cannabis on the developing brain, teenagers should also refrain from using the drug recreationally. This is because the brain is still developing.
It remains to be seen how older people will react to cannabis. There has never been a study of the same. While it clearly relieves pain and depression, THC levels might have to be better monitored. Older people with no previous exposure to cannabis may be started on higher CBD strains, for example.
MORE RESEARCH AND REGULATION REQUIRED
The bottom line on cannabis is, it is perhaps the world’s safest “drug.” It has been given a very bad rap for a long time. While it is not easy to do harm to yourself when you light up a joint, be sensible about your drug use.
There are no instances where people have died directly from THC ingestion. However, there are many instances of people doing stupid things while high that ended up being their final bow.
If you use the drug recreationally, be educated about it. If you use the drug medicinally, do your research. Try to buy product only from licensed vendors or grow your own. Look for labelling. Lobby for better regulation.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)