Marijuana Overdose
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Marijuana Overdose

A marijuana overdose is uncommon among even the most habitual users. When a person ingests too much marijuana they often feel very tired and sense the need to lie down. If one ingests a large amount of hashish, occasionally they will get sick to their stomach. The Drug Awareness Warning Network Annual Report, published by the US federal government, contains a statistical compilation of all drug deaths which occur in the United States. According to this report, there has never been a death recorded from the use of marijuana by natural causes. Unlike opiates, barbiturates, or amphetamines there seems to be little risk of marijuana overdose even with large amounts of marijuana.  However, research shows that marijuana users are much more likely to use other illegal drugs than non marijuana users. These other drugs in combination with blurred mental perceptions while using marijuana may make the drug just as deadly as the other commonly abused illegal drugs.

Marijuana Overdose - Lethal Marijuana Overdose Amount

In order for a human to consume enough marijuana to be fatal, they would have to consume nearly 40,000 times the amount of THC required to intoxicate them. In contrast, it only requires about 5 to 10 times the amount of alcohol required for intoxicate to be fatal. For example, if it requires 3 beers to intoxicate you, it only requires 15 to 30 beers to kill you. However, if it takes you 3 'hits' of marijuana to intoxicate you, it would require 120,000 hits to kill you. Thus, it is virtually impossible to die of a marijuana overdose.

According to current research, the lethal dose of marijuana is about one-third your body weight consumed all at once. In one research experiment, ingestion of enormous doses of Delta 9 THC and concentrated marijuana extract by mouth were unable to produce death or organ pathology in large mammals but did produce fatalities in smaller rodents due to profound central nervous system depression.

The non-fatal consumption of 3000 mg/kg of THC by a dog or monkey would be comparable to a 154-pound human eating approximately 46 pounds (21 kilograms) of 1%-marijuana or 10 pounds of 5% hashish at one time. In addition, 92 mg/kg THC intravenously produced no fatalities in monkeys. These doses would be comparable to a 154-pound human smoking almost three pounds (1.28 kg) of 1%-marijuana at one time or 250,000 times the usual smoked dose, and over a million times the minimal effective dose assuming 50% destruction of the THC by smoking.

Thus, evidence from animal studies and human case reports appears to indicate that the ratio of lethal dose to effective dose is quite large. This ratio is much more favorable than that of many other common psychoactive agents including alcohol and barbiturates (Phillips et al. 1971, Brill et al. 1970).

Marijuana Overdose Facts:

  • The record on marijuana encompasses 5,000 years of human experience.  Marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision.  Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused any deaths.
  • Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects.  However, there is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality. However, side effects such as lung cancer associated with marijuana use may indeed cause death in users.
  • In strict medical terms, marijuana by itself is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.  For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response.  By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.
  • Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50.  The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity.  A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana's LD-50 rating in test animals, without success.  Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
  • At present it is estimated that marijuana's LD-50 is around 1:20,000 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.  NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams.  A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.
  • Another common medical way to determine drug safety is called the therapeutic ratio.  This ratio defines the difference between a therapeutically effective dose and a dose which is capable of inducing adverse effects. A commonly used over-the-counter product like aspirin has a therapeutic ratio of around 1:20.  Two aspirins are the recommended dose for adult patients.  Twenty times this dose, forty aspirins, may cause a lethal reaction in some patients, and will almost certainly cause gross injury to the digestive system, including extensive internal bleeding.
  • The therapeutic ratio for prescribed drugs is commonly around 1:10 or lower.  Valium, a commonly used prescriptive drug, may cause very serious biological damage if patients use ten times the recommended (therapeutic) dose.
  • There are, of course, prescriptive drugs which have much lower therapeutic ratios.  Many of the drugs used to treat patients with cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis are highly toxic.  The therapeutic ratio of some of the drugs used in antineoplastic therapies, for example, are regarded as extremely toxic poisons with therapeutic ratios that may fall below 1:1.5.  These drugs also have very low LD-50 ratios and can result in toxic, even lethal reactions, while being properly employed. By contrast, marijuana's therapeutic ratio, like its LD-50, is impossible to quantify because it is so high.  
  • In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.
  • If you or someone you care about is feeling as though they are suffering from a marijuana overdose or are overwhelmed by the drugs effect here is something you can do: drink any liquid high in vitamin C. The vitamin C will counteract the effects of the THC in the marijuana within 20 to 30 minutes. The antioxidants in juices also help break down the cannabinoids and help the user feel better.

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