Can a Person Fatally Overdose on Marijuana?
Marijuana is a substance which has been under constant scrutiny for many years. While it can serve certain medical purposes, it is also used recreationally by large amounts of people. One factor of marijuana that has been under constant debate is the potential for overdose. Almost everyone has heard someone directly say, or seen some post on the internet stating that it is impossible to overdose on marijuana and that it has never happened. The large issue with this statement is that it is not true.
Deaths Involving Marijuana Use
Marijuana is a safer substance in comparison to drugs such as opioids, stimulants, and antidepressants, but it can still be toxic in too large of amounts. The myth that nobody can overdose on marijuana can be disabused through the statistics that are out there. According to the CDC WONDER database, there were 287 deaths due to cannabis or cannabis derivatives in 2014. These are broken up into different coded categories, which are drug suicide, drug homicide, accidental drug poisoning, drug poisoning of unknown intent, and cannabis and its derivatives.
Of the 287 deaths, a majority involved ingestion of a fatal dose of some other type of substance(s) as well. This combination is not to say that some small percentage of marijuana simply showed up in the toxicology report, but rather, that a fatal dose of alcohol, opiates, etc., was present along with a lethal dose of marijuana. Sifting these types of cases out helps to narrow the scope of these figures. When these combination cases are removed, there remain 18 deaths that were due to cannabis poisoning in 2014. Now of course, in comparison to other substances such as opiates or alcohol, this amount of deaths could be considered quite small. But the fact remains that the possibility to overdose on marijuana is real.
How Much Would it Take to Overdose on Marijuana?
As stated previously, marijuana can be considered a much more safe substance than many others. It would take much more cannabis to achieve an overdose than it would for several other prominent substances. According to a report from Benno Hartung et al. (2014), a lethal dose (LD50) of THC for humans is estimated at around 30mg/kg. It would typically be more likely that a person could reach the levels of fatal overdose from consuming edible marijuana products, than traditional smoking.
While the lethal dosage amount could be considered high, it in no way means it is not possible. There is a lot of false data out there regarding how much would need to be consumed to overdose on marijuana, some even stating that over 1000 pounds would need to be ingested to die from it. Even though cannabis is safer than many other substances, this does not discount the fact that it can be toxic in large amounts. So keep this in mind the next time you see references stating ridiculous figures about marijuana overdose.
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