Is It Possible to Overdose on Marijuana (Weed)?
Marijuana poisoning—also known as overdose—is a very real phenomenon. Fatal or not, marijuana overdose can require medical intervention and may have long-lasting consequences.1
This page will explore the effects of marijuana in high doses, symptoms of a weed overdose, other risks of marijuana use, and addiction treatment.
Marijuana and Its Effects
Marijuana is a drug made from the dried cannabis sativa or cannabis indica plant.1 The plant contains several unique chemicals known as cannabinoids, but delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main chemical responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects.2
When someone uses marijuana, THC enters the bloodstream and binds to receptors in areas of the brain associated with pleasure, memory, ability to think, concentration, coordination, and more.2
however, depending on the dose and tolerance level of the person using it, unpleasant and dangerous effects may occur.2 These may include:2
- Anxiety or distrust.
- Fear or panic.
- Psychotic symptoms (such as hallucinations, delusions, depersonalization).
Forms of Marijuana and the Risk of Overdose
Certain forms of cannabis and methods of use may be more likely to cause overexposure.
For example, smoking cannabis yields effects very quickly,2 whereas the effects of ingesting marijuana in food or drink (“edibles”) may not be noticeable for up to an hour.2 This delay may lead someone to consume more, potentially leading to an overdose.2
Marijuana concentrates or extracts (e.g., hash oil, dabs, butter) contain very high levels of THC, thus increasing the chances of experiencing a toxic dose from using small amounts.1
Synthetic cannabinoids—known as “K2”, “Spice”, and “Black Mamba”—4 (intro) are especially dangerous. Unlike regular weed or its concentrates and extracts, synthetic weed does not contain THC and has caused fatal overdoses.4
Marijuana (THC) Overdose Symptoms
A THC overdose may involve the following effects:3,5
- Loss of coordination
- Uncontrolled muscle movements
- Increased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
- Suicidal ideation.
- Psychotic symptoms
According to a 2021 study, psychotic symptoms account for 25-30% of cannabis-related emergency department (ED) visits (other reasons include intoxication and gastrointestinal problems). The presentation of cannabis-related psychosis is associated with the later development of schizophrenia; 50% of people hospitalized for these symptoms go on to develop schizophrenia.5
Another study found that the number of first psychotic episodes would be reduced by 12% if THC products had been unavailable.5
Synthetic Weed Overdose
Some effects of synthetic cannabinoid (spice) toxicity are similar to marijuana’s effects, but may also include:4
- Profound sedation.
- High fever.
- Widespread muscle damage.
- Kidney failure.
- Heart attack.
Treatment for Marijuana Overdose
Currently, there is no antidote for THC or synthetic cannabinoid overdose.3,4 Instead, treatment for marijuana overdose is aimed at managing symptoms and identifying any additional risk factors that could complicate recovery.3
Electrocardiograms may be used if chest pain is present to mitigate the risk of a heart attack.3 If other substances were consumed with marijuana—knowingly or not—a person may benefit from medication or other interventions directed at co-occurring toxicities.3
In cases of a severe marijuana overdose or overdose with psychotic symptoms, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) or a 24-hour psychiatric hold may be necessary.3
Health Risks of Marijuana Use
In addition to overdose, chronic marijuana use puts a person at risk for other health complications.2
Some short- and long-term effects and risks of chronic marijuana use may include:1,2
- Increase in daily cough and phlegm.
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
- Higher risk of respiratory illnesses and infections.
- Increased risk of a heart attack.
- Increased risk of testicular cancer.
- Problems with child development in utero and if breastfeeding.
- Co-occurring mental illnesses (such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia).
Chronic marijuana use can also lead to addiction.1 Marijuana use disorder—the clinical term for a marijuana addiction—is characterized by the continued use of marijuana despite it causing significant problems in one’s life.6
Treatment for Marijuana Use Disorder
Fortunately, marijuana addiction is a treatable condition.6
Treatment can be performed in a variety of settings, but at any level of care treatment will likely involve behavioral therapy, peer support, and treatment for any co-occurring disorders that are present.7
Desert Hope Treatment Center, offers various types of addiction treatment, including:
- Medical detox.
- Residential care.
- Partial hospitalization.
- Intensive outpatient care.
- Outpatient treatment.
- Sober living.
Their staff, available 24/7, is able to answer your questions about inpatient rehab in Las Vegas and other levels of care, the treatment admissions process, handling the cost of rehab, insurance coverage, and anything else you may need to know. Call to start treatment today or verify your insurance coverage using the confidential .