5 Effects of Smoking Too Much Weed: Can You Overdose? (2022)

Although cannabis is an intoxicant, it does not pose the same risk of fatality as other common intoxicants such as cocaine or heroin. It is next to impossible to achieve a fatal dose. With that being said, it is entirely possible to consume too much cannabis, especially for inexperienced users. If you do consume too much cannabis, there are some classic warning signs.

When itcomes to cannabis, many people are under the impression that it is a “soft”substance that causes no harm. While cannabis definitely doesn’t pose the samekind of risks as some other, harder drugs, it is a little optimistic to suggestthat it causes no harm at all.

Fortunatelyfor cannabis users, there is virtually no threat of fatal overdose. But it isentirely possible to go overboard while dosing cannabis, which happens to mostcannabis users at least once in their times as cannabis frequenters.

Can you overdose on cannabis?

Every substance is toxic if you consume too much of it. Even carrots and bananas can have negative physiological effects if you consistently consume high volumes of them. The same is true of cannabis. Thus far, there has not been any fatality caused by a cannabis overdose, although this is a contentious issue. But accidentally consuming too much is not entirely uncommon, so how much is too much?

To gauge this, there is a measurement known as Lethal Dose (LD), whichis applied to all substances humans may consume, and is calculated on bodyweight. For example, the median LD for sugaris 30g/kg and for table salt is 12.35g/kg. This means that alethal dose of sugar for an 80kg man would be 2.4kg, and for salt, would bealmost 1 kg. Heroin, on the other hand, has a median LD of50mg/kg for inhalation, but as little as 0.02g/kg if it is takenintravenously. For cannabis, the amount required for a lethal dose is much,much higher.

For tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, the intragastric LD with a sesame oil formulation is approximately 1.27g/kg (in rats).

In his book, Weed: The User’s Guide, author David Schmader points out that the average person would need to consume 750 kilos of cannabis in 15 minutes for it to be lethal. Most strains of cannabis sit around 15-20% THC, meaning that one gram of cannabis contains at most 200 mg of THC. It is virtually impossible to consume such a huge volume of THC via inhalation, although there is speculation that it is possible to overdose on THC if it is administered intravenously.

Despite the fact that it is nearly impossible to overdose on cannabis inthe strict, fatal sense, it is entirely possible to overdose in a less deadlyway. You can consume too much cannabis in much the same way that you can accidentallyeat too many candies. It won’t be deadly, but there can be five uncomfortablesymptoms to deal with.

1. Too much cannabis can cause a “white-out”

A white-out, or whitey, is a sideeffect of acute cannabis intoxication. The name derives from the first signthat one is underway – the colour drains rapidly from the face, followed byweakness, nausea or vomiting and even temporary unconsciousness.

Though an unexpected whitey can bedistressing for most people, the symptoms are generally short lived. If it’syou that’s about to fall victim to the whitey phenomenon, it’s good to have asweet drink or snack and then sit or lie down. If it is happening to a friend,you can offer them the same remedies. It should only take a few minutes forfeelings of nausea and dizziness to subside.

5 Effects of Smoking Too Much Weed: Can You Overdose? (1)

It is commonly believed that a dropin blood sugar is responsible for causing a white-out. The dramatic loss ofstrength and onset of nausea certainly feels like a crash in blood sugar butthere is virtually no scientific evidence to support this hypothesis. In fact,there are surprisingly few studies which give insight into the acute effects ofcannabis on blood glucose levels.

(Video) Can You Overdose On Weed?

When the effect of cannabis on bloodglucose was studied in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most studies reported nosignificant effect on glucose levels. However, one study, researchers foundthat no hypoglycemia was found, but deterioration of the Glucose tolerance test occurred (GTT). Thus, it appears that smokingcannabis can result in higher glucose levels – exactly the opposite of what iscommonly believed to be the case!

It’s hard to speculate on the exactphysiology underpinning a white-out based on the results of outdated studies.On top of this, the cannabis that was being investigated at that time wasusually analysed at 1% THC. Cannabis being smoked today is sometimes more than 20times that potency, and studies conducted in the 1970s would not be indicativeof the effect of cannabis strains today.

What to do when youwhite-out

There might not be any scientificevidence to support using a sugary snack as a treatment for a white-out, butit’s still an effective old wives’ tale. The most important thing to do when awhitey starts happening is to sit or lay down. This prevents any injurysustained by falling or passing out.

Then, it’s time for something sweetand sugary. A glass of orange juice or a chocolate bar should do the trick.Even if loss of consciousness occurs, it typically just lasts a few seconds. Itis akin to what happens when you accidentally have one too many wines. Youmight vomit, you might pass out for a second, but it will all be okay in acouple of hours.

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2.Too much cannabis may cause shakiness or tremors

Although cannabis isproving to be an invaluable treatment for tremor-causing illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, some individualsactually find that use of cannabis causes tremors in its own right.

(Video) Study: Edible symptoms more serious than smoking

5 Effects of Smoking Too Much Weed: Can You Overdose? (2)

While there do notappear to be any formal studies into this phenomenon, there is an abundance ofanecdotal evidence to support it. Many users have reported a case of the shakesat least once, which usually lasts from a few seconds up to half an hour.

Possible reasons includethe stimulating effects of THC on the central nervous system, or viainteraction with the dopaminergic signalling system.

What to do when you’ve gotthe shakes

It’s important todistinguish between tremors resulting from acute cannabis intoxication andthose that may arise as withdrawal symptoms in dependent users.

The best advice for aninfrequent user who finds themselves feeling a bit shaky after using cannabis, wouldbe to just breathe and relax! Wait for the symptoms to pass, and maybe consumea bit less next time!

If the tremors are part of cannabis withdrawal they should begin to subside after a few days, along with any other withdrawal symptoms, as the CB1 receptors in the brain return to normal functioning.

3.Cotton-mouth because of too much cannabis

Experiencing a dry mouthand throat after cannabis use is extremely common, and often it does not takemuch cannabis to induce this effect. However, during a heavy session, thedry-mouth effect can often increase until it becomes extremely unpleasant, tothe point that even drinking water or other beverages makes little difference.

5 Effects of Smoking Too Much Weed: Can You Overdose? (3)

Cannabis causes users to experience cotton-mouth due to the presence of cannabinoid receptors type 1 & 2 in the submandibular glands (which produce 60-67% of an individual’s saliva). Cannabinoid agonists such as THC bind to the glandular receptors and block the action of saliva-inducing compounds such as norepinephrine and methacholine, leading to a decrease in the secretion of saliva.

How to get rid ofcotton-mouth

If experiencingunpleasant cotton-mouth, remaining hydrated will mitigate the issue to someextent. For more complete relief, using a demulcent (a substance that coats amucous membrane with a moist ‘film’) designed for oral use should suffice. Manydifferent prescription medications can cause users to experience dry mouth, sothere are numerous products commercially available to combat the problem.

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4.Paranoia is a symptom of too much cannabis

Even for the mostseasoned cannabis user, consuming too much can lead to social paranoia. It ismore common for inexperienced users to reach paranoia, because frequent usersdevelop a tolerance towards cannabis. With that being said, no one is immunefrom this symptom after exposure to a little too much THC.

5 Effects of Smoking Too Much Weed: Can You Overdose? (4)

Not every cannabis user is affected in this manner. In fact, research suggests that if an individual is anxious, depressed or suffering from low self-esteem prior to using cannabis, they are more likely to experience paranoia following consumption of cannabis.

In one 2014 study, researchers tested this theory on121 participants aged 21-50. One third was given a placebo while, one thirdwas given THC, and one third was given THC combined with a ‘cognitiveawareness’ manipulation. THC increased paranoia, negative affect (anxiety,worry, depression, negative thoughts about the self), and a range of anomalousexperiences, and reduced working memory capacity. Making participants aware ofthe effects of THC (the ‘cognitive awareness’ manipulation) had little impact. Thislarge study of intravenous THC demonstrated that the drug triggers paranoidthoughts in vulnerable individuals.

While the administration of THC in isolation has been shown to cause paranoia, the cannabis plant also contains terpenoids including limonene and alpha-pinene, which may mitigate such effects.

What to do when youexperience cannabis-induced paranoia

If experiencing paranoiafollowing use of cannabis, be sure to leave a significant length of time beforenext attempting to use it, and lower the dose to remain within comfortablelimits. Ensuring that surroundings are comfortable and stress-free, and thatone’s emotional state is calm and at-ease, should also go a long way towardsmitigating feelings of paranoia.

Interestingly, in thestudy cited above, some users reported conscious judgement of their paranoia.For example, one subject who knew he was prone to such feelings was consciousof the fact that cannabis exacerbated his predisposition. Knowing suchpredispositions can also assist in navigating a paranoid cannabis experience.

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Historically, ingredients containingthe terpenes limonene and alpha-pinene have been used in antidotes for acutecannabis intoxication. Citrus fruits were used in 10th century Persiaand pine nuts have been used since Roman times. A handful of pine nuts washed downwith a glass of lemonade might go a long way!

5. Too much cannabis may cause psychosis

Psychosis is a broad term used to describeepisodes of mental illness in which the sufferer loses touch with reality. Such episodes involvehallucinations, delusions, confused and disturbed thoughts and a lack ofinsight and self-awareness.

5 Effects of Smoking Too Much Weed: Can You Overdose? (5)

Such disorders affect around 3 % of people at some point in their lives,although rates vary substantially between countries and regions. Higher incidences are observed inyounger people, ethnic minorities and in areas with a lower percentage ofowner-occupied houses.

An association between cannabis useand increased incidence of psychosis is well established, with previousmeta-analyses have reported a 2-fold increase in the risk to develop apsychotic disorder in cannabis users compared to nonusers. But does cannabis actually causepsychosis, or are those people who are predisposed to psychosis also drawn tocannabis?

It is certainly the case that manypeople attribute their psychotic symptoms to cannabis. However, this is acomplex topic, and other users claim that cannabis provides relief frompsychotic symptoms.

Most coverage, particularly in themainstream media, gives the impression that the existence of a causalrelationship between cannabis use and psychosis has been established.

Yet an equally convincingcounter-argument can be presented. The nature of mental illness and psychosisis complex, and we are yet to understand which came first: the chicken or theegg? It may be that onset of mental illness causes a person toself-medicate with cannabis, and the two become intertwined. Virtually nobody denies a correlation between cannabis andpsychosis.

What to do if youexperience psychosis

This polarised debate is likely torumble on for many years. In the meantime, those who find that their psychoticsymptoms are worsened or amplified by cannabis use should perhaps considercutting down or taking a break altogether.

Another possible solution for those who experience symptoms of psychosis following cannabis use is to ingest CBD instead of THC. While THC is a known psychoactive compound, CBD is constantly being researched for its anti-psychotic properties. A more balanced cannabinoid profile may provide a more balanced experience for someone prone to psychosis.

  • Disclaimer:

    This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.

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