What is a Marijuana Overdose?

February 22, 2019

Marijuana is in no way a risk-free drug, despite the popular perception that is preached by many in today’s culture. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) 2017 Monitoring the Future survey found that 71% of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana smoking as being very harmful. The Center for Disease Control states that while a marijuana overdose resulting in a fatality is unlikely, the drug is still far from a harmless substance.

An overdose can occur when a person consumes too much of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at a given time. There is no clear answer for how much THC will cause one to overdose, as this can depend entirely on the person and their previous patterns of use. People are also often unaware of the exact origin of their marijuana, which increases the risk that it has been laced with other drugs like PCP, crack or cocaine. Marijuana has the potential to react dangerously with these substances, as well as alcohol, which is suspected to increase the level of THC in the blood.

Signs and Symptoms of an Overdose:

  • Impaired motor skills
  • Poor judgment and perception skills that may lead to injury
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate, furthering one’s chance of a heart attack
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Pale skin color and bloodshot eyes
  • Feelings of extreme paranoia
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • More serious cases have seen sudden cardiac arrest, seizures and unresponsiveness

If you believe that you or a loved one is beginning to overdose on marijuana, you should call 911 immediately. Find someone nearby to help you, and make sure to always stay with someone you suspect may be overdosing to monitor them for worsening symptoms. People may be treated with a sedative, breathing support or IV fluids to relieve their symptoms. Typically, some sort of follow-up care is necessary in overcoming the effects of a marijuana overdose. Steps toward recovery can be made in various forms of treatment including detoxification (withdrawal management), inpatient or outpatient services.

To learn more about LRADAC’s approach to recovery and the specifics involved with treatment programs, please visit https://lradac.org/treatment-programs/ or call (803) 726-9300.

LRADAC is the designated alcohol abuse and drug abuse authority for Lexington and Richland Counties of South Carolina. The public, not-for-profit agency offers a wide array of prevention, intervention and treatment programs in locations convenient to residents of both counties. The agency has a budget of approximately $10 million and serves more than 5,000 clients per year.