by Olivier on 24/01/2018 | Consumption

Cannabis overdose: How much cannabis is too much?

Cannabis overdose Even though some people may claim otherwise, nobody has ever died from a cannabis overdose. Not even Snoop Dogg would be able to consume the quantity required to OD. However, anyone who has made space cake with an excessive amount of cannabis knows that too much cannabis can be very unpleasant.


Reports on cannabis overdoses appear in the media from time to time. The most recent example concerns a case in Colorado, in which an eleven-month-old baby boy died from heart failure.

According to the doctors in attendance, Dr. Thomas Nappe and Dr. Christopher Hoyte, the cause of death was myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). In their autopsy report, they draw attention to the fact that cannabis was found in the boy’s blood. “The only thing that we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found,” said Dr. Hoyte.

What happened afterwards is typical in this day and age, in which journalists are more concerned about the number of clicks than about the content. AOL, New York Daily News, Daily Mail and Fox News all reported the “world’s first cannabis death”. In a reaction to this wave of inaccurate news coverage, Dr. Nappe distanced himself explicitly from the glaring media headlines: “We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child.”

It is unfortunate that lies about cannabis are repeatedly spread. These lies hinder fact-based discussions on the theme and ultimately stand in the way of an open debate on the risks and possibilities of cannabis use.

Is it possible to die of a cannabis overdose?

An overdose refers to the consumption of a higher dose of an active ingredient than is needed for medical purposes (medicine) or for intoxication (drugs). In the most serious cases, an overdose can cause death. Is it possible to die of a cannabis overdose? The short answer is no. Up to now there have been no known cases anywhere in the world of a person dying as a direct result of cannabis use.

In the 1980s the American drug administration tried to kill laboratory animals with cannabis. They failed. In comparison, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), six people a day die from alcohol poisoning in the USA. Six people every day! On top of that, another 100 people die every day as a direct consequence of alcohol abuse.

These figures emphasise once again the absurdity of a ban on cannabis while a far more dangerous substance like alcohol is freely available.

The effect of cannabis

The reason that some substances are lethal and others are not is related to their effect. Opiates such as heroin or Fentanyl are absorbed in the brain stem of the recipient in the place where respiration is also regulated. People who die from a heroin overdose simply stop breathing.

On the other hand, the active ingredients of cannabis are absorbed by cannabinoid receptors, which are not located in the brain stem and which therefore have no real influence on vital functions such as respiration.

This makes cannabis less dangerous, although it is not completely innocent. Like all drugs, THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) influences a person’s judgement, which may cause inexperienced users to get caught up in dangerous situations.

Too much is too much

From a purely theoretical perspective, all substances can be lethal. Anyone who uses too much cocaine will die, just like anyone who eats too many carrots. The toxicity is determined by the dosage.

David Schmader, author of the book Weed: The User‘s Guide, has calculated how much cannabis would be required to kill someone. The answer: 750 kilos in 15 minutes. Nobody can consume that amount. “Not even Snoop Dogg,” writes Schmader in his book.

In other words, the lethal dose (LD50) of cannabis is over a thousand times higher than the effective dose (ED50). A glance at the table below shows why certain substances are more dangerous than others.

A therapeutic index graph. Along the Y axis listed are: Cannabis, LSD, Psilocybin, Laughing Gas, Ketamine, Rohypnol, Mescaline, Codeine, MDMA, Cocaine, Alcohol, GHB, and Heroin. Along the X axis are three number points spread evenly apart: 0, 500, and 1000. A green bar indicates next to each drug the ratio between the lethal dose and the effective dose. Cannabis, LSD, and Psilocybin have a ratio of 1000 or above.

Source: American Scientist

The ratio between the lethal dose and the therapeutic dose is called the therapeutic index. This is a good indicator when assessing the danger of medicine and drugs. As a general rule, the lower the therapeutic index, the more dangerous the substance. Consequently heroin, GHB and alcohol are the most dangerous recreational drugs. At the other end of the spectrum is cannabis, with a therapeutic index of over 1000.

In addition to the effect and the dose of a substance, the method of administration also determines how dangerous a substance is. Fast absorption into the bloodstream, such as via an intravenous injection, increases the risk of an overdose.

Why less is often more

Although it is virtually impossible to die from a cannabis overdose, excessive consumption can rapidly cause undesirable effects, which can be very unpleasant. These may include nausea, shivering and anxiety attacks. You should be especially cautious with edibles. The best thing is to gradually work towards an optimum dose.

You should also keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to drugs. What one person finds normal may be too much for another person. As a general principle, people who use substances that alter their psychological state must feel good and must be properly informed.

Comment Section

Post a comment

Bob Howard

I have been using cannabis since the 1960's on a daily basis. I am now 78 and still partaking daily. I grow my own and it is a very high quality. I only partake in the late afternoons and evenings in case something crops up during the daytime and I may have to drive somewhere as I live in rural Spain. The nonsense bandied about that it is a gateway drug is shot to pieces as I have never wanted to try other drugs. It is akin to stating because you drink beer you will become addicted to spirits. I will continue to use and enjoy. At least I am not a drunk and only have the occasional glass of wine. I am now contemplating studying physics more deeply, I achieved "A" level GCE in the subject at school. I also speak Spanish fluently have a good command of French and German. So consequently I don't think that I have been impaired by my recreational activities. If I leave it alone for weeks I do not miss it, so the addiction theories are wild fantasies.

27/01/2018

Edna wellthorpe

Yup my wife can testify to the effects of "special hot chocolate". Home made I hasten to add. Not good, long night baby sitting her.

27/01/2018

Gabrielle

I have been a user since the 70s and have nevr ever had any problems with it. I was got MS in 2008 and it is something and that helps. I love it and I created my children's book using it and I am a spiritual Healer about to become a Master Numerologist and also it dose help people that maybe anorexic who stops eating but getting the munchies is a good thing for them. I really think it is stupid for the government to make it against the law although I do think driving should not happ
buten. And do people really believe that when a bust happens it gets burned? Ha no way and yes there are people who don't use it or like it. Not much I can do about in all statesbut wasn't it made legal in all States of Australia? I bet the government can do it themselves now. Here's hoping. Gabs from Orange

28/01/2018

Darrell

As a hippy inthe late 60,s,early 70,s,we enjoyed a large variety of resins such as red leb,gold leb,nepalese,afghan ,morrocan etc in the uk.
Later in 1993 i went to amsterdam to an auction of antique stuff and tried skunk.This was my worst cannabis experience bar none and communicating was difficult.I had no tolerance to it and found it too powerful in an unpleasant mental way.I have avoided it ever since,but enjoy my own cross of durga matta,hindu kush ,early girl andholland hope,which is a pleasant buzz physically and mentally.I am 65,male and healthy having given up alcohol 31 years ago,but continue to use cannabis.D xx

28/01/2018

"DODO"

progress advances ignorance increases. In Italy, a doctor is in charge of a service center for toxic addictions. declares that the worst "drug" is the cannabis. leads to overdose.
CIAO

09/02/2018

Leave a Comment

Please enter a name
Oops, looks like you forgot something?
Read More
Read More
Read More