Marijuana is a blend of dried, crushed leaves and other plant products from a plant called Cannabis sativa, also known as the hemp plant. Often referred to as pot or weed (among many other names), marijuana is typically smoked as a joint (a handmade cigarette), but it can also be smoked in a pipe, water pipe, or hollowed-out cigar (called a blunt). Sometimes marijuana is eaten in foods or drunk as a tea.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is by far the most widely-used illegal drug in the U.S. In 2008, approximately 15.2 million Americans used marijuana each month. Many people view marijuana as a relatively safe drug, and proponents of legalized marijuana are fond of quoting the statistic that no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose. However, even though it is highly unlikely that anyone would fatally overdose on marijuana alone, it is possible to experience unpleasant health effects after taking doses of the drug that are too large. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, in 2008 marijuana was involved in approximately 374,000 visits to emergency rooms in the U.S. In addition, when taken in combination with other drugs, marijuana can contribute to fatal drug overdoses.
What Are The Symptoms Of Marijuana Overdose?
Overdoses occur when individuals take larger than typical doses of a drug. New marijuana users are often at a greater risk of experiencing the symptoms of overdose, which may include:
- Adverse psychological reactions including panic, fear, hallucinations, or confusion;
- Rapid heart rates.
Feelings of disorientation and anxiety in response to a marijuana high happen fairly frequently, but they generally subside in a few hours. Marijuana overdoses are also linked to more extreme psychological reactions, including severe paranoia and psychoses. Whether a marijuana overdose actually causes long-term psychological problems or simply unmasks underlying conditions is debated.
Some evidence suggests that marijuana overdoses can lead to circulatory problems and strokes, but more research is needed in this area.
How Can You Help An Overdose Victim?
Do not hesitate to call poison control services if you fear that someone you know has overdosed on marijuana. You may call the National Poison Control Center any time of day at 1-800-222-1222.
If the victim is having a severe psychological reaction, has lost consciousness, or is having trouble breathing, dial 911. Be prepared with information about the victim’s age and weight, how much marijuana was taken at what time, and if any other drugs or alcohol were consumed.
How Do Doctors Treat Victims of Marijuana Overdose?
Emergency medical workers will seek to manage the victim’s symptoms until they pass in a few hours. If the victim is experiencing anxiety, they will be reassured and moved to a quiet, safe place. Doctors may also give them mild sedative medications. Patients with psychotic symptoms will likewise be given antipsychotic medications. They will not need to have their stomachs pumped, and a full recovery within several hours is to be expected.
Even though marijuana use is widespread, it is not without risk. Never hesitate to seek medical help for anyone who may be experiencing an overdose and whose health seems in danger.