Exploring Claims Regarding Cannabis Overdose
Even claims made by Government agencies agree that factors such as other illegal drugs and prescription medications consumed at the same time indicate that cannabis use was not the underlying cause.
In theory it is possible to die from cannabis overdose, however, a person would need to consume 1500 pounds (680Kg) within a time period of approximately 15 minutes.
If you wanted to kill someone using a lethal dose of cannabis you would be better advised dropping the 1500 pounds on them from a top floor window.
Cannabis lethal dose
According to which US Government authority you want to believe, the lethal dose of cannabis is either about one-third your body weight, or about 1,500 pounds, consumed all at once. A widely available study, published here in a report covering cannabis overdose by The Institute for Cannabis Therapeutics – Oregon.gov, states:
“In summary, enormous doses of Delta 9 THC, All THC and concentrated marihuana extract ingested by mouth were unable to produce death or organ pathology in large mammals but did produce fatalities in smaller rodents due to profound central nervous system depression.
The non-fatal consumption of 3000 mg/kg A THC by the dog and monkey would be comparable to a 154-pound human eating approximately 46 pounds (21 kilograms) of 1%-marihuana or 10 pounds of 5% hashish at one time. In addition, 92 mg/kg THC intravenously produced no fatalities in monkeys. These doses would be comparable to a 154-pound human smoking at one time almost three pounds (1.28 kg) of 1%-marihuana or 250,000 times the usual smoked dose and over a million times the minimal effective dose assuming 50% destruction of the THC by smoking.
Thus, evidence from animal studies and human case reports appears to indicate that the ratio of lethal dose to effective dose is quite large. This ratio is much more favorable than that of many other common psychoactive agents including alcohol and barbiturates (Phillips et al. 1971, Brill et al. 1970).”
Cannabis affects different receptors in the body to other drugs with overdose potential. Opiate receptors, for example are present in areas of the brain that control breathing. As a result, taking too much of an opiate based medication can cause a person to stop breathing.
Alcohol overdose and cannabis substitution
Alcohol is legally available. Alcohol overdose/poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control begin to shut down.
“Cannabinoid receptors are not located in areas controlling respiration so lethal overdoses do not occur.” National Cancer Institute.
Alcohol overdose can and regularly does cause death. With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking on vomit, which, in turn, could lead to death by asphyxiation. Even if the drinker survives, an alcohol overdose can lead to long-lasting brain damage.
Substituting cannabis for alcohol can reduce drinking and related problems among alcohol-dependent individuals. Some even recommend prescribing medical cannabis to individuals attempting to reduce drinking.
Kenneth Anderson, MA is the author of the book, ‘How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol’. He has also published an article regarding cannabis overdose. He sates;
“The lethal half dose (LD50) for THC in humans is estimated to be around 30 mg/kg. This means that approximately 2 grams (.07 ounces) of pure THC has a 50% chance of killing a 150 pound man. This is the amount of THC found in .35 ounces of high grade weed with 20% THC content. Moreover, the DEA reports that concentrated THC derivatives known variously as “wax,” “dabs,” or “butane hash oil” consisting of up to 80% THC are now available on the streets; one tenth of an ounce of these would contain a lethal half dose of 2 grams of THC.”
He cites statistics from US Government sources namely the DEA and The CDC WONDER database, which is a public access database that recorded every death certificate filed in the United States between 1999 and 2014. Despite his misgivings Anderson is also the author of, ‘Marijuana Maintenance for Quitting Drinking’. His cannabis overdose article ends with a somber warning:
“So please do not believe wild made up stories you will read online about how you would have to ingest over 1,000 pounds of marijuana to die or Wikipedia articles with made up numbers which cite no sources. Cannabis is indeed much safer than alcohol, Tylenol, or Prozac, and many, many times safer than prescription opioids, but it is still possible to ingest enough to kill you. Heck, even water will kill you if you drink too much too fast. Therefore, these internet memes which claim that there has never been a death due to marijuana are not only false, they are irresponsible and may in and of themselves lead to increased marijuana poisoning deaths by encouraging reckless behavior.”
Debunking the 2 gram – 50% chance of a cannabis overdose myth
We have already cited sources for this article and had Anderson bothered to research Phillips et al. 1971, Brill et al. 1970, or other peer review scholarly articles he may have formed a more balanced opinion.
However, lets see if we can debunk Anderson and the DEA’s – 2 gram, half the lethal dose, 50% chance of dying estimate with a simple YouTube search and see if we can encourage some of this awesome reckless behavior Anderson has warned us about.
This incredibly stupid challenge is carried out with the help of Bay Street Extracts.
Its a hilarious epic fail but at least proves the point that 1,500 pounds is going to be incredibly difficult to consume within 15 minutes.
Remember folks do not try this at home, it is not big and it is not clever, although it is quite funny.
Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in sticky oils also commonly referred to as wax, shatter, budder, and butane hash oil (BHO).
Extremely pure cannabis extracts can be produced with purity in excess of 80% cannabinoid content. Ideal to test Andersons claims of potential cannabis overdose.
While it’s possible to extract non-psychoactive compounds such as CBD, THC is what gives us the potent effects of dabs, making them the fastest and most efficient way to administer cannabis medication.
Terpenes are the aromatic oils that give cannabis flavor,and can also be extracted, although it can be difficult to preserve these volatile compounds in the extraction process and requires a degree of expertise on the part of the extract makers.
OK, so Anderson claims that 2 grams of 80% purity cannabis extract in the form of dabs is only half the lethal dose? Still not convinced?
How about we up the dose to 5 grams of 80% cannabis extract!
Really do not try this at home folks. In this video watch as Reverend Brother Ryan consumes what the video up-loaders claim to be a never before seen 5 gram dab!
The process of dabbing can look quite scary. Glass bongs with attached ‘nails’ (heating elements) and oddly named substances that are heated with blow torches have led to the comparison that dabs are similar to methamphetamine’s or crack cocaine.
Dabs have no affinity with these dangerous drugs, but to the uninitiated ‘dab rigs’, blow torches and ‘dabbing tools’ can seem a little extreme and intimidating. The biggest positive of concentrates, however, is that they give a powerful dose of medicine to those who truly need it quickly.
Patients with chronic pain or extreme nausea report dabbing gives immediate and effective relief.
Still think cannabis extracts are as dangerous as Anderson and the DEA claim? Then lets really explore the potential for cannabis overdose with some more ridiculous and fabulously irresponsible behavior.
This should put to rest any notion that has been put forward with regard to 2 grams of cannabis having a potentially lethal effect in extract form.
So lets try 8 grams and see if we can induce a cannabis overdose!
One of the owners of The Family Joint (a Private Members Cannabis Club in Colorado Springs, CO) gets surprised with an Estimated 8 Gram Birthday Dab at one of their previous dab bars!
There was some controversy over the total amount with the up-loader having to post a follow up statement saying: “I can assure you I weighed the shatter before slabbing her and it was a little over 8 grams, i’m not sure why they say 3 in the video but you can clearly see that that is over 3 grams.”
Cannabis overdose and the therapeutic Index
There has never been a single recorded fatality from cannabis use in thousands of years of human history. No one has ever died as a direct result of ingesting cannabis or indeed concentrated cannabis.
Another way of measuring a drug’s safety is by its therapeutic index. The therapeutic index is the ratio between a drug’s lethal dose and its therapeutic dose (amount that causes a therapeutic effect).
The estimated LD-50 (lethal threshold) for marijuana,established in 1988 by the DEA’s appropriate fact-finder, is 1:20,000 or 1:40,000.
“At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”
Aspirin has a therapeutic ratio of 20:1; twenty times the recommended dose (40 tablets) can cause death, and almost certainly induce extensive internal bleeding and serious injury.
If cannabis has a therapeutic index of 40,000:1, you need 40,000 times the normal dose to suffer overdose.
- Heroin has a therapeutic ratio of 6:1
- Alcohol and Valium have a therapeutic ratio of 10:1
- Cocaine has a therapeutic ratio of 15:1
- Morphine has a therapeutic ratio of 70:1
The ratio of some drugs used in antineoplastic (anti cancer treatment therapies) have therapeutic ratios below 1.5:1
Drugs used to treat patients with cancer, glaucoma and MS are all known to be highly toxic.
What happens if you consume too much cannabis?
Large doses of cannabis can lead to negative symptoms, such as agitation and paranoia. People consuming high doses of THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, can feel disorientated and experience mild to profound hallucinations but these can all be rectified by ceasing consumption and sleeping.
One other serious side effect of ingesting too much cannabis is that you could possibly eat the entire contents of your refrigerator and spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about the purpose of life and the Universe.
This generally subsides after a short period of time and several cups of coffee. Additionally and worth noting is that Citicolene, a natural supplement that can be purchased cheaply online, has some effect in reducing the psychoactive effect of cannabinoids, principally THC, in most, but not all patients using medical cannabis.
If you need any advice or help please use the contact form provided. We try to answer all emails within 24 hours and are happy to help and advise on all aspects of medical marijuana treatments in complete confidence.