The short answer is yes. The full answer is more complicated, but understanding the signs and risks of overconsumption will ensure you’re making informed decisions. Read on to find out more.
While there have been no reported adult deaths from overconsumption of cannabis, you’re not likely to hear anyone recommend the experience. Consuming too much cannabis can be quite unpleasant, although the effects are generally temporary. If you’re new to cannabis — especially if you’re new to edibles — the best approach is to start low and go slow. Read on to understand the signs and symptoms of overconsumption, plus learn practical tips to reduce and possibly avoid them altogether.
Can you overdose on cannabis?
“Overdose” is a problematic term. The word suggests a toxic overload in the body that leads to death or the need for resuscitation, which isn’t accurate for cannabis. Overconsumption of cannabis is better described as poisoning: Your body is trying to process too much THC at one time. You may experience temporary symptoms such as severe anxiety and paranoia, vomiting and, in rare cases, an acute psychotic episode.
There are no documented cases of adult death as a result of overconsuming cannabis because of the way THC interacts with your body. As a cannabinoid, THC connects with cannabinoid receptors in body systems that relate to motor control, cognition and emotional response, as well as your immune system. The parts of your brain that regulate vital automatic functions like your heartbeat and breathing do not have cannabinoid receptors, so they are not affected by an excess of THC.
However, these essential areas of your brain do contain opiate receptors, which is why opioid overdoses can cause death. Neurotransmitters in the brain that inhibit vital functions are also activated by alcohol, potentially with fatal results.
But if you’re here because you’re wondering if it’s possible to have too much cannabis, the answer is yes. Overconsuming cannabis is sometimes called “greening out,” and although it’s generally not life-threatening, it can come with many unpleasant symptoms.
What should I do if I think I’ve overconsumed?
Seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing chest pain, panic attacks, loss of contact with reality, seizures or if your instincts tell you something serious is happening.
In non-emergency situations, these tactics might help.
Eat something. Although more research is needed, certain foods, including pine nuts, black pepper and lemon, are believed to counteract cannabis’s psychoactive effects. At the very least, a snack of any kind may create a pleasant distraction.
Drink water. A glass of water will not only help combat dry mouth — a common side effect — it may also help you stay calm.
Shift your focus. Concentrating on negative feelings can exacerbate them. Sometimes coming down from a bad high is as simple as redirecting your attention. Try repeating positive affirmations like “this will pass” or “I choose calm.” Listen to relaxing music, enjoy a TV show or movie, retreat to a calm environment, or call a supportive friend or family member.