Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

For anyone who has a family member or loved one who regularly partakes of the drug marijuana, Brown University offers some good news. According to their Heath Education Department, it is nearly impossible, and highly unlikely, to overdose from marijuana. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. Individuals who smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana often abuse other drugs or alcohol as well—and this can be very dangerous. A 25-year study conducted in New Zealand has been referenced by the US National Library of Medicine. The study found that of more than 1,000 individuals who regularly used marijuana, the majority also used other illicit and addictive drugs.

In a sense, the concept that a person can overdose from the use of marijuana alone is an urban myth. This begs the question of whether marijuana is harmful as well as whether there are any other popular myths about marijuana in general. The National Criminal Justice Reference Service has published a collection of myths and answered each with the evidence of fact and experience.

Myth #1: It Is Not Possible to Overdose on Marijuana, so It Is a Victimless Crime to Abuse it

Is there harm when someone who is non-confrontational and mellow, who claims that their use of marijuana is helpful in keeping them calm and relaxed, uses marijuana? They may not think there is, but the facts refute the overall risk to society at large. For instance, many of the illegal growers in the United States work for dangerous drug cartels in other countries, guarding the crops with automatic weapons and deadly traps set to prevent their activities from being discovered. A large amount of marijuana is also imported from other countries. Drug trafficking is a dangerous and violent exercise that often involves torture and executions in the name of profits.

With the recent passage of legalized marijuana in some states, law enforcement is a little worried about the impact this will have on road safety and drugged driving. Prior to the legalization in Washington State, as reported by the New York Daily News, approximately 16 percent of the drivers arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol also had illegal drugs in their system. Marijuana is not a victimless crime when the user gets behind the wheel of a car with diminished abilities and reaction time.

Myth #2:  It Is Not Possible to Overdose on Marijuana, so It Must Not Be Addictive

The determination of whether an individual is addicted to a substance like marijuana, cocaine or heroin is made using a set of parameters established by years of research. One of the criteria for an addiction diagnosis of “substance dependence,” according the American Psychiatric Association, is the presence of withdrawal symptoms. The National Institutes of Health released information reaching as far back as 1997 that shows evidence of withdrawal symptoms from cannabis. The study, conducted in a partnership between the United States and Spain, suggests that long-term use of marijuana has the same effects on the human brain in terms of addiction science as cocaine, alcohol and heroin.

The New Myth:  So Many States Have Legalized Marijuana, It Must Be Safe

Alcohol is an addictive central nervous system depressant that has been legal in the United States throughout its short history, with the exception of a few years during which the manufacture and distribution of spirits was against the law. Does this mean that there are no alcoholics?  Of course not. Marijuana is no different. Regardless of whether a substance is legal, there is a segment of the population that will abuse the substance for one reason or another. These individuals risk addiction every time they light a marijuana cigarette or have a mixed cocktail after work to relax. Unfortunately, there is no solid, foolproof way to predict who may become addicted and who won’t. There are risk factors, according to the experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, such as:

  • The environment in which one lives or was raised
  • Family history of addiction
  • Genetic conditioning
  • Stress level
  • Exposure to peer pressure
  • Age of first drug abuse instance

Operating under the assumption that the risk of overdose is the end-all-be-all of whether a drug is “safe” or deadly can be a huge mistake for many people. Choosing to stop using marijuana and instead choosing to live your life in a clear and productive manner can give you a sense of empowerment and cognitive understanding. The best way to achieve this is to get the professional help required to design and administer a personalized recovery plan. If you need help taking that step toward a life free from marijuana abuse, contact us here at Axis today.