The improving cannabis accessibility in Australia comes with the availability of various cannabis products in the market. The medical cannabis patient population in Australia is expected to grow to 330,000 by the year 2025, New Frontier data reported, adding [1].  the AU market is projected to reach US $3 billion by 2028. 

 Medical cannabis in the Australian scene is considerably well-guided with several laws in place by regulatory bodies like the Office of Drug Control and Therapeutic Goods Administration.  

 In effect, cases of an overdose on licit cannabis usage are uncommon. In a 2018 study, a research team concluded that “no deaths were due to direct cannabis toxicity, but death due to accidental injury was prominent [2].” However, like any other drug, cannabis overdose is not impossible, but it can be hard to achieve [3]. 

Can I overdose from cannabis? 

 The human body has a limitation when ingesting cannabis, so yes, one can overdose on cannabis. However, overdose relates to several things. For example, a cannabis overdose can mean taking a dose beyond what your body can handle or tolerate and, in effect, yields some unwanted side effects that can be adverse to that individual. Overdose doesn’t necessarily mean death [4]. Cannabis overdose with THC cannabis commonly has sedative effect, also known as being “stoned” or “high”. This is avoided by slow dose escalation. 

 According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “Compared with other licit and illicit drugs, cannabinoids are less frequently present in drug-induced deaths [5].”  

 Nothing is established regarding the absolute volume of cannabis that can overdose an individual [6], “but the dose that kills animals ranges from 40 mg/kg to 130 mg/kg intravenously [7].” The amount that is deemed critical for overdosing depends on several factors. What are those factors?  

  • There are several types of cannabis products with varying concentrations and components. 
  • There are several ways of taking cannabis-based products. 
  • Every person is not the same. Some might tolerate cannabis, while others might not fare well.   
  • Overdose can be influenced by consuming any additional substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and so on.[4] 

 So, what are the signs that you’ve taken too much of what your body can handle? If something does not feel right and you think you have taken too much, check these indicators:  

  • Severe panic attacks and anxiety (rare)
  • Hallucinations and paranoia (rare)
  • Nausea or vomiting (rare)
  • Severe confusion 
  • Loss of control over motor skills 
  • Loss of good sense of judgement
  • Fast heart rate 
  • Temporary high blood pressure 
  • Dry mouth or unnecessary thirstiness 
  • Dry eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Sedation [4,6] 

 These side effects can last from 20 minutes up to a full day[6].  

How to handle cannabis overdose? 

 If possible, seek help from a health practitioner, especially if it’s a medical emergency case such as hallucinations. If the side effects are relatively mild, do the following measures until the effects wear off: 

  1.  Calm yourself. The side effects are not permanent. At some point, the effects will gradually subside. 
  2. Be with someone you trust.  
  3. Relax in a stress-free environment. 
  4. Take a nap. 
  5. Take a bath or anything to cool off your body. 
  6. Hydrate yourself by drinking water.
  7. Snack on something 

  

How to prevent adverse side effects from too much cannabis consumption?  

There are ways to prevent taking too much cannabis, but the best way is to know your tolerance level [8]. The tolerance level is the maximum cannabis dosage that your body can handle. To start, check the safety dosage instructions written on the package or on a separate pamphlet of a cannabis product. Start with the smallest dose possible, recommended by your doctor.  

Be careful with orally ingested products as they are generally more potent and unpredictable than inhaled products [10].  Orally ingested products generally start to have effects 3to 60 minutes after ingestion. Have a small amount initially and wait for two hours to have more [6].   

Most cannabis products indicate how much THC concentration is in a product, so remember to start low and go slow and follow the dosing guidelines provided by your healthcare team during your medical cannabis consult.  

CanView does not endorse the use of Medicinal Cannabis without lawful prescription. Just like any Medicine, Medicinal Cannabis may have both positive and negative side effects on the user, and should only be prescribed to patients by a Health Professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by CanView is for informational and educational purposes, and is of a general nature. If you are interested in accessing Medicinal Cannabis please talk to your doctor and request a referral to a Medicinal Cannabis clinic.  

 Endnotes: 

  1.  MinterEllison. N.D. The Australian Cannabis Market. Available at: https://www.theworldlawgroup.com/writable/documents/news/Australia-Cannabis-Market-2019.pdf 
  2. Zahra, E. et al. 2020. Rates, characteristics and manner of Cannabis-related deaths in Australia 2000–2018. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871620301939 
  3. Naftulin, J. 2019. A Louisiana woman’s toxicology report suggested she’s the first person to overdose on marijuana, but an expert says it’s unlikely. Available at: https://www.insider.com/can-you-overdose-on-marijuana-Cannabis-2019-6 
  4. Kolitz, D. 2020. Can You Overdose On Weed? Available at: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2020/08/can-you-overdose-on-weed/ 
  5. AIHW. 2020. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia/contents/drug-types/Cannabis 
  6. Ferguson, S. 2020. You Might Not Overdose on Cannabis, But You Can Still Overdo It. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/can-you-overdose-on-marijuana 
  7. Turner, A. et al. 2020. Marijuana Toxicity. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430823/ 
  8. Happy Valley. N.D. Can You Overdose From Cannabis? What To Do When You Take Too Much. Available at: https://www.happyvalley.org/resources/Cannabis-overdose/ 
  9. Rihter, I. 2020. Why Do I Need to Microdose Weed? Available at: https://www.medmen.com/blog/wellness/microdosing-weed 
  10. Periodic Edibles. 2020. The 5 Problems with Edibles. Available at: https://www.periodicedibles.com/blog/the-5-problems-with-edibles 

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