Despite all the hype touting the "dangers" of marijuana that has helped fuel prohibition since the mid-1900s, we have still never seen a single documented death attributed to an overdose of smoking or eating cannabis. At this time cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and viewed as being easily abused by users, but the evidence shows just how hard it would be to overdose on marijuana.
It is Nearly Impossible to Overdose on Marijuana
First and foremost, the amount of cannabis needed to cause an overdose is extraordinary, as marijuana has a very high therapeutic index (the ratio between a substance's therapeutic and lethal doses) of 40,000 to one. This means that you would need to ingest or inhale 40,000 times more than your usual dosage at once to cause yourself lethal harm. Other studies have estimated that one would need to take in anywhere from three to 46 pounds of marijuana at one time to overdose. When we visualize what a large amount of marijuana this feat would require, we can laugh ourselves to death as we realize that the exhaustion or lack of oxygen from smoking would kill us well before the cannabis delivered its lethal dose.
The Effects of THC Are Not Lethal
In addition to the sheer amount needed to overdose, we can rest easy knowing that cannabis does not adversely affect our bodies the same way other drugs can when we take them in large amounts. The National Cancer Institute tells us that since cannabinoid receptors "are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration," lethal overdoses from cannabis don't occur. This means that cannabis will never stop you from breathing like an opioid overdose can. As painkillers like OxyContin and heroin are absorbed through parts of the body that control breathing, they are more lethal due to the lack of oxygen, irregular breathing and poor blood circulation. On the other hand, when marijuana is ingested, chemicals in the plant ride the nervous system to the brain and latch onto molecules called cannabinoid receptors. These cells influence pleasure, memory, coordination and cognition, which is why getting high affects thinking and overall behavior. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) artificially stimulates the body's cannabinoid receptors, disrupting the normal function of the endogenous cannabinoids, and this artificial stimulation produces the marijuana "high" effects. Evidence also shows that huge doses of cannabis do not impair major organ functions or cause them to shut down. However, it is important to remember that immune cells respond to cannabinoids in a variety of ways depending on the drug concentration, timing of drug delivery to leukocytes in relation to antigen stimulation, and type of cell function. In addition, the DEA Administrative Law Judge indicates that marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man, and far safer than many foods we consume.
Marijuana Hasn't Caused Any Death So Far
Despite being infamously recognized as a drug, marijuana has not caused a single death so far. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed that drug fatalities are increasing in the United States. However, they are not due to marijuana but other drugs such as opioid analgesics, heroin and synthetic opioids. Surprisingly enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of deaths from a marijuana overdose remained zero in 2014 and 2015. A total number of 17465 people died from overdosing on illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, while 25760 people died from overdosing on prescription drugs such as painkillers and tranquilizers, including Valium. By 2016, there was a complete lack of marijuana fatalities. This should be a huge neon sign when it comes to the politics of drug legalization.
Marijuana Is a Medicinal Plant
Marijuana is subjected to numerous misconceptions and confusion since humans have been using it for 10 000 years or more. How the cannabis plant grows, where it comes from, how long it has been in used or how it interacts with the body are all recurrent questions that users and researchers keep asking. No matter these delusions, the fact remains that cannabis is a medicinal plant that has many health benefits. Smoked, vaped, inhaled or ingested in foods, marijuana engenders many long-term advantages that are beyond the scope of any research. Prior to the development of modern science, cannabis was used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. The same psychotropic properties for which cannabis was once banned make the plant suitable to treat several diseases, including glaucoma, epilepsy, seizures, cancer, anxiety, depression and acute migraines. In the 1800s, cannabis was prescribed as a remedy for menstrual cramps, asthma, cough, insomnia, birth labor, throat infection and withdrawal from opiate use.
Few topics of current interest are as controversial and evoke as much passion and emotion when discussed as that of the debate on marijuana. There has been a growing awareness of the medical benefits of cannabis in recent years. Between 2012 and 2014, historic measures have been established in which the state of Colorado became the world's first legal, regulated and taxed marijuana market for adults. Along with Colorado, Washington legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in November 2012. Meanwhile, 27 states allow full-plant medical marijuana and others seem to join them soon. Modern medicine has yet to find a pharmaceutical equal. No other substance melts away our fears with such slick efficiency. Seeing the magnitude that marijuana is gaining across the globe, it is safe to say that it's very unlikely anything will stop it now.
Moderation Is Essential
While evidence shows us what a difficult task it would be to overdose on cannabis (so difficult it's never been done), remember moderation in all things. Smoking too much in a short time or eating too many edibles can make you agitated, tired, or paranoid, among other uncomfortable symptoms. Just keep in mind that these feelings will pass, and you'll know better next time. Every person, body or strain is different. Be smart and recognize when you need to stop. The ancient Greeks say it right – everything in moderation.
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