What is Cannabis Poisoning and Why is it on the Rise?

The Quebec Poison Control Centre says that cases of cannabis poisoning have been on the rise since the substance was legalized across Canada last year. But what is cannabis poisoning, and what's causing it to become more common?

What is Cannabis Poisoning?

The likelihood that marijuana will kill you if you have too much is minuscule. However, that doesn't mean there aren't adverse effects from consuming too much. Medical professionals often refer to symptoms related to the overconsumption of cannabis as "cannabis poisoning", though it is sometimes referred to as a "greenout" by consumers.

When you exceed your limits and have too much weed at once, you can experience a number of symptoms. These include increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, paranoia and vomiting. In extreme cases, you may even need to be hospitalized.

The Quebec Poison Control Centre recommends you seek medical attention if you are "experiencing chest pain, panic attacks, loss of contact with reality, or seizures" after consuming marijuana.

Why is it on the Rise?

That question is a little harder to answer. While it's true that the Quebec centre has seen a large increase in cases since legalization - between October and December 2017, the centre recorded 25, while during the same period in 2018, that number rose to 89 - it's not clear exactly why this is.

"Right now, it's hard to distinguish whether there is more exposure, more cases of over-intoxication, or simply more people calling because they feel more comfortable now that it's legal," Quebec Poison Control Centre director Maude Saint-Onge told CBC.

In truth, it's probably a combination of each of these factors. Legalization means that more people who had not previously experimented with cannabis are trying it out. As with any substance, there is a bit of a learning curve involved when getting started with cannabis, and it can be easy for those new to marijuana to overdo it.

Legalization also means reduced stigmas, and people who might not have called a poison centre if they overconsumed are more open to doing so.

We absolutely recommend you take your time when trying cannabis for the first few times. Try to figure out how much you need to get a high you enjoy, and don't be afraid to experiment with different strains and products. Just remember: you can always have more, but the only thing that will kill the high once you've had too much is time.

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