What to expect and how to handle an "overdose" of marijuana edibles

Published Feb 2, 2020 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / dragana991

Edibles have hit dispensary shelves right across Canada in small and measured amounts, but some people are still concerned about the potential hazard of their release. This is exacerbated by media headlines that exaggerate stories about individuals who have had less than ideal experiences, but these instances can almost always be explained and avoided.

If you or someone that you know wants to try edibles, then you might want to know what to look for, what they can do, and how to handle a situation if it gets out of hand, which is why we’re here to cover all of that and more. Here, we will explain the differences between CBD and THC edibles, how they might adversely impact you, and what it really means to overdose on edibles.

What is an edibles overdose?

Edibles are a potent and highly concentrated cannabis product, but they consist of the exact same things that you will find in your regular food or buds. So, while you can certainly take enough that you might experience uncomfortable effects, to date, cannabis has not killed anyone yet.

The term overdose in reference to cannabis is not used in the same way it is with other drugs. When we talk about a heroin overdose, the person’s life was at risk because of the poison that is coursing through their veins. Most of the time, when we hear overdose, we think of a life-threatening scenario where people might die, but typically too many edibles should result in the same level of concern.

An overdose of THC edibles isn’t much different than having a bad experience after smoking a joint, other than the fact that it will last longer. Too much cannabis can lead to all kinds of uncomfortable and even scary sensations, but they are rarely dangerous to a consumer who has no prior health issues. CBD edibles, on the other hand, may cause small side effects, but you aren’t going to overdose in this sense while taking them.

Who should stay away from edibles?

As we mentioned, most who have these intense experiences have prior health problems like in the case of the man in Canada who reported a heart attack shortly after enjoying a potent 200mg sucker as a first-time consumer. He started out with a weak heart and high blood pressure, both of which can be significantly impacted by THC. Though not inherently dangerous on its own, when combined with other health complication THC edibles can pose a risk to your health.

The other important thing to remember is that both THC and CBD have been known to interfere with certain prescribed medications. Hence the reason why it is so important to seek a doctor recommendation or avoid edibles if you have poor health or if you’re taking medications for life-threatening conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

What to expect

If you think about the effects from smoking a joint and multiply that by some insane number, then you will have some idea of what it’s like to experience a green out AKA overdose on marijuana edibles. It can feel suffocating, anxiety or fear-inducing, or simply sedate a user to the point where it’s impossible to wake them. Other adverse symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headaches, trouble breathing, or paranoia.

How to respond to an edibles overdose

  1. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. Try to practice breathing exercises while focusing on something that you enjoy as you wait for the feeling to pass.

  2. When someone gets these adverse feelings, one of the most relieving things that you can do is to remove all stimulation from the area. A dark room with a fan for white noise and little movement is most recommended for relief.

  3. If at any time you or someone you know experiences breathing issues after consuming marijuana edibles, then it is important to seek medical assistance immediately. Even if we don’t have a prior diagnosed medical condition, the possibility of one arising is there, and having a hard time breathing is a good time to head in for a checkup with the help of a friend.

  4. Drink plenty of water. Though it is nearly impossible to speed up the rate that THC edibles will impact you with only water, staying hydrated can help to keep you alert, and having some kind of distraction like ice-cold water to sip on can be soothing.

  5. Sleep it off. Of course, if the problem is that the person in question cannot be woken, then you may want to seek medical assistance, but a good way to pass a bad high is to sleep it off. Since the effects only linger for 12 hours, a good night’s sleep can be enough to reset the way that you feel and quickly move through a night of discomfort.

How to come down from a bad high

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