Can Marijuana Kill You?

Is marijuana use deadly? Can you overdose on weed? How many cannabis deaths have there been?

There are currently over 4 million U.S. citizens using medical cannabis to treat various conditions, ranging from insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, chronic pain, and much more.

Recreational cannabis is also being made legal in a growing number of states throughout America with each passing year, with 36 states that have now legalized the plant.

But are there risks with the increased use of cannabis? Can marijuana kill you? Let's find out.

What is an overdose?

An overdose occurs when the human body receives too much of a substance. Typically, overdoses are caused by alcohol, prescription medications, illegal opioids, methamphetamines, and many other substances. If medical intervention doesn't occur quickly, overdoses can be fatal.

In the case of opioids which are used for pain relief, at high doses, these opioids can cause the body to shut down to the point that someone may stop breathing. Of course, the likelihood to overdose on illicit opioids like heroin is much higher too.

According to the CDC, in 2019 nearly 71,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States and have been increasing generally for over a decade.

Can you overdose on cannabis?

To put it simply, it's very difficult to overdose on cannabis, to the point that overdose should be a negligible concern for users. In an interview, the Snoop Dogg jokingly stated that he smokes between "ten and a hundred" joints per day, and yet he lives to tell the tale.

This isn't to say that 100 joints per day are healthy for you, as you're still inhaling toxins from the smoke, which can be amplified if you mix your cannabis with tobacco. However, health complications due to cannabis consumption are likely to be slower and more drawn out than a typical drug overdose, which can happen quite abruptly.

So putting overdoses aside, can cannabis use lead to fatality?

Can marijuana kill you?

The fact that cannabis use doesn't lead to overdose doesn't rule out its capacity to eventually lead to a fatality. There are many facets of cannabis use that are harmful over the longer term.

The first negative impact of cannabis use is the issues that smoking can have on the respiratory system, enhancing the likelihood of chronic smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer. According to the European Respiratory Journal, The risk of lung cancer increased 8% for each year of cannabis smoking.

In 2018, lung cancer accounted for approximately 25 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S., and the lung cancer five-year survival rate of 18.6% is lower than many other leading cancer sites.

As such, regular cannabis smoking can increase the likelihood of lung cancer which can significantly increase the chances of someone dying prematurely.

The carcinogenic impacts of cannabis smoke can be mitigated through the consumption of cannabis edibles, however, given edible use can result in a much higher intoxication that causes panic attacks and leads to an increase in hospitalizations in states and countries where they are legal.

In addition to health concerns, cannabis use can slow reaction times down, which can increase the likelihood of a fatality if one is to operate machinery or drive a vehicle while under the influence.

Is weed addictive?

Yes, cannabis can be addictive and can be misused by those that consume it. While many people associate addiction with harder substances, addiction is defined as the use of something to the point that other aspects of your life begin to worsen.

For example, you could be addicted to sugar, video games, and yes, marijuana.

Signs of cannabis addiction may mean that you put less effort into your relationships, social life, or career so that you may spend more time consuming cannabis. It could also mean that you are prioritizing spending money on cannabis over more necessary items like food and bills.

On top of this, there are withdrawal symptoms that accompany the cessation of cannabis use, particularly when use is coupled with tobacco use.

These symptoms include insomnia, irritability, foggy thinking, and general lethargy.

Is this a green light to light up?

If you came to this article solely to find out if marijuana can kill you through overdose, then the answer is no. However, as we've outlined, there are issues related to consistent, long-term marijuana use that can lead to death or illness or a lowered quality of life.

Like anything marijuana is susceptible to misuse and abuse, and you should examine your patterns of cannabis consumption closely to ensure you aren't falling into addiction.

Additionally, like any mind-altering substance, you should always opt for taxis or walking where applicable, and never operate machinery or a vehicle while intoxicated.

However, compared with opioids and many other prescription and illicit medications, marijuana use is generally considered the safer option, and can actually help people to taper off of harsher drugs.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.