Can You Overdose on Marijuana or Not?

Interested in starting a debate that could take hours for your friends to resolve? If so, ask the following question: can you overdose on marijuana or not? That should set the stage for a very lively discussion among people whose chief issue will be an inability to define terms.

Unfortunately, defining terms has been an ongoing problem since the push for legal marijuana began. Pro-marijuana advocates want to change the terms to make them as positive as possible. Those who take a prohibitionist approach want to continue using terms with strong negative connotations.

Here’s a novel approach: why don’t we go back to the dictionary? Relying on dictionary definitions would minimize assumptions and avoid a lot of those unnecessary debates that boil down to semantics. The idea of overdose illustrates the point perfectly.

A Dictionary Definition

It is commonly said within the marijuana industry that overdosing on marijuana is impossible. Such statements are only true if you define overdose as taking so much of a given substance that it kills you. But what is the actual dictionary definition?

Here are two definitions from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and Cambridge English dictionary, respectively:

  • Too great a dose (as of a therapeutic agent) also : a lethal or toxic amount (as of a drug) : an excessive quantity or amount
  • Too much of a drug taken or given at one time, either intentionally or by accident.

Both dictionaries make it abundantly clear that taking too much of a drug at any one time constitutes overdose, whether the amount is fatal or not. The amount can be fatal, according to the Merriam-Webster definition, but lethality is not a requirement to fit the definition.

Technically, You Can Overdose

Based on dictionary definitions, it appears that you can overdose on marijuana. You can consume too much of it in too short a time. According to the qualified medical providers at Utah Marijuana, this very thing happens more than you might expect with cannabis edibles.

Someone with little experience in edibles may not understand just how much THC they contain. Furthermore, because the effects of edible THC can take hours to kick in, a person may not see any harm in chowing down on their favorite THC-infused foods.

Hours later, that same person is feeling the effects of overdose: rapid heart rate, increased respiration, nausea and vomiting, lack of coordination, and so on. While excess THC is not likely to kill them, they are definitely feeling the effects of consuming too much in too short a time.

Lethality Seems to Be the Issue

Discussions about marijuana’s overdose potential really boil down to lethality. Pro-marijuana advocates who prefer to say that overdosing is impossible are really saying that there is no known lethal dose of THC for humans. To avoid any confusion, they prefer to use an alternate term: over consumption.

Using a different term for the purposes of taking lethality out of the equation is understandable. Yet that doesn’t make it wise. Whether you call it overdose or over consumption, consuming too much THC in too short a time is a bad move. It makes a person feel terrible and creates safety concerns at the same time.

Substituting over consumption for overdose makes about as much sense as referring to ‘adult use’ marijuana as opposed to ‘recreational’ marijuana. We are changing the terms simply to make advancing the pro-cannabis agenda more palatable.

In the end, changing any terms in order to avoid reality doesn’t do anyone justice. We can stop using the term ‘overdose’ so as to not put a negative spin on things. But it doesn’t prevent overdosing.

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