Is It Possible to Overdose on Cannabinoids?

Published November 20, 2023
Is It Possible to Overdose on Cannabinoids? - Secret Nature

With cannabinoids offering such impressively potent effects, it’s natural to be concerned about any potential drawbacks. Even in the case of intoxicating cannabinoids, however, there appears to be very little to worry about regarding overdose or accidentally taking a dose of cannabinoids that’s higher than normal.

Overdose is a major concern in today’s society, but cannabinoids don’t need to be on your radar in this regard. Learn all the scientific facts regarding cannabinoid overdose in this guide so you can come to an educated conclusion regarding the safety of using cannabinoids in high doses.

Cannabinoid overdose: An overview

 - Cannabinoids generally have low-to-no risk of overdose
 - Even THC overdose is very uncommon and is not life-threatening
 - Cannabinoid overdose is sometimes confused with a rare cannabis allergy
 - High doses of cannabinoids may cause negative effects but are not fatal
 - Other ingredients present in cannabinoid products can also cause side effects

What do cannabinoids do in the body?

Cannabinoids are plant-based compounds that nonetheless have a corresponding system in human neurochemistry. It isn’t entirely clear how the endocannabinoid system originated, but it nonetheless seems nearly designed to process cannabinoids and incorporate them into the operation of the human body.

With THC as the notable exception, most cannabinoids do not cause intoxication. Instead, they subtly interact with various systems in the body, including those involving mood, metabolism, inflammation, and pain. The two most notable non-THC cannabinoids are CBD and CBG, both of which are being looked at closely for their potential therapeutic properties.

Are cannabinoids toxic?

Cannabinoids are not considered to be dangerously toxic — even in the case of THC. Using too much THC can certainly cause negative effects, but not on the level of other drugs. Substances like opioids, for instance, can stop your heart or make you stop breathing at high enough doses. No cannabinoids have any propensity to interfere with vital processes in average people.

Even if the inherent toxicity of cannabinoids is low, the hemp that cannabinoids are extracted from can be contaminated with agricultural or processing contaminants. It’s also a fact that ingesting too much of anything — even water — can be toxic at high-enough concentrations, so it’s important to view the toxicity of cannabinoids from an unbiased perspective. Eating raw cannabinoid concentrate by the kilo will certainly overwhelm your bodily system, but the same can be said for Aspirin, which is generally considered non-toxic.

Can you even overdose on cannabinoids?

While cannabinoids have some degree of toxicity just like every other ingestible substance, it does not appear possible to “overdose” on cannabinoids in the same way you can easily take fatal doses of other substances. Even THC, which some still consider a “hard drug,” is nothing like narcotics in that it does not have any overdose potential. Below, we’ll explore the overdose potential of two particular cannabinoids in more detail:

Is it possible to overdose on CBD?

It does not appear possible to overdose on CBD. In clinical studies, CBD has been shown to remain safe and free of serious side effects in doses of 1500mg per day, an incredibly high dose that most daily users don’t even come close to approaching. Scientific literature also suggests that CBD might be tolerated in doses nearly ten times that, but side effects do tend to occur at doses exceeding 1500mg.

Is it possible to overdose on THC?

It is unclear whether THC overdose is possible. The scientific literature on THC overdose is dated and biased from an anti-drug perspective. Even so, no evidence has been presented that taking too much THC can kill you. It’s important to differentiate THC overdose from “acute THC toxicity,” which is an overused and vague term referring to any time a patient exhibits side effects from THC use. More research is needed to definitively determine the threshold at which THC becomes legitimately dangerous to use — if there even is such a threshold.

What is a safe dose for cannabinoids?

An overall safe dose of cannabinoids has not been established. For both CBD and THC, users average between 20mg and 100mg per day, with some users ingesting as much as 250mg cannabinoids per day without noting any negative reaction. We’ll need to wait for the scientific literature to catch up before drawing any conclusions, but it certainly seems safe to use cannabinoids at the doses in which they’re commonly offered in consumer products.

What are some other causes of side effects from cannabinoid products?

Other ingredients in cannabinoid products could be responsible for side effects, not cannabinoids themselves. Almost all cannabinoid products consist of cannabis extracts combined with other ingredients, some of which are common allergens. To effectively determine the source of your side effect, carefully examine all the ingredients present in a cannabinoid product.

Summary: Is it possible to take a fatal amount of cannabinoids?

Technically speaking, it’s possible to take a fatal amount of anything. Cannabinoids are about as likely as water, though, to accumulate in your system in any dangerous concentration. You would be hard-pressed to consume so much cannabinoid extract that you’d get seriously hurt — have you ever tried to eat multiple grams of cannabis extract at a time?

Even if it isn’t reasonably possible to overdose on cannabinoids, it’s still important to choose a reasonable dose. Start small with an initial dose of 5-10mg of whichever cannabinoid you want to try. From there, increase your dose all the way to 100-200mg per session if you like. Just make sure to choose high-quality products that don’t contain any unnecessary ingredients or contaminants. From there, it will be easy to take cannabinoids safely and with no danger of overdose.

Cannabinoid overdose FAQ

Still want to learn more about the right and safe dose of cannabinoids to take? Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions for further insights:

What is “acute cannabinoid overdose?”

The terms “acute cannabinoid overdose” or “acute cannabinoid toxicity” might be used to refer to medical cases in which individuals show up at the hospital presenting negative symptoms after using THC. This terminology is misleading, however, since these cases only very rarely consist of anything aside from fear, nausea, or sensory distortions.

In essence, people get too high sometimes, and they go to the hospital out of panic. The medical professionals at the hospital, who have been indoctrinated to believe THC is a dangerous drug, take these cases overly seriously — in some cases, going so far as to pump the stomachs of individuals who did not need this treatment from a safety perspective.

Overall, this approach to THC use in a medical setting has led to the idea that you can overdose on cannabis. The only time THC use becomes a medical issue is in the case of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), which is a very rare form of cannabis allergy.

What is “cannabinoid sickness?”

The term “cannabinoid sickness” is sometimes used to refer to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition in which the body has a severe allergic reaction to cannabinoids. Only a very small portion of the population suffers from CHS, however, so most instances of “cannabinoid sickness” can actually be attributed to overall-mild reactions to cannabis.

How long does it take to recover from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

For individuals who are affected by the condition, recovery from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome can take 1-2 days in a hospital setting. There is no known cure for CHS, however, so total recovery from this condition does not appear possible from the perspective of medical science. Individuals who have been diagnosed with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome are strongly cautioned not to use cannabinoid products. For all other members of the population, however, cannabinoid use should not pose any serious danger.

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