After alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently used psychotropic drug in the United States. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 45% of Americans have tried marijuana at least once and 16.9% use it regularly. The drug is so popular that there are more than 50% more marijuana users than there are tobacco users.[1]

Compared to other illicit drugs, marijuana is widely accepted across the country as safe and less addictive. Many states have even legalized it for medicinal and recreational use. However, marijuana isn’t entirely risk-free. Using too much marijuana can lead to unwanted side effects, including anxiety, overdose, and addiction.

This article will discuss marijuana overdose. You will learn:

  • How THC affects the body
  • The side effects of marijuana
  • Signs of marijuana toxicity
  • What it’s like to overdose on weed
  • Long-term effects of marijuana abuse

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact First Step Behavioral Health today to learn about our treatment options.

How Does Marijuana (THC) Affect the Body?

Cannabis is a plant that contains over 100 compounds known as cannabinoids. Marijuana, which usually refers to the dried buds produced on cannabis leaves, contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid that is known for producing the high that marijuana users seek.[2]

The psychoactive effects of marijuana include:

  • Euphoric feeling
  • Relaxation
  • Altered sensory perception
  • Dry mouth
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased hunger (‘munchies’)
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Reduced short-term memory
  • Low blood pressure

Marijuana is most often smoked, but it can also be consumed in the form of edibles. When smoked, the effects appear within minutes and last for 1-3 hours. But when ingested via food or drink, the effects can take 1-2 hours to appear and may last for 6-8 hours depending on the dose.

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on marijuana, however, life-threatening overdoses are unlikely.[3] Also known as marijuana toxicity, marijuana overdose occurs when individuals consume too much THC and begin experiencing adverse side effects.

Rather than the symptoms of overdose being life-threatening, the risk comes with the potential for accidental injury, poor decision-making, and psychological discomfort. Overdose symptoms can appear shortly after smoking marijuana, but may take an hour or two to appear if marijuana is consumed via edible.

Certain risk factors can increase the risk of overdose, including using marijuana for the first time, mixing it with other drugs, or using concentrated forms of THC.

Signs of Marijuana Overdose

Signs and symptoms of a marijuana overdose may include:[3,4]

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Panic attacks
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Lethargy
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Psychosis

Psychosis and other serious symptoms are more common in first-time cannabis users or those with pre-existing mental health issues. Using cannabis concentrates or potent strains of marijuana can also increase the risk of adverse side effects.

In some cases, illicit marijuana can be laced with additional substances that can result in potentially dangerous side effects, including chest pain, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke, and seizures. These symptoms typically do not occur with THC alone and may indicate the presence of another substance.

What to Do if You’ve Consumed Too Much Marijuana

Marijuana intoxication can be extremely unpleasant if you take too much. Unfortunately, there is no way to flush marijuana out of your system quickly, so you simply have to ride the effects out and allow them to wear off naturally. However, if you’ve taken too much, there are some steps you can take to reduce the severity of your symptoms.

  • Deep breathing – Taking time to pause and take deep breaths can help reduce anxiety and stop panic attacks. Focusing on your breathing can also distract from unwanted symptoms.
  • Distract yourself – Put on your favorite movie or podcast to try and distract yourself.
  • Call a trusted friend – Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to a loved one for reassurance. Call a trusted friend or family member and let them know what you’re experiencing.

If you experience trouble breathing, seizures, or other serious symptoms, it is vital to seek medical attention.

Treatment for Marijuana Toxicity

Weed overdose typically does not require medical attention. Those who seek treatment at the emergency department may undergo an assessment of their physical and mental health and be placed in a low-stimulus environment until the effects wear off. In severe cases of panic, anxiety, or psychosis, sedatives or benzodiazepines can be administered.

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Abuse

People who use marijuana regularly are at an increased risk of chronic respiratory illnesses similar to those seen in tobacco users. Marijuana abuse can also lead to the development of physical dependence, causing people to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. Research has found that up to 17% of marijuana users and 40% of heavy users report withdrawal symptoms.[5]

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Inability to focus
  • Cold sweats
  • Chills
  • Marijuana cravings
  • Headaches

Long-term marijuana use has also been linked to a range of psychological problems, including poor cognitive performance, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.[6]

Find Help for Marijuana Abuse and Addiction Today

First Step Behavioral Health is a licensed dual-diagnosis long-term addiction treatment facility that is accredited by the Joint Commission. We focus on the physiological rebalancing of the individual through medical, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual care. Our complete detox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment programs form a comprehensive continuum of care that can support those recovering from marijuana addiction each step of the way.

If you or a loved one are struggling with cannabis use disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. To learn more about our treatment programs or get started with a confidential, risk-free assessment, please contact us today.


  1. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS): Marijuana Addiction: Rates & Usage Statistics
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts
  3. National Institute of Health (NIH): Marijuana Toxicity
  4. Medscape: Cannabinoid Poisoning
  5. National Institute of Health (NIH): Progression of cannabis withdrawal symptoms in people using medical cannabis for chronic pain
  6. Harvard Health: Cognitive effects in midlife of long-term cannabis use

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