Too Much of a Good Thing: Cannabis Overconsumption
Can you consume too much cannabis? Yes. Will it harm you? No.
Overindulgence isn’t limited to ice cream, potato chips, candy, or cocktails. Like most things in life, you can consume too much cannabis. You might know the feeling:
Anxious, weak, pallid, shaky and paranoid, with a killer case of cottonmouth— tell-tale signs you’ve crossed into the realm of overindulgence. Should you be alarmed? No, it’s all good.
Unlike alcohol or opioids, cannabinoids aren’t a central nervous system depressant and can’t cause a lethal overdose—-no matter the quality, strength, or quantity. The DEA’s own administrative law judge famously proclaimed, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
“Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brain stem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.” —National Cancer Institute
Don’t worry; cannabis is non-toxic. But it’s easy to overindulge. And while the effects are unpleasant to the point of worrisome, it won’t harm you in the long term. Amid a weed-induced panic attack, however, it’s easy to convince yourself fatality is a threat.
Your first experience of cannabis overconsumption is alarming. Friendly reassurances don’t help, and your internal conversation— fixating and bouncing from thought to thought— isn’t useful. Take a deep breath; it’s going to be okay.
What happens when you overconsume cannabis?
Cannabis has at least 60 kinds of cannabinoids—chemical compounds that interact with our brain’s receptors. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), is responsible for much of cannabis’s effects, including the blissful high. THC closely resembles anandamide, the cannabinoid responsible for mood, sleep, memory, and appetite regulation.
Cannabinoids keep us fixed on magnified thoughts and perceptions. They also inflate dopamine levels (this is why you feel relaxed and euphoric).
The effects of cannabis vary by individual, and this is why not every consumer has an enjoyable or relaxing time. Consuming too much cannabis further amplifies the results, explaining why people in the throes of overconsumption fixate on the negativity of their experience.
What are the symptoms of overconsumption?
Anxiety and paranoia are common outcomes of cannabis overconsumption. We know that cannabis is non-toxic and not lethal, but try telling that to yourself when you’ve had too much.
Amid the panic, consumers think they are experiencing a heart attack, or worse, that they are dying. If you find yourself having this experience, breathe and stay calm. You’ll be okay.
Cannabis overconsumption makes you sleepy. It’s that simple. Of all the potential side effects, however, fatigue is positive. Sleeping off the effects of cannabis can keep you from experiencing the more uncomfortable aspects of overindulgence.
Decreased blood pressure
THC reduces blood pressure. This explains why your eyes dilate and turn red after consumption (Visine, anyone?). As your tolerance builds, the effect cannabis has on blood pressure is minimized, but new consumers who overindulge experience an exaggerated (and alarming) blood pressure drop.
Cannabis compounds impact motor control, and that can leave you feeling wonky.
We work with CDOT to keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel for this reason (among others). More on that here.
New cannabis consumers often experience a quickening of the heart. Similar to decreased blood pressure, this effect lessens as your body develops tolerance. For some consumers, a quickened heartbeat exacerbates their feelings of panic or anxiety, adding to the negative experience.
Your heart rate might speed-up after consumption, but don’t worry, it will return to normal within a few hours.
What you can do to counteract the experience.
Take a deep breath.
If anxiety and panic are ruining your experience, close your eyes and take ten deep, meditative breaths. Slowly inhale through your nose (four counts), hold your breath for at least three seconds, and exhale deeply (four counts). Repeat until blissful feelings return.
CBD reduces anxiety and relaxes an overactive brain. It’s nature’s antidote to THC. CBD blocks THC from binding to your brain’s cannabinoid receptors and dampens its psychoactive effects.
Hydrate and eat.
If you’ve had an edible and are having a negative experience hydrate and eat (non-medicated food). Water aids digestion and food gives you something else to focus on (it’s also comforting).
Terpenes are therapeutic.
Since cannabis shares terpene profiles with many fruits and vegetables, you can counteract a negative experience with terpenes that minimize cannabis effects. Black pepper, lavender, lemon juice (limonene), and others, offset unpleasant cannabis side-effects.
Since 90% of what you are feeling is psychological, and nothing terrible is going to happen, you can relax. Step outside for fresh air, take a warm shower, and remember, this too shall pass.
Don’t worry; you’re going to be okay.
While you can consume too much cannabis, it’s not fatal. In a few hours, the negative side-effects of overconsumption dissipate, and you’re left wondering why you panicked, or worse, why you called the paramedics. The adage, start low and go slow applies to every consumer and every cannabis consumption method. We don’t’ want to see you (or anyone else) in the E.R.
Be mindful, chill out, and enjoy.