Chances of overdose on marijuana are extremely small. While this drug does not cause the same sort of life-threatening symptoms seen in the overdose of other illicit drugs, it is possible to suffer adverse effects if large amounts of marijuana are used.
Increased use of marijuana, combined with lowered perceived medical risk of use, has led to questions about the long-term and short-term effects of the drug. According to NIDA, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2013, marijuana was used by 81 percent of drug users, and 65 percent of drug users reported that marijuana was the only drug they used. Marijuana use is especially widespread among adolescents and young adults.
Effects and Risks of Marijuana
The effects of smoking marijuana are typically felt almost immediately. Ingesting the drug will usually delay the onset of the effects; you may begin to feel them 30 minutes to an hour after eating or drinking the product. This method of ingestion delivers less THC – the active component in marijuana – into the bloodstream than smoking the drug. Effects felt from smoking generally last 1-3 hours, while effects from eating or drinking can last for several hours.
Negative effects of marijuana usually subside on their own and don’t typically require medical care. In more serious cases, sedatives such as benzodiazepines may be given by medical professionals to lessen feelings of panic or paranoia. If you suspect that you, or someone else, have ingested marijuana cut with other dangerous drugs, seek medical help right away. Children or adolescents may require monitoring within a hospital setting until the effects have subsided.
Long-term effects of marijuana use can include respiratory infection, impaired memory, and exposure to carcinogens that may cause cancer. Adolescents and young adults who regularly use marijuana may be at greater risk of developing mental illness and often show lower cognitive function than their peers.
While risk of overdose from marijuana is negligible, risk of addiction is similar to that of other drugs. Marijuana stimulates the endocannabinoid system, which can lead to changes within the brain. Approximately 9 percent of marijuana users become addicted. Seventeen percent of users became addicted after beginning cannabis use during adolescence. Among daily users of the drug, 25-50 percent will become addicted.
Some people don’t realize they’re addicted to marijuana because withdrawal from this drug is relatively mild. Withdrawal can involve irritability, mood swings, cravings, restlessness, and other unpleasant side effects.
Since marijuana use can impair judgment, it can lead to users putting themselves in dangerous situations. In addition, many who abuse marijuana use it in combination with other substances, such as alcohol and other drugs. While overdose on marijuana isn’t likely, it is more likely that users may find themselves in potentially unsafe situations due to substance abuse.