While prescription painkillers cause thousands of overdose deaths each year, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. In fact, studies suggest it is impossible to die from smoking too much THC. But indirect deaths are possible — and documented. W
hat some people mean when they say “overdose” is simply taking too much of a substance. When using this definition, it’s certainly possible to overdose on marijuana, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms like anxiety, dizziness, and vomiting.
According to the National Cancer Institute, one cannot die of a marijuana overdose ”…because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.” Marijuana and opioids affect different pathways of the body. Opioid receptors are present in areas of the brain that control breathing. As a result, taking too many painkillers can cause a person to stop breathing. Marijuana, on the other hand, acts on a completely different set of pathways called cannabinoid receptors which do not affect respiration. Meaning, marijuana cannot cause someone to stop breathing, no matter how much THC they ingest.
The lethal dose for THC is estimated be 40,000 times the effective dose. In other words, someone would have to take 40,000 times the normal amount of marijuana in order to die. This explains why overdosing on marijuana is basically unheard of and does not pose a risk of lethal overdose. Therefore, you can’t die from smoking too much weed. If you or a friend has consumed too much marijuana, keep hydrated, stay with people you know, and seek medical attention if things worsen.