- Following the death of a 39-year-old New Orleans woman in February, people are wondering whether she overdosed on marijuana.
- In May, a coroner said that her toxicology report showed traces of THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, but no other drugs or alcohol, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
- The report also found no signs of physical diseases in the woman.
- Although marijuana use can cause side effects, it’s nearly impossible to die from consuming too much of it, according to Dr. Jeffrey Chen, executive director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative.
- Additionally, toxicology reports aren’t always 100% accurate.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Experts are debating the safety of marijuana after a coroner said that THC was the only suspect substance in the toxicology report of a New Orleans, Louisiana, woman who died in February.
“It looked like it was all THC because her autopsy showed no physical disease or afflictions that were the cause of death. There was nothing else identified in the toxicology – no other drugs, no alcohol,” St. John the Baptist Parish Coroner Christy Montegut told the New Orleans Advocate.
THC is the main psychoactive component in marijuana.
Marijuana overdoses are also unlikely because of the sheer amount of the substance that would be needed to cause such a reaction, Dr. Jeffrey Chen, executive director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, told INSIDER.
Consuming too much marijuana can cause side effects, but is unlikely to lead to death
Depending on a person’s tolerance to cannabis, consuming marijuana could cause reactions like a racing heart, slower reaction times, nausea, and vomiting.
If you add health-related conditions into the mix, things get a little more dangerous. If someone has a pre-existing heart condition, for example, Dr. Chen said cannabis could speed up their heart rate to the point they could have a heart attack.
But for a healthy person, the side effects that come with consuming marijuana, even in large quantities, aren’t enough to cause a life-threatening reaction.
“There is a theoretical THC limit that could lead to an overdose…but it’s basically impossible to consume a level that high,” Dr. Chen told INSIDER.
He said that a person could theoretically overdose by getting a large amount of THC injected into their bloodstream, but even that might not work.
If a person tried to smoke enough cannabis to overdose, they’d die of asphyxiation before anything else, according to Dr. Chen. “You’d have to smoke several hundred pounds of cannabis in an hour for your blood levels to hit that theoretical limit,” he said.
Toxicology reports may not show the full picture of why a person died
Toxicology reports also aren’t always fully accurate, adding another layer of complexity to the woman’s death.
Researchers involved in a 2008 study on the effectiveness of post-mortem toxicology reports for detecting illicit drugs concluded that these reports offer incomplete analyses because these reports don’t always take into account whether a person used different drugs in the past that could have caused long term health problems.
As cannabis is legalised throughout the US , people will continue to debate its side effects. Dr. Chen said using the slim likelihood of overdose to disprove marijuana safety will do little to move the conversation forward.
“[Falling] coconuts kill a couple hundred people per year and there isn’t a public outcry against coconuts,” he said.
- Read more:
- People in western China smoked marijuana to bury their dead 2,500 years ago – the oldest evidence of weed smoking in human history
- I use medical marijuana to treat my insomnia, and the first time I tried it went terribly wrong
- Cannabis has gone from a criminalized drug to a multibillion-dollar global boom in just a few years. Here’s everything you need to know about the emerging legal cannabis industry.
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