As reported in articles published in Pediatrics Review (“Common Substances of Abuse,”) and NCBI’s StatPearls (“Marijuana Toxicity”), adults, youth and children alike are increasingly susceptible to acute cannabinoid intoxication: “overdosing” on cannabis (marijuana) or cannabis-based products (edibles, gummies, etc.).
And lest you think, “How can something like smoking weed or eating a pot brownie be harmful?” research studies have shown acute cannabinoid intoxication (a.k.a. marijuana toxicity) can indeed lead to significant physiological harm, including tachycardia, postural hypotension, respiratory depression, encephalopathy and coma, as well as psychological ill effects, such as severe panic, intense fear, agitation, depression, psychomotor impairment and/or psychosis.
Per the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 147 million people worldwide use marijuana and/or cannabinoid products, with a significant percentage of users in the adolescent and young adult population. And an annual U.S. survey of drug consumption by middle and high school students (“Monitoring the Future”) indicates past year use of marijuana ran was between 9% in eighth-graders and 35% in 12th-graders.
Due to the progress of marijuana legalization efforts, countless U.S. citizens don’t understand the possible risks of acute cannabinoid intoxication. However, healthcare professionals working in hospitals and addiction treatment centers across the country will testify to its reality and frequent dire consequences.
Fifty emergency room physicians across the country reported they treated an average of over 170 cases of acute cannabinoid intoxication per year, based on a survey they took. And approximately 1.7 million cannabis-related emergency department visits were tallied in 2020, which is in line with average increases of up to 15% per year recently.
This rise in emergency room visits has been fueled, in substantial measure by the trends toward marijuana legalization. As of September 2021, 18 states have legalized it and 13 more have decriminalized it.
Unfortunately, this widespread legalization has produced an industry full of products that can entice and endanger children. Both colorful and alluring to children, cannabinoid-laced gummies, chocolates and other similar products pose a substantial risk, given kids don’t understand the potential hazards of what they’re putting into their mouths.
And it doesn’t take much to have a significant negative effect. A 2019 study by Noble, et al. published in Clinical Toxicology reported the following:
- Inhaled doses of 2 to 3 mg of THC and ingested doses of 5 to 20 mg THC can cause impairment of attention, memory, executive functioning, and short-term memory;
- Doses > 7.5 mg/m2 inhaled in adults and oral doses from 5 to 300 mg in pediatrics can produce more severe symptoms such as hypotension, panic, anxiety, myoclonic jerking/hyperkinesis, delirium, respiratory depression, and ataxia.
As for the possible long-term effects of using marijuana and/or cannabinoid-infused products, studies indicate such use can produce deleterious effects on cognitive performance, respiratory issues and “amotivational syndrome” (depleted energy and motivation). Research has also shown acute cannabinoid intoxication can lead to acute psychosis, as well as trigger short-term aggravation of pre-existing psychotic diseases such as schizophrenia. Further, several studies have observed other psychiatric symptoms arising from acute marijuana toxicity, including irrational panic, fear of dying, paranoid ideations and depersonalization.
The fact is, acute cannabinoid intoxication is not only a “real thing,” it is currently producing devastating consequences in countless lives each year. The swifter our policymakers and civic leaders can support increased drug education and treatment throughout the U.S., the better, safer and healthier our nation will be.
 Common Substances of Abuse – PubMed (nih.gov)
 Acute Cannabis Toxicity – PubMed (nih.gov); Marijuana Toxicity – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov); Overdose Unknown: How Anebulo Pharmaceuticals Is Working to Solve a Growing Marijuana Overdose Problem (yahoo.com)
 Wang GS, Hoyte C. Common Substances of Abuse. Pediatr Rev. 2018 Aug;39(8):403-414
 Overdose Unknown: How Anebulo Pharmaceuticals Is Working to Solve a Growing Marijuana Overdose Problem (yahoo.com)
 Acute cannabis toxicity – PubMed (nih.gov)
 Marijuana Toxicity – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)