What happens if you overdose on cannabis

THC-rich cannabis has side effects. What can you do about it?

"Ask your doctor or pharmacist about risks and side effects" - we have heard this sentence many times. But what about the new cannabis-based medicines and cannabis flowers in general? Medical cannabis has a broad spectrum of effects, so that the effect depends on various factors, such as your own personality, expectations or the environment.

Other factors are:

  • Consumption form (vaporizing, smoking, eating)
  • Consumer device (vaporizer, vaporizer, joint, pipe)
  • THC dose

All of these factors can affect the effects of cannabis, so the following can happen:

  • Feelings: It comes to euphoric feelings ("high feeling") as well as an emotional serenity.
  • thoughts: Problems, worries and common thought patterns disappear. There can be major leaps in thought or a whole host of new ideas emerge.
  • memory: Short-term memory disorders are common. What happened recently is being forgotten.
  • perception: Due to the short-term memory disorders, you may feel that time is passing slowly. In addition, the perception is intensified. For example, noises are perceived much more intensely.
  • communication: Consumers can suddenly become very communicative or very silly.
  • body: Although the heart beats faster, many consumers experience a feeling of relaxation and lightness with slowed movements.

Acute side effects

The immediate risk with medicinal use is primarily that the effect can also be unpleasant. What is particularly problematic is that it is basically unpredictable after cannabis use. This mainly affects patients who are not yet familiar with cannabis use. But cannabis can also have an unpleasant effect with regular or chronic consumption as well as high doses.

  • Feelings: Feelings of fear and panic can arise. In addition, psychotic symptoms can manifest themselves in the form of ideas of persecution and confusion.
  • thoughts: The thoughts go crazy and it creates a mess in the head. It is also possible that clear thoughts can no longer be formulated or that fixed ideas arise.
  • memory: If there are disturbances in the short-term memory, it can also lead to a "film tear" (memory gaps).
  • perception: The environment and the immediate surroundings are only perceived to a limited extent, so that consumers feel excluded.
  • communication: Consumers can suddenly become very communicative or very silly.
  • body: Consumption can lead to various symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and palpitations. In the worst case, it comes to circulatory collapse.

Tips for the correct handling

One or the other is probably no stranger to “smoking weed”. Many have smoked marijuana or hashish in their youth. However, this should not be confused with the use of medicinal cannabis, as cannabis patients usually either vaporize their medicine with a vaporizer, process it into edibles and consume it, ingest oil-based solutions or use the Sativex oral spray to relieve the symptoms of their disease .

Nevertheless, there can be a negative cannabis side effect. To avoid this, you should start with small amounts first, especially if the THC concentration in the cannabis flowers is very high. If the medicinal cannabis only has a mild effect, the small amount can be increased the next time.

Here you can find out everything about the dosage forms of medicinal cannabis.

How and why do the typical side effects of cannabis arise?

The cannabis plant contains a variety of phytocannabinoids. Some of these phytocannabinoids have psychoactive effects. The best known cannabinoid is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or tetrahydrocannabinol for short). However, like all other cannabinoid compounds, the THC in the cannabis plant is in an inactive form, namely tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). The THCA itself does not yet have any psychoactive effects. Only when heated does the acid THCA convert into the psychoactive THC.

The reason why cannabis has a psychotropic effect is that the THC docks onto certain binding sites in the brain. These binding sites are known as cannabinoid receptors, of which two main types exist: cannabinoid receptors 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2). The cannabis high is mainly caused by the CB1 receptor in the brain.

The second most important cannabinoid from the cannabis plant is the non-psychoactive cannabidiol. Rather, CBD can even mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC.

Medicinal cannabis and its side effects

In the following, we will go into more detail about the possible side effects of medicinal cannabis.

  • Anxiety and Paranoia: Unpleasant psychological side effects from excessive doses of THC can include anxiety and paranoia. However, in a lower dose, the cannabinoid can have an anxiety-relieving effect. A paranoid train of thought can also arise.
  • Dry mouth, dry red eyes: A high amount of THC can cause the mouth to become dry because the cannabinoid receptors are also located in the salivary glands. And because THC lowers blood pressure and dilates blood vessels, dry, red eyes occur.
  • Cravings: THC can trigger food cravings because the cannabinoid stimulates certain areas of the brain associated with appetite.
  • Fatigue and lethargy: THC can have a sedating effect, making you feel tired and lethargic.
  • Memory impairment: As mentioned above, memory disorders can occur. This also applies to long-term patients.

If there is latent psychosis, cannabis use can trigger a psychotic surge. However, it is also known that many people who suffer from psychosis tolerate cannabis well and only react to strong intoxicants (illegal drugs) such as LSD, ecstasy or cocaine.

Advice for pregnant women

Various influences can have a negative effect on the development of the child in the womb. For example, when the mother takes various medications, drinks alcohol or smokes nicotine cigarettes. And basically you should refrain from consuming any drugs.

Cannabis can have harmful effects on the child.

Regarding medicinal cannabis and its effects on pregnancy or the unborn child, there are no meaningful research studies. This is of course also due to the fact that it is ethically unjustifiable to give medicinal cannabis to pregnant women as part of a study. Basically, pregnant women should avoid unnecessary medicines and drugs of any kind. However, if there is an indication for medicinal cannabis, this should definitely be discussed with the specialist.

And what about breastfeeding mothers?

When breastfeeding women use cannabis, so do babies. According to the latest research, marijuana can get into breast milk, which poses health risks to the baby. For this reason, medicinal cannabis should only be prescribed during breastfeeding after careful consideration of the risk-benefit ratio.

Children before puberty

Especially before puberty, the complex hormonal interaction can be reversibly disrupted by influencing the hormone secretion of the pituitary gland. The onset of puberty can possibly be delayed with heavy consumption. However, this has so far only been specifically proven in one case.

Cannabis effects are too strong - what to do?

With a high dosage or overdose, psychological complaints such as feelings of fear and paranoia can develop. However, there are various home remedies that can be used to alleviate the unpleasant feelings.

Peppercorns against paranoia

Common household pepper has chemical properties similar to cannabis. According to research, pepper also has a phytoterpenoid effect that can help against anxiety, paranoia and pain. In combination with THC, the terpenoids in pepper cause a synergistic chemical reaction with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This can have a calming effect. So just chew two or three peppercorns if the cannabis effects are too strong.

Carbohydrate foods for low blood sugar levels

THC can lower blood sugar levels, which may cause symptoms of weakness, dizziness, and nausea. In such cases, eating foods that contain carbohydrates (e.g. a slice of whole grain bread, cereal, or a banana) can help. In addition, it is important to drink enough fluids after consumption to avoid dehydration.

Conscious breathing

In the event of a negative experience, it is particularly important to remain calm. It's uncomfortable, but not dangerous. To calm down, a simple breathing exercise can help:

  • upright sitting posture
  • breathe in very deeply
  • hold your breath for two to three seconds
  • then exhale very deeply

Then repeat the whole thing twice.

Involve friends / family

It can also be helpful to establish social contact and ask a friend or family member for help. Taking a walk in the fresh air and persuading a friend can help.

As a precaution, if the symptoms of the overdose do not improve despite attempts to calm down, a doctor should be consulted.

How long does the effect last?

Both the onset of action and the course of action depend primarily on the type of intake. When smoking, the cannabis effects often appear within a few seconds to minutes, as the active ingredients are absorbed very quickly through the airways. The maximum effect is then reached after about 15 to 30 minutes. The effect then subsides within two to three hours.

When cannabis is ingested orally through food or drink, the organism absorbs the THC much more slowly. When exactly the cannabis effect occurs depends on how full the stomach is. Often the onset of action occurs after 30 to 120 minutes, which then lasts between four and twelve hours.

Most cannabis patients use a vaporizer to vaporize the cannabis flowers. After inhalation, the effects take about one to two minutes. After about 15 minutes the maximum is reached, which can then last for up to four hours.

Drug interactions

There can be interactions between cannabis and certain drugs. While this is desirable with some combinations, caution is advised with others. Therefore, patients should always consult their doctor as part of their therapy.

It has been known for many years that medicinal cannabis can potentiate the effects of opiates and opioids. So here a positive interaction can arise. Some strong pain relievers also cause nausea, which medicinal cannabis can relieve.

The simultaneous use of medicinal cannabis as well as sedatives and sleeping pills can increase the effectiveness. This then manifests itself in dizziness and lightheadedness. The same can happen with the combination of medicinal cannabis and muscle relaxants. In addition, there is an increased risk of falling.

Other possible interactions

In addition, there may be interactions between the following drugs:

  • Blood pressure medication: The cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can have an antihypertensive effect (low blood pressure). In combination with antihypertensive drugs, it can happen that the blood flow in the coronary arteries is reduced. This is especially the case when the THC content is very high. Therefore, medicinal cannabis and blood pressure medication should only be taken after consulting a doctor.
  • Warfarin (anticoagulant drug): Cases are now known in which an interaction between warfarin and medicinal cannabis has been observed. Here, too, you should definitely consult your doctor. Regular blood tests are also recommended.
  • Medicines for blood sugar control: Here too, simultaneous consumption with medicinal cannabis can lead to interactions, which is why close medical care is required.
  • Antidepressants: Medicinal cannabis can increase the antidepressant effects, especially of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). When taking tricyclic antidepressants at the same time, the antihypertensive, heart rate-increasing and calming effects can be increased. For these reasons, medicinal cannabis and antidepressants should only be combined in consultation with the attending physician.
  • Neuroleptics: So far there is little evidence that there is any interaction between treatment with neuroleptics and medicinal cannabis. However, neuroleptics as well as antidepressants influence certain messenger substances in the brain. Simultaneous use should therefore only take place after medical advice.

Medicinal cannabis and alcohol

Mixed consumption is strongly advised against, as this can be very stressful for the body and dangerous side effects can occur. These include nausea and vomiting, as well as cardiovascular problems. In addition, it can lead to a loss of control as well as a disturbed ability to orientate and a disturbed ability to react.

Long-term consequences of cannabis use

Long-term use, especially heavy consumption, of medicinal cannabis can be associated with psychological, physical and also social risks. However, it is assumed that serious brain damage as known from other substances such as alcohol is not caused. What is certain, however, is that a person who has consumed cannabis with tobacco for many years damages the respiratory tract, especially the lung function.

In addition, psychological dependence as well as mild physical dependence can result from prolonged use of cannabis. It is estimated that around four to seven percent of all cannabis users become addicted. However, it should also be borne in mind that the risk of addiction is not the same for every consumer. Among other things, it depends on which psychosocial risk factors are present. Accordingly, someone can be more or less at risk.

In this context, there have long been discussions about whether the use of cannabis in young adults leads to someone switching to a harder drug. However, numerous research studies have since shown that only a minimal proportion of cannabis users switch to other drugs.

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