As Canada gets closer to legalizing marijuana in October, physicians are already seeing a rise in cannabis overdoses. In the past three years, the number of emergency room visits in Ontario alone for these cases has almost tripled to nearly 1,500 cases last year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Edibles have a higher risk of overdose. Unlike smoked marijuana, edibles take longer to produce an effect. So people may consume more to feel the effects faster. This can lead to an overdose and/or serious injury.
Dr. Julielynn Wong, a Toronto-based physician-scientist, breaks down the signs of an overdose and how to prevent it.
Signs of a cannabis overdose
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Panic attacks
- Extreme confusion
- Loss of contact with reality
These reactions could lead to serious injury or death, such as a car crash or fall.
Long-term side effects
Research suggests that long-term cannabis use can negatively affect your heart, brain development and function, mental health and sperm count and quality.
What to do if someone is affected
- If you suspect a cannabis overdose, you should contact your local poison control center, health care provider or the emergency department of your nearest hospital.
- Stop consuming cannabis right away. If the person is awake and able to swallow give him or her sips of water to drink. Never try to make someone throw up.
- Call 911 if the person is experiencing chest pain, panic attacks, loss of contact with reality, or seizures.
How to prevent an overdose
- Don’t consume edibles, especially if you’ve been smoking or vaping marijuana, drinking alcohol or taking prescription drugs.
- If you do consume edibles, be careful. Start at a low dose. Do not consume more than the recommended serving size of 10 mg of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Read the package label if it’s a commercial product.
- Be safe. Have somebody with you.
- Be patient. It may take two or more hours to take effect.
- Be smart. Keep your edibles out of the reach of pets and children. Store them in a childproof container.