While marijuana may have both short and long term adverse side effects, there is limited research as to whether using it can cause death.
Smoking weed can, however, impair judgment and motor skills, so smoking cannabis before driving or doing other dangerous activities may increase the risk of an accident. However, most experts consider the risk of dying from marijuana itself
This does not mean marijuana is a risk-free substance. While many people focus on the beneficial compounds in weed, such as cannabidiol (CBD), there are some possible adverse side effects of weed, especially when using it long term or at a young age.
Keep reading to learn more about the health risks of marijuana and whether or not it could potentially cause death.
A 2014 study in Forensic Science International reported two cases of sudden death that doctors linked to health complications possibly worsened by marijuana use. The report indicated that before these deaths, the researchers were not aware of any other deaths related to marijuana use alone.
It is important to note that only after excluding all other causes of death did the report assume the young men experienced fatal cardiovascular events brought on by cannabis. The report also concludes that doctors cannot rule out the possibility that pre-existing cardiovascular factors played a role in the deaths.
In 2018, a teenager died of dehydration due to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). CHS is a condition that can occur in regular cannabis smokers and causes nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. You can read their story here.
Despite these incidents, compared to the deaths caused by other drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco,
According to the
In 2014, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Since then, it has seen
However, before legalization, people experiencing adverse symptoms due to smoking weed might not have visited an emergency room due to the illegal nature of the substance.
A recent report in
- cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS)
- acute psychosis
- cannabinoid catatonia syndrome
- acute myopericarditis
A person with CHS experiences severe bouts of vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and dehydration from excessive vomiting.
Many people experiencing CHS say their symptoms go away temporarily after taking a
According to an article in
Weed does trigger an antinausea effect on the central nervous system. However, repeated use may dull this effect. In the digestive tract, the opposite occurs. THC and other cannabinoids may increase the likelihood of an upset stomach, especially with repeated use.
Acute psychosis is an alteration of the sense of reality to the point where the person experiences delusions, mood disturbances, and hallucinations. A person experiencing acute psychosis might behave unusually.
A review in Psychiatric Times notes that some evidence suggests a correlation between cannabis use and psychiatric conditions, including cannabis-induced psychosis (CIP).
The review notes a case study of a 19-year-old who experienced an acute psychotic event that was consistent with CIP. The person blamed the pressures of a competitive university environment for their paranoia and isolation, claiming that smoking weed was keeping them sane. The person did, however, receive treatment, stopped smoking cannabis, and experienced no further episodes of psychosis.
It is possible to deduce that cannabis was the cause of these psychotic episodes, although there is no conclusive evidence.
Treatment for cannabis-induced psychosis includes refraining from using cannabis in any form. In people who are unwilling to do this, doctors may use antipsychotic drugs to protect them from psychosis.
There is some evidence that marijuana use could lead to cardiovascular issues.
Some experts believe that changes in the structure of marijuana over recent years may be partly to blame for the increased risk of these conditions.
Most past medical research has used marijuana with relatively low THC content, while in recent years, the THC levels in marijuana have increased significantly, with an increase of about
However, a review in
However, this does not necessarily prove that marijuana causes these events. The review notes, however, that doctors should consider whether a person's use of marijuana is an underlying cause of their cardiovascular problems.
Most doctors will recommend that pregnant women do not smoke any substance because the contents of the smoke may pass to the baby.
A study in
While scientists have not found that cannabis causes physical abnormalities at birth, they have found associations between fetal exposure and changes in physical growth early in life, including low birth weight. Evidence also suggests it has an adverse mental impact on the developing child, including heightening behaviors of anxiety and depression.
Until more research analyzes THC as a potential toxin for fetuses in the womb, researchers suggest pregnant women should not assume that cannabis is safe for them to use.
While marijuana can have adverse effects on short and long term health, there is limited research as to whether or not it can cause death.
There are a few recorded cases of people dying from possibly marijuana-induced complications of an existing medical condition, but these are inconclusive.
While most experts agree that it is not possible to smoke a lethal dose of marijuana in most cases, this does not mean that it is a harmless substance.
Pregnant women especially should avoid marijuana use until researchers and doctors know more about the potentially adverse effects on the fetus.