The suicide of a young man while under the effects of marijuana has prompted health officials to investigate the possibility of a marijuana “overdose.”
The CDC recently released a warning to the public about marijuana consumption, stating that while high concentrations of marijuana may not be fatal, they may in fact cause “psychological disturbances.”
This case illustrates a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use. Some studies have suggested an association between cannabis and psychological disturbances.
KOAA News5 in Colorado reached out to Dr. Doug Cross, who is an emergency room physician at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. “You can take too much,” Cross told News5, “but an overdose is a strong word.”
The 19-year-old man who lost his life was described as inexperienced with concern to the drug, perhaps a first-timer. He had consumed cookies that contained marijuana, which his 23-year-old friend had provided. The clerk who sold the cookies had instructed the buyer to slice the cookie into sixths and only eat one serving at a time. The man who would go on to commit suicide did follow these directions, ingesting one serving containing 10 mg of THC. After an hour had passed, the man was not feeling any of the effects, so he consumed the remainder of the cookie.
Two and a half hours later, he jumped off a fourth floor patio and died from the fall.
Did the large dose of marijuana contribute to the suicide? According to the CDC, the autopsy found that “marijuana intoxication” was “a chief contributing factor.”
The autopsy, performed 29 hours after time of death, found marijuana intoxication as a chief contributing factor.
The toxicology report clearly found no traces of any drugs in his system other than marijuana. The concentration of THC in his blood was 7.2 ng/mL, 2.2 ng/ML higher than the 5.0 ng/mL legal limit placed on drivers.
The CDC stated that the effects of edible marijuana can take as long as two hours to reach, compared to 5-10 minutes when the drug is smoked.
Because absorption is slower, the onset of effects is delayed (with mean peak plasma concentration at 1–2 hours after ingestion, in contrast with 5–10 minutes to peak plasma concentrations if smoked), and duration of intoxication is longer when THC is ingested compared with when it is smoked.
Health officials are urging people to read up on the effects of marijuana before consuming the drug to prevent situations like this from re-occurring. Drug education may be the most viable solution.