Marijuana may cause problems from overconsumption, but cannot lead to an overdose death
Alcohol, cocaine and water (yes, water) all have one thing in common. If consumed to an extreme, they can lead to death from overdose. Marijuana, on the other hand, cannot and there is not a single case in all of recorded history of someone dying from consuming too much marijuana.
This is not approval to go out and consume 10 pounds of marijuana, but it is an important fact. A drug overdose comes, in part, from the suppression of “the fundamental drive to respiration.” This suppression occurs in the lower part of the brainstem in an area called the pre-Bötzinger complex, and is a result of the compound’s depression of the complex, leading to slow and irregular breathing before the desire to respire is shut off completely, resulting in death.
The cannabinoids in cannabis don’t react on the brainstem. Instead, they concentrate on certain receptors in the brain, mostly on the basal ganglia, the cerebellum and the hippocampus. These receptors are associated with cognition and movement, not the desire to breathe.
A study of cannabinoid receptors by the National Institutes of Health in 1990 determined that “sparse densities [of cannabinoid receptors] in lower brainstem areas controlling cardiovascular and respiratory functions may explain why high doses of THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] are not lethal.”
Yes, it’s possible to overdose on cannabis, which can lead to unpleasant side effects and cause unwanted results. However, it isn’t possible to die from a cannabis overdose.