Is Marijuana As Safe As We’ve Been Led To Believe?
Marijuana as a recreational drug is now legal in Washington and Colorado, and it’s legal medicinally in 18 other states. But a recent research paper raises legitimate questions about the drug’s safety. One of proponent’s main arguments in favor of legalized marijuana has been the absence of overdose deaths associated with sole use of the drug. The article calls that assertion into question.
Public perception is that a person who uses marijuana on its own is safe. In fact, a 2011 U.K. Department of Health report said “no cases of fatal overdose have been reported” due to marijuana use and “no confirmed cases of human deaths” had been found.
The new report suggests that marijuana is not quite that safe. In the study, German researchers took a look at 15 individuals whose deaths were somehow related to use of marijuana. The investigators performed careful post-mortem tests to identify and rule out other factors which may have been responsible for the deaths.
Scientists ran genetic tests, examined organs, performed an autopsy and asked for a toxicology report to screen for possible problems, such as liver disease, alcohol abuse or other conditions which could seriously compromise health and life.
Is Marijuana Overdose Possible?
One of the German researchers involved with the study said he believes marijuana overdose to be rare but possible. They discovered that two of the 15 persons were found to have the psychoactive ingredient THC in blood samples in amounts that indicated they had been using marijuana just hours before they died. In both cases the men’s hearts had experienced arrhythmia, meaning their hearts were beating either too quickly or too slowly. The change was drastic enough that it killed the two men, ages 23 and 28. One was found to have a significant but formerly undetected heart condition, and the other had a personal history of substance abuse apart from marijuana use. The study did not determine how marijuana caused the deadly arrhythmias.
The report is considered the first proof that deadly marijuana overdose is possible, even if infrequent. It suggests that further investigation is warranted into cases where marijuana use took place near to the time of death. Other risks, such as impaired memory, schizophrenia and depression have been associated with use of marijuana. Now it’s time to re-evaluate whether deadly overdose is another potential risk.