Marijuana is the most commonly illicit drug used in the United States and even in other parts of the globe. The use of this substance has been very rapidly and continuously increasing among young people since 2007. Marijuana is commonly defined as pertains to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa which in itself contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, and other related compounds. It can also be concentrated in a resin called hashish or a black liquid which is commonly referred to as the hash oil.
But can it be addictive? Most proponents of legalization claim it cannot. True or not true? What about overdose? Can a human die of overdosing on THC?
Public debates regarding the legality of this substance has also been increasing as many people these days are using both legally and illegally engaging the feeling of euphoria, or being high, by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine.
The question hanging on the line then is: “Can someone be overdosed by marijuana?” While prescription pain killers recorded thousands of death caused by overdose every year, marijuana, on the contrary, has not made any death due to overdose. It is even impossible to overdose on weed according to National Cancer Institute for the fact that cannabinoid receptors are not located in the brain areas controlling respiration unlike opioid receptors. Lethal doses then, regarding cannabis and cannabinoids are virtually impossible in the same sense as opioids.
In a broader sense, marijuana takes different pathways of the body as opioid does. Opioid pathways, also known as receptors, affect the areas of the brain which controls the function of breathing. Hence, taking too much pain killers can affect, and eventually, stop one’s ability to breath. Marijuana, on the other hand, takes the pathways that are called cannabinoid receptors which do not, according to studies, affect the respiratory system. Therefore, no one, regardless of how much they ingest, will possibly stop breathing because of marijuana. We can also explain this fact through the counts of therapeutic index. Marijuana has a therapeutic index of 40,000:1, which means it will take someone to take 40,000 times the normal amount of marijuana in order to stop breathing, and die. Opioids then have much lower therapeutic index. Let's take morphine for example. Morphine has a therapeutic index of 70:1, which in the case, a person just need to take 70 times the normal amount of morphine to eventually die; such a low amount compared to marijuana.
While it is impossible for someone to die due to marijuana overdose, still, taking too much of it will tantamount to taking too much of risk. Dr. Sunil Aggarwal explains that large doses of marijuana can lead to negative symptoms, such as acute psychosis and paranoia. Also, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) studies suggest that marijuana smoke can cause increased daily cough and phlegm production, chest illness, lung infections, reduced sperm production in men, and disrupted menstrual cycle in women. It can also raise heart rate by 20 to 100 percent shortly after smoking which the effect can last up to three hours, according to NIDA.
But, can marijuana really be addictive? It is widely and commonly believed that there is no such thing as marijuana addiction, yet that is not true for those 9 percent of users who said that they’ve become addicted to marijuana and experienced cravings, sleepiness, irritability, decreased appetite and anxiety when they try to quit; same as to those who are trying to give up other types of drugs and alcohol. Although there are still no medications available for those who are trying to quit marijuana, recent discoveries about the workings of the endocannabinoid system pledged for the development of medications to ease withdrawal, obstruct the intoxicating properties of marijuana, and prevent past users from coming back for more.