What Is Cannabis Toxicity and How Can I Avoid It?

Oct 03, 2023The nama Team

Cannabis is more popular—and potent—than ever before. With sky-high THC levels, some users are discovering the hard way that it is possible to get too much of a good thing. 

This phenomenon is known as cannabis toxicity.

But don’t worry—our low-dose THC edibles are the perfect solution to cannabis poisoning.

What Is Cannabis Toxicity and How Can I Avoid It?

Excessive amounts of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 9 THC) can produce adverse effects ranging from severe anxiety and panic to nausea, elevated blood pressure, and even hallucinations in extreme cases. Clearly, this is an experience any cannabis enthusiast would prefer to avoid.

We’re here to help you optimize your cannabis regimen and harness the benefits of this remarkable plant while avoiding the pitfalls of overindulgence. Read more about microdosing and why it’s the best way to avoid cannabis toxicity.

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What Is Cannabis Toxicity?

Cannabis toxicity, also known as cannabis poisoning or cannabis intoxication, occurs when you take THC in quantities or in a manner that leads to unpleasant and often harmful effects. Cannabis toxicity is not usually life-threatening but, in severe cases, may require medical attention.

Several factors contribute to cannabis poisoning. 

  • Dosage: excessive amounts of THC can overwhelm your body’s receptors, leading to toxicity.
  • Individual sensitivity: people have different levels of tolerance to THC, and some are more sensitive than others. What might be a moderate dose for one person can cause toxicity in another.
  • Method of consumption: the way you consume cannabis can influence the onset and intensity of effects. 
  • Mixing substances: it’s never a good idea to combine cannabis with alcohol or other substances. This can increase the risk of toxicity and adverse reactions.

There you have it: excessive amounts of THC are the main culprit for cannabis intoxication. They can produce a range of unpleasant side effects, which is exactly why you want to steer clear of them. 

Choose our low-dose gummies and experience the blissful benefits of microdosing cannabis

What Are the Symptoms of Too Much THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) intoxication can give you some pretty unpleasant adverse reactions. 

The side effects of cannabis toxicity can kick in rapidly. This also depends on the method of consumption, but the effects tend to peak within 30 minutes to a few hours, then subside over 6-12 hours as the THC is metabolized by the body. 

However, acute intoxication can be highly uncomfortable and frightening. This happens because THC is the primary psychoactive compound from the cannabis plant and, in high amounts, can produce concerning symptoms. 

  • Severe anxiety, fear, panic attacks or paranoia
  • Nausea and vomiting (too much THC can cause another condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome)
  • Confusion
  • Racing heartbeat, high blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis-like effects
  • Sedation
  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination and slowed reaction times
  • Dizziness

A 2020 systematic review found that, when experiencing cannabis toxicity, older adults were more likely to experience sedation and a slowed heart rate, whereas younger people often had excitation and a fast heart rate. The researchers hypothesize this may be due to differences in physiology, dosing, or ingestion method. 

The study also describes a few severe toxicity cases, including fast heart rhythms, severe sedation from a cannabis extract, and one death following cannabis use and a heart attack. 

Cannabis toxicity can be quite scary. The best thing to do is to steer clear of high amounts of cannabis—particularly THC—and choose low-dose alternatives instead. Case in point: our powerful Sleep Plus gummies.

These babes contain an ultra low amount of THC (2 mg per gummy) and 25 mg of CBD. To help you sleep better and cope with nighttime anxiety and insomnia, we’ve added a touch of melatonin, another sleeper helper

Let’s explore the science behind cannabis poisoning and what makes THC toxic. 

What Makes THC Toxic?

THC in itself is not toxic, but the excessive amount consumed is what causes toxicity. Higher amounts of THC are responsible for the “high” characteristic of smoking marijuana. Very high doses of THC can result in toxicity. Toxicity occurs because Delta 9 THC acts on our endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the brain and body. 

Each and every one of us has our own ECS. You may have never heard of it, but it sure is real and has “pivotal roles in a diverse range of physiological and pathophysiological states.” (Lerner, et. al.) Among other things, the ECS regulates:

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Appetite and metabolism
  • Digestion
  • Immune response
  • Pain perception
  • Temperature

The ECS is composed of natural compounds called endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Do you notice how some of these vital elements of the ECS sound familiar? That’s because endocannabinoids (cannabinoids that we naturally produce) and phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids coming from plants) have the same chemistry and roles in our bodies. 

THC and CBD are natural cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant, but they interact with the endocannabinoid system in the same way the endocannabinoids do. By binding to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, THC produces its potent therapeutic effects. 

If you’ve never heard of CBD before, this is your chance to learn everything about the effects, benefits, and uses of CBD

THC is a “partial agonist” of CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

Δ9-THC, the main psychotropic constituent of cannabis, is a CB1 and CB2 receptor partial agonist and in line with classical pharmacology, the responses it elicits appear to be strongly influenced both by the expression level and signaling efficiency of cannabinoid receptors and by ongoing endogenous cannabinoid release. (Pertwee, et. al.

THC interacts with CB1 receptors to boost dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the feelings of pleasure and our reward system. By increasing dopamine, THC produces euphoria and that characteristic “high.” 

Remember those enzymes in the ECS? Their role is to help produce and breakdown endocannabinoids. This is a vital process that maintains equilibrium in the ECS and prevents overstimulation of the receptors. Excessive doses of THC lead to excessive signaling and overstimulation of the ECS, which in turn is responsible for paranoia, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and other adverse health effects you may experience when you take THC at higher amounts. 

Hence, cannabis toxicity. 

A book called “Cannabinoid Toxicity” explains the important link between the endocannabinoid system and cannabis poisoning.

Cannabinoids are a collective group of compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors. They include plant-derived phytocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, and endogenously-derived endocannabinoids. The primary source of cannabinoid toxicity is from plant-derived cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids. These agents act as cannabinoid receptor agonists. 

When consumed in moderate doses, THC produces pleasant, euphoric effects by influencing the endocannabinoid system. These smaller cannabis amounts are safe to consume as they are not toxic and cause no adverse effects

Do you need a better reason to ditch those unreliable cigarettes and vapes and start microdosing? How about the sweetest taste of pink lemonade Euphoria gummies? These vegan edibles contain only 10 milligrams of Delta 9 THC, which is not enough to cause any unwanted effects but plenty if you want to experience mild euphoria and sweet pain relief. 

We sell to precisely measured, low-dose edible products. None of our edibles contain more than 10 mg of THC per gummy, so you can safely enjoy the perks of THC without any risk of toxicity. 

Can You Get Cannabis Poisoning From CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another major cannabis compound touted for its wide range of therapeutic benefits. Similarly to THC, CBD is terrific for lowering inflammation and relieving pain. However, CBD and THC employ different methods to produce their therapeutic effects. 

CBD does not produce psychoactive effects like THC. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system differently—more indirectly—and has no intoxicating properties. This means that, even at much higher or excessive doses, CBD does not lead to cannabis toxicity. 

Here’s what the research tells us about CBD’s effects

  1. CBD does not impair motor control, cognition, or other functions, even at very high doses.
  2. It has very low binding affinity to cannabinoid receptors, so does not overstimulate them like THC can. CBD has a low affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors; it doesn’t bind to them directly. Instead, it seems to downregulate the function of cannabinoid receptors in the presence of THC. 

…CBD behaves as a non-competitive negative allosteric modulator of CB1 receptor, and it reduces the efficacy and potency of THC and AEA. CBD also regulates the perception of pain by affecting the activity of a significant number of other targets. (Vučković, et. al.)

  1. CBD is extremely well tolerated in research, with doses up to 1,500 mg daily used safely.
  2. CBD's side effect profile is mild. The most common are fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite or weight. In one survey, 71% reported no physiologic effects from CBD use, while the most commonly reported side effects were dry mouth (11%) and fatigue (3%). Other side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, and anxiety, were reported by less than 2% of participants, and no severe side effects like vomiting, seizures, or liver problems were reported.

While unlikely to cause severe toxicity, taking massive doses of CBD could potentially lead to some adverse effects. Moderation is key, whether you’re taking CBD or THC. Check out our collection of the best CBD edibles and experience bliss in a gummy. 

But why choose only one when research says their combination is much better? 

To produce the greatest therapeutic effects, it’s best to take a product that combines CBD and THC in balanced ratios. With that in mind, we created our full spectrum CBD gummies. Full spectrum edibles contain low amounts of THC and CBD for an entourage effect without the risk of toxicity. 

Our full spectrum CBD products provide all-day energy and focus with the medical benefits of cannabis, minus any chance of overindulgence. Experience lifted mood and motivation the safe way with our low-dose Energy gummies with 5 mg of CBD and 2.5 mg of THC.

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How Can I Avoid Poisoning From Cannabis?

There are some ways you can avoid cannabis toxicity. 

  • Start low, go slow. Especially if you’re a beginner, start with the lowest possible dose and increase slowly over time. This allows you to learn your tolerance and avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Seek balanced cannabis products. Aim for those that combine CBD with lower doses of THC. Remember how CBD may offset some THC side effects? 
  • Try reliable methods of consumption that offer precise doses of cannabinoids. Our low-dose edibles are perfect for that because you always know how much THC is in one gummy. 
  • Avoid potent concentrates. Products like waxes, shatters, and vape carts can have up to 90% THC, increasing toxicity risks.
  • Don't mix cannabis with other substances. Combining cannabis with alcohol, medications, or other drugs makes toxicity more likely.
  • Don't consume on an empty stomach. Sometimes your empty stomach can help modulate effects and accelerate the symptoms of toxicity when you take higher amounts of THC. 
  • Allow sufficient time between doses. Rapid re-dosing makes it easier to overconsume. Give each dose at least two hours before you consume more.
  • Recognize the signs of toxicity. If you do happen to fall victim to unintentional ingestion, the moment you notice anxiety, rapid heartbeat, confusion, or nausea, stop consuming immediately.

The best way to avoid cannabis poisoning is with our microdosed edibles. There are plenty of reasons to switch from smoking and vaping to delicious gummies and low-dose THC drops

You can also drink moderate doses of cannabis. Check out our THC drinks and learn about the therapeutic benefits of drinking cannabis

Are you interested in spicing up your favorite lemonade? Here are some ideas and easy-peasy THC drink recipes to inspire your next get-together. 

What Are the Benefits of Low-Dose Edibles?

Delta 9 THC has greater therapeutic potential at low doses. A 2020 study found that low doses alleviated chronic pain, while higher THC levels had the opposite effect: they seemed to have exacerbated chronic pain instead of providing relief. Participants in the study experienced significant pain relief after only one small dose of THC, without any psychoactive effects. 

Here’s a short list of reasons why our low THC gummies are the best microdosing products on the market:

  1. Edibles typically take longer to kick in. This is because ingested THC has to go through the digestive system first and be metabolized before releasing its effects. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing. The delayed onset is much safer for users who want longer-lasting relief compared to smoking or vaping. 
  2. That’s right: edibles offer longer-lasting effects compared to many other methods of consumption. Again, the secret lies in the process of metabolizing THC through the digestive system and the bloodstream. For some people, the effects of low-dose gummies can last up to eight hours.
  3. THC gummies are healthier alternatives to smoking and vaping. When you inhale combusted material or unknown vape chemicals, it can irritate and damage your lungs over time. Oral ingestion avoids these risks. Whenever you chew one of our delicious edibles, you reap the effects of cannabis without any lung health concerns.
  4. Some people say they feel a boost in focus and creativity after taking Delta 9 gummies. Low doses of Delta 9 THC may help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s a good thing THC boosts dopamine because research suggests that, by increasing dopamine levels, Delta 9 THC improves the symptoms of ADHD and leads to greater feelings of wellbeing.
  5. Delta THC gummies might also have antidepressant effects. They boost mood and act as stress-relievers, potentially helping to alleviate symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. Low-dose edibles have a generally positive effect on mental health
  6. Delta 9 can stimulate appetite, which could be beneficial for individuals struggling with appetite due to medical conditions or treatments. This effect is so well known that it has gained the moniker “the munchies.” One study showed “significant alterations of the appetite hormones ghrelin, [peptide YY] and leptin in blood after smoking cannabis at doses that yielded substantial blood THC levels…” THC also interacts with the hypothalamus, an area of our brain that controls hunger and satiety, causing an increase in appetite.
  7. Many people microdose THC to improve the quality of sleep. THC may increase sleep latency (the time you need to fall asleep) while decreasing REM sleep. Synthetic cannabinoids derived from THC can help with sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous sleep disorder. By improving sleep, THC can help people suffering from sleep conditions like insomnia.

Meet our Bliss gummies with small amounts of THC and CBD. These fruit-filled bites offer the best of both: reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of anxiety, and relax you from head to toe. They contain equal amounts of THC and CBD (5 mg per gummy) for that perfect entourage effect. 

See how 5 milligrams of THC make you feel

Cannabis Toxicity FAQ

Although relatively rare, cannabis toxicity can result in a range of adverse effects. The primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, can lead to symptoms such as: 

  • Cognitive impairment (confusion, memory issues)
  • Psychological disturbances (anxiety, paranoia, and psychotic episodes in some cases)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Severe symptoms are less common but can include chest pain, vomiting (in cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome), and rarely, hallucinations.

These symptoms can be experienced when you take cannabis in excessive amounts. Low doses of cannabis do not cause these adverse symptoms. 

The best treatment option for cannabis toxicity is to provide a safe and calm environment for the person. If the person experiences severe symptoms, medical attention may be necessary. Treatment can involve intravenous fluids to address dehydration, anti-anxiety medications for severe anxiety or panic, and antiemetics for vomiting. 

Pain or discomfort after smoking cannabis may occur for different reasons. Cannabis can cause muscle relaxation, which might lead to a heightened perception of body sensations, including discomfort. Some individuals may experience muscle tension or anxiety after consuming cannabis, which can contribute to bodily discomfort. 

When you really think about it, smoking just isn't the healthiest or best way to use cannabis. A much healthier, more efficient, and safer way to consume cannabis is with our low-dose edibles.

Cannabis is not considered neurotoxic in the same way that substances like lead or certain pesticides are. Some research does suggest that heavy and chronic cannabis use may have an impact on cognitive function, particularly in adolescents and individuals with a predisposition to mental health disorders, while moderate amounts of THC, CBD, Delta 8 THC, and other cannabinoids even have therapeutic effects. 

Microdosing edibles is beneficial for the brain. Low doses of cannabis promote neurogenesis (creation of new neurons), help with brain plasticity, alleviate symptoms of many neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., dementia and Alzheimer’s), and boost focus. 

Cannabis use can lead to substance use disorder (CUD). It's estimated that around 9% of people who use cannabis will become dependent on it. CUD is characterized by problematic patterns of cannabis use, including unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms when not using. 

Risk factors for developing CUD include early initiation of cannabis use, frequent use, and genetic predisposition. Frequent and heavy cannabis use is one of the most common risk factors and causes of cannabis use disorders. That’s why we’re against heavy use, but we recommend regular microdosing instead. 

With low doses taken every day, there’s no risk of addiction, cannabis poisoning, or other adverse effects.

Cannabis can be toxic to dogs. Dogs have a higher number of cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans, making them more sensitive to the effects of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Ingesting THC can lead to symptoms in dogs such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Incoordination
  • In severe cases, seizures or coma

Keep cannabis products, especially edibles, out of the reach of pets. If your dog ingests it, seek immediate veterinary care. 

Chronic abuse of marijuana by consuming excessive amounts or using it irresponsibly can significantly increase the risk of experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of marijuana overdose.

While rarely life-threatening, overdosing on recreational marijuana can lead to a range of uncomfortable and distressing symptoms. Common symptoms of marijuana overdose include:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Panic attacks

In cases of severe overdose, you may become unresponsive or experience loss of consciousness. Treatment for a marijuana overdose primarily involves supportive care, such as providing a calm and safe environment and, in extreme cases, administering medications to manage symptoms. 

A marijuana overdose is typically not life-threatening, but it can be a profoundly unsettling experience. To avoid such situations, use marijuana products responsibly, be mindful of dosage and potency, and be aware of individual tolerance levels. 

It is not recommended to consume cannabis while breastfeeding. THC can be transferred to the baby through breast milk, potentially affecting the baby's development and behavior. Research suggests that cannabis use during breastfeeding may lead to cognitive and motor development delays, as well as potential long-term behavioral problems in the child. 

The duration of a cannabis high varies significantly depending on several factors, including the method of consumption, the strain of cannabis, and individual tolerance. While it's uncommon for the effects of cannabis to last a full 10 hours, some people may experience an extended high if they consume a high dose or use edibles, which can result in a more prolonged and gradual onset of effects. 

Generally, the peak of a cannabis high occurs within the first few hours and gradually subsides over the next several hours. To manage the duration of your high, try to control the dosage, choose strains with the desired effects, and be aware of your own tolerance.

If you want to extend the duration of your cannabis high, there are several strategies you can try. 

  • First, consider consuming edibles, which can lead to longer-lasting effects compared to smoking. 
  • Select strains with higher levels of THC. They may prolong the high. However, start with a lower dose when trying potent strains to avoid overconsumption. 
  • Stay well-hydrated and have a light snack before you consume cannabis. This may also help maintain the effects for a longer period of time.

Heavy cannabis exposure is typically defined by the frequency and quantity consumed over a specified period. While specific thresholds may vary depending on research and guidelines, heavy use often involves the daily or near-daily consumption of large amounts of medical cannabis. 

In some cases, chronic users may consume cannabis multiple times a day or use it to the point where it significantly impairs their daily functioning, relationships, even family members and responsibilities. 

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Lerner, R., Lutz, B., & Bindila, L. (2013, September 19). Tricks and Tracks in the Identification and Quantification of Endocannabinoids. ELS. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470015902.a0023407

Pertwee, R. G. (2008, January 1). The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. British Journal of Pharmacology; Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0707442

Kelly, B. F., Nappe, T. M., Heizer JW, Borgelt LM, Bashqoy F, Wang GS, Reiter PD. (2023, July 10). Cannabinoid Toxicity. StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482175/

Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vujović, K. S., Vucetic, C., & Prostran, M. (2018, November 13). Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules. Frontiers in Pharmacology; Frontiers Media. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.01259

Moltke, J., & Hindocha, C. (2021, February 18). Reasons for cannabidiol use: a cross-sectional study of CBD users, focusing on self-perceived stress, anxiety, and sleep problems. Journal of Cannabis Research; Springer Science+Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00061-5

Almog, S., Aharon‐Peretz, J., Vulfsons, S., Ogintz, M., Abalia, H., Lupo, T., Hayon, Y., & Eisenberg, E. (2020, June 12). The pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and safety of a novel selective‐dose cannabis inhaler in patients with chronic pain: A randomized, double‐blinded, placebo‐controlled trial. European Journal of Pain, 24(8), 1505–1516. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.1605

Oleson, E. B., & Cheer, J. F. (2012, August 1). A Brain on Cannabinoids: The Role of Dopamine Release in Reward Seeking. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a012229

Riggs, P. K., Vaida, F., Rossi, S. S., Sorkin, L. S., Gouaux, B., Grant, I., & Ellis, R. J. (2012, January 1). A pilot study of cannabis effects on appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult men. Brain Research; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2011.11.001

Marijuana and Breastfeeding. (2023, May 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/marijuana.html

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