How Many People Have Died From Smoking Marijuana?

March 14, 2024

When most people think of drug overdoses, they probably picture someone smoking or ingesting too many pills. But what about marijuana? Is it possible to die from that, too?

This question got renewed attention recently after the parents of a young boy from New Jersey blamed marijuana for his death. They said he had a preexisting heart condition and that consuming too much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis) caused him to vomit so hard he choked to death. The story quickly went viral, but medical experts are largely downplaying the idea that it's possible to eat enough of the drug to kill yourself.

One reason is that a lethal dose would require something like 1,000 times the normal amount of THC. And, while people show up in emergency rooms all the time after consuming too much THC — suffering from anxiety or paranoia, passing out, or even experiencing a severe psychotic reaction that can include delusions and hallucinations — it's not usually fatal.

Another reason is that THC actually has some heart-healthy benefits, including lowering your blood pressure and reducing the chances of a stroke. It's also been linked to a lower risk of depression and anxiety, and helps treat chronic pain.

Finally, several longitudinal studies comparing heavy marijuana users to nonusers haven't found a higher risk of mortality. And a study in a group of 45,540 Swedish military conscripts followed over 15 years found that the relative risk for those who reported smoking more than 50 times was no longer elevated after adjusting for various other factors.

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