The war on cannabis is over. It ended earlier this year when the Epilepsy Foundation declared “an end to seizures should not be determined by one’s zip code.” Eventually Obama, or the next one in, will be forced by public opinion to 86 Schedule 1 and reveal our nation's biggest lie.
Scientists and researchers will then rush in to discover what cannabis patients and others have learned on their own—sometimes the hard way. Cannabis won’t kill you, but it’s not harmless.
Overdoses are on the rise, some have had tragic consequences. The dark side of the cannabis revolution is that the right to choose is returning to a population unaccustomed to using any sort of complex and powerful medicinal herb. Much less one that looks like a chocolate bar and tastes divine…
As Ms. Dowd discovered the hard way http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/04/opinion/dowd-dont-harsh-our-mellow-dude.html?_r=0. edibles are not food. They’re a multi-dose delivery device for an astonishingly effective non-toxic medicine. Too much of that good thing, however, will serve up a super-nasty ride that won’t kill you but may make you wish it would.
THC overdoses hit hard and go long; fear, confusion, panic, paranoia, anxiety, short-term memory loss, slow reaction time, racing thoughts, dizziness, sweating, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, severe headache, parched mouth/throat, chills, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, fast heartbeat, heart palpitations, and in some cases ,the sensation of being crushed.
First-timers with edibles and extracts should go slow, and it’s best to start early on a free day. If possible, know what you’re getting. Sativa and indica strains can deliver significantly different strengths and experiences, and activation times can vary tremendously among the many ways cannabis can be consumed.
A conservative trial dose of THC is less than 25 milligrams (mg); keep in mind that a dispensary sweet can easily contain five times that amount. For those with even less tolerance for risk and/or effect, one-tenth of a 100 mg chocolate bar can make for a good trial. If you’re getting edibles at the fair, take heed; potency’s a bragging right in cannabis country.
Green dragon tincture, a fiery reduction extract made with 190 proof spirits, is a Dionysian remedy that can put you down and lay you out. If it’s thick and dark emerald green, test with no more than 8-10 drops (pictured made in Rhode Island from the dank Dutch strain BLZ).
Tincture evaporates to sticky oil that can produce significant effects from grain-sized doses. On the weaker side is light green menstrum (first press) which may require 25 drops or more to yield a desired effect.
Give it an hour and see how you feel. One of the most common paths to overdose is going double-down—re-dosing before the first dose has kicked in. Wait at least 90 minutes (or longer) between trials. And know what to do if things get rough.
Taking care of yourself in the heavy grip of a THC OD can be a nightmarish experience, especially due to the fear and paranoia that often dominate the early hours. Don’t move about. Get comfortable. Stay away from the stove and don’t light any candles. Drink water and juice. You’ll likely be parched and find it’s hard to swallow so no snacking. Not one chip.
Caring for others who’ve ingested too much weed takes patience and a soft touch. Gently coax the stricken to a quiet, dark sit spot; warm, safe, familiar if possible, with pillows and blankets all around. No bystanders.
A damp cloth on the forehead/over the eyes may settle the nerves and help with the headache and nausea. Stay close but don’t engage in the drama. Be the nurse; relax, close your eyes, breathe, you’re safe here, sleep is on the way…
After a few hours of peak suffering, a physical malaise will settle things down fast. Cannabis is not toxic so there’s no hangover after the deep sleep, and no long term effects, other than maybe wisdom and humility.
WARNING: People with pre-existing conditions such as angina can be at greater risk. Watch for symptoms that warrant professional care including trouble breathing, pale skin color and unresponsiveness. If the individual gets aggressive or crazed, some other drug’s almost certainly in the mix. Make the call.
Bottom line: Cannabis is powerful medicine. Don’t be a dope. Use with respect.
Carl Hedberg is a cannabis care mentor living in Lafayette, Colorado. firstname.lastname@example.org