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How do you know you’re using too much cannabis?

You'd forgotten cannabis looks like this, hadn't you? Photo: Jurassic Blueberries
You’d forgotten cannabis looks like this, hadn’t you? Photo: Jurassic Blueberries

In 2015, an 11-month-old boy died of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle, a rarity in one so young – that was tentatively identified as having been caused by too much cannabis after doctors ruled out other common causes, such as infection or allergic reaction, but found tetrahydrocannabinol, the ingredient of cannabis that makes you stoned, in his system, with him believed to have eaten cannabis two to six days previously. The child’s family lived in motels, with the parents using drugs.

But as another US doctor, Noah Kaufmann, who works in A&E, pointed out, “There are thousands of other things that cause myocarditis,” and it might have been an undetectable virus. It was nevertheless billed as the first-ever death from a cannabis overdose. Dr Hoyte was disappointed by the brouhaha that followed his case study, since he had wanted people to recognise that cannabis should be kept away from children and more research was required.

Cannabis kills! Not.

Back in the 1980s, the US Drug Enforcement Administration attempted to kill lab animals with too much cannabis and failed, compared to the six people who die from alcohol poisoning in the United States each day.

Opiates, like heroin, are absorbed by the brain stem, which also governs respiration. You die from a heroin overdose because you stop breathing. Cannabis, meanwhile, affects the cannabinoid receptors, which are outside the brain stem and have no significant influence on such vital functions as respiration.

It really isn’t possible to die of it

David Schmader, who wrote Weed: the User’s Guide, estimated that too much cannabis, the amount required to die from it, was more than 1,600 pounds in 15 minutes, which he declared to be beyond the capabilities of even Snoop Dogg. It is, however, certainly doable to experience unpleasant effects after taking cannabis, including anxiety attacks, hallucinations, increased symptoms of schizophrenia, lower blood sugar (Hey, let’s use it for diabetes!), nausea, poor memory, raised blood pressure and shivering. Cannabis definitely makes the heart beat faster, raising the risk of a heart attack fivefold, although how this happens remains unknown. Recent research suggests excessive cannabis use lowers the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, possibly causing problems with attention and problem-solving. Although this would also reduce your sex drive, and that doesn’t seem to happen.

How to know there’s a problem

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible of mental health, lists various actions that demonstrate that you’re using too much cannabis.

One is that much time is devoted to obtaining and using the drug and recovering from its effects.

Another is that you crave the drug.

A biggie is failing to achieve major obligations at work, school or home. This includes having interpersonal problems or reducing key occupational, recreational or social activities as a result of usage. A related one is continuing to take cannabis despite knowing the physical or psychological problems it causes.

One more is putting yourself in physically hazardous situations and endangering yourself or others, since cannabis doubtless impairs your judgement.

There’s a problem if you find yourself needing to take more cannabis to get yourself stoned.

So now you know.