Busting the Overdose Myth

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Busting the Overdose Myth By Dr. Frank - Special To Cannabis Culture

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about cannabis “overdoses” at public events like 420. This language, particularly as we face a continent wide opioid crisis, is entirely irresponsible. An overdose, is serious and tragic. People die from overdoses. And while, “greening out” can be a very unpleasant consequence of over-consumption, nobody dies from cannabis use. In fact, to quote Judge Francis L. Young’s 1988 report:

“At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”

Judge Young would go on to say:

“In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.”

For a more updated look, this article by Professor Gaber looks at drug toxicity, with cannabis coming in near the bottom. The following graph illustrates this quite well:

From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Drug_danger_and_dependence.svg

So, why is deadly cannabis “overdose” more theory than reality? We went over this last week when assessing Dr. Chris Wilkes’ claims, but to reiterate … Cannabinoids are allosteric modulators that act on the G-coupled protein receptors (GPCRs), cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). These receptors have not faced the same evolutionary pressure to produce a specific endogenous ligand, meaning that the chances of deadly overdose from cannabinoids are less likely to occur. To quote ‘Drug Design Strategies for GPCR Allosteric Modulators’:

“Recently, a new “wave” of drug discovery research has emerged to fill this gap, purposely aiming to modulate target receptors by the use of allosteric ligands, which interact with the receptor at a binding site topographically distinct from the endogenous ligand. By binding at this new receptor region, challenging chemical space may be avoided. Moreover, enhanced subtype selectivity profiles may be obtained compared with that of an orthosteric agent binding to a highly conserved site, potentially leading to improved safety and pharmacology profiles. Furthermore, the lack of desensitization arising from receptor overstimulation under constant exposure to an agonist, and preservation of the temporal and local patterns of physiological activity of the endogenous ligand are additional appealing attributes of allosteric modulators.”

Read the full article here.

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