Help! I Ate Too Many Edibles! I Think I’m Dying!

This is the post excerpt.

Glad you found this. Before you go any further:

CALM DOWN! YOU ARE NOT DYING! THIS WILL NOT KILL YOU!…

Now, then.

Hi. I’m writing this blog entry–indeed, I created this sole blog entry–to deal with one thing: marijuana freak outs. As a recent resident at a northeastern Colorado emergency room, I dealt with several such “freak outs” in my two years there. Most of these incidents could have been managed at home or someplace else without the embarrassment of a hospital visit or, in some cases, having to ride in a police car and ending up released into police custody on charges of public intoxication or criminal mischief.

In most cases, people began to calm down just by being given the medical facts:

  1. Let’s get this out of the way first. There is no identified “fatal dose” of natural THC–If you bought whatever you ate in a dispensary in Colorado or Oregon, the THC is not a chemical or synthetic analog; it’s plant-derived. This is state law in both places. Why does this matter? Because medical science has yet to discover a case where someone without a SEVERE underlying illness managed to kill themselves with marijuana or plant-derived THC, and even then, THC was never the sole cause of death. There have been some isolated cases of people with chronic heart disease or hypertension ending up hospitalized, but the cases I read made it clear: these people used a LOT of marijuana and were also exerting themselves in other ways (dancing, exercising). Had they just sat down and breathed and relaxed and waited, they would have probably been fine.

In other words, unless you’ve eaten 300 milligrams AND have a heart like a 100-year-old chain smoker, relax. You’ll be fine. YOU WILL BE FINE.

NOTE: IF you have taken something ELSE with the THC product–something like Ecstasy or amphetamines–you should call sooner rather than later and be honest about what is going on. But if you’re just using a cannabis product, I can practically guarantee that you have nothing to worry about. 

2. But my heart! It’s POUNDING! It’s RACING! I CAN’T BREATHE! AHHHH!–No. It really isn’t happening the way you think. What you’re experiencing is a sharp shift in sensory perception brought about–this is my theory–by stimulation of the vagus nerve caused by THC. You can more acutely feel your thoracic organs (the organs in your chest) and their operation because of the  drug. Your heart always feels that way; you just don’t notice it when you’re sober. Yes, THC CAN cause a slight speeding of the heart rate and a slight increase in blood pressure during the acute intoxication phase, but only about as much as a strong espresso, which coffee drinkers usually don’t even notice.

The anxiety that has you Googling “THC overdose” or “I ate too many edibles” or “marijuana overdose” is most likely related to sharp, sudden chemical changes in your amygdala, the part of the brain that handles fear, panic…and learning. One theory is that cannabinoids in the marijuana you ate or smoked are triggering similar chemical pathways as more primal threats do, causing anxiety and an urge to spot danger. Just remember: what you are feeling is not from a real threat. It’s a side effect of a relatively benign drug. YOU WILL BE FINE.

What USUALLY happens is that a generally anxious person ingests or smokes a THC-containing product and feels the weird effects. The effects increase anxiety, which increases effects further, which increases anxiety further. It’s a feedback loop that builds. But, once again, it’s all in your head. YOU WILL BE FINE. YOU ARE NOT IN REAL DANGER.

Common symptoms of having consumed too much THC:

  • Racing, paranoid thoughts, complete with visions of people badmouthing you or plotting against you. (Nobody is. You’re just stoned.)
  • The feeling that your heart is pounding or going way too fast or that you can’t take a decent breath
  • Chills, shivering, trembling, feeling cold
  • Patterns and bizarre images and scenes when you close your eyes
  • Hallucinations of things melting, moving, glowing or pulsating
  • The feeling that time…is…slowing…way…..down.

These are all normal symptoms of THC intoxication, and will pass as the drug works it way out of your system.

3. So how do I calm down?–If you were to go to an emergency room, they’d probably give you a sedative like injectable Ativan or Xanax. They work pretty quickly and very well, but they are, from what I’ve seen, usually overkill. Most patients begin to improve within two hours and ALL begin to improve within four hours with no pharmaceutical intervention at all, aside from cups of water for dry mouth. But if you feel very uncomfortable and you need faster relief, here are some things you might try:

(NOTE: Don’t do all of these at once! Just try one at a time!)

  • Have some sugar–THC can crash blood sugar, which can contribute to anxiety. Orange juice is a good start. Drink up.
  • Have a beer–Don’t overdo it. Just sip a beer or two and breathe normally. You should feel your anxiety start to ease off pretty quickly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that hoppier beers like Samuel Adams work best.
  • Kava kava–Kava kava has strong anxiety-reducing properties, and some studies suggest kava can be as effective as benzodiazapines like Ativan. Drink some kava or take a kava capsule, if one is available. You should begin to feel a noticeable difference shortly.
  • Benadryl–The same drug that desperate parents use to calm screaming two-year-olds on plane trips may help you. Take a normal dose–get help if you can–and wait about ten minutes.
  • Sleepytime Tea–Herbal teas with chamomile are very soothing for some people, and some who suffer from generalized anxiety swear by them. Some bedtime tea may help calm you down and take the edge off. Get HELP using the stove.
  • Take a warm (not hot) shower or bath–The human body is conditioned to find blood-temperature water soothing. Let the water wash your tension away.
  • Have an orgasm–Not to be scandalous, but it may take your mind off of your situation and the flood of endorphins and oxytocin that accompanies sexual orgasm should calm you down, if it doesn’t completely put you to sleep.

4. Oh, man! I am still freaking out!–Okay. Your last effort before you give in and seek medical help should be this: lay down. Just LAY DOWN and be still. Get away from crowds and noise, set an alarm for 1 hour, turn down the lights, get cozy and comfortable and relax in bed. Breathe deep and slow and RELAX. If you are having an anxiety attack related to THC intoxication, your mind will be racing and you will be thinking weird things and feeling generally uncomfortable. But do NOT give in and over-react before you hear that alarm. Your time perception is going to be affected by the drug, so trust the alarm to guide you through the hour. Breathe. Listen to some CALMING, peaceful music. (This is not the time for Skrillex or death metal.)  Pray or meditate if you’re religious, but just allow the quiet and dimness (not pitch darkness) to calm you. Remember: YOU WILL BE FINE.

5. None of this worked! I need to see a doctor!–An hour has gone by and you’re still freaking out. Okay. Consider giving it another hour. But that may seem unrealistic if you’re really high.

If you’re going to call 911 or go to the emergency room, here’s what you need to remember:

  • Try to tell the dispatcher and/or physicians exactly why you are calling or coming in. Be honest with them: you are having a bad reaction to a cannabis product and you want help. Tell them exactly how much you consumed, how long ago, and how you are feeling.
  • Tell them of any underlying medical or psychological issues or other medications you currently take.
  • Follow their directions. Remember, they want to HELP you. They aren’t going to use this as an opportunity to destroy your life. Give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them.

I hope this helped, and I hope you are able to manage without taking up space and time in an emergency room somewhere. If my experience means anything at all, I can tell you: YOU WILL BE FINE WITH TIME.