As Australian doctors begin to prescribe medicinal cannabis through the access pathways approved by Australian authorities, it is important to understand side effects and risk of overdose.
Medicinal cannabis is well tolerated by the majority of patients, however, like all medications, it can sometimes result in unwanted side effects. Adverse events reported in most medicinal cannabis clinical trials are mild to moderate and serious adverse reactions are very rare. Fortunately, in the event that a side effect does occur, cessation of treatment or lowering of the dose is usually a sufficient response. Additional treatment of a side effect is not normally necessary.
Side effects can include (1):
- difficulty concentrating,
- loss of balance
- memory loss
- GI effects such as nausea or diarrhoea
- dry mouth
- anxiety (THC formulations)
- psychosis (THC formulations)
If the patient follows medical advice and starts on a low dose (< 5mg) and slowly titrates up to a therapeutically effective dose then the chance of developing an unwanted side effect is greatly reduced.
Can you over-dose on marijuana?
There is no record of cannabis-induced fatality in humans. Enormous doses of THC and concentrated marijuana extract have been tested in animals and have failed to produce death in large mammals such as the dog or monkey (3).
Although rare, it is possible for people to over consume marijuana. Unlike an over-dose on other drugs however, it is not the consumption of the cannabis itself that is dangerous but the intoxicated state it produces. A person who has consumed too much cannabis may be unaware of their surroundings which in turn may increase the risk of accident and death. Symptoms of marijuana over dose can include, hallucinations, mental confusion, panic attack, increased heart rate and paranoia. These symptoms are temporary and should wear off within 24 hours.
- American Cancer Society. (2015). Marijuana and cancer.