Overdose on heroin? You might die. Overdose on cocaine? You also might die. Alcohol? The same.
But marijuana? You won’t die. But you might say some mean things to your cat.
That last bit comes from a story from the Omaha World-Herald, seriously headlined, "Omaha dad finds pot brownies, eats 4 of them, says mean things to cat."
Kevin Cole reported for the Nebraska newspaper that the 53-year-old father had eaten four of his adult children’s pot brownies, which were stashed away in the backseat of a car. His wife called 911 after he said he had "bad anxiety." Then this happened:
Paramedics called to the scene who checked the man found his vital signs to be normal. But they noted he was displaying odd behavior — crawling around on the floor, randomly using profanities and calling the family cat a "bitch."
The man told paramedics he felt like "he’s trippin’." He declined their offer to be taken to the hospital.
The paramedics helped the man to his bedroom and he got into bed. The man and his wife were told to call 911 again if his situation worsened.
This is the typical marijuana overdose. Some strange behavior, and some anxiety, but ultimately something that can be resolved by simply laying in bed and sleeping it off. (This is also a lesson in why you should take it slowly with marijuana edibles — they take time to kick in, and can have a deceptively strong effect, so give it 30 minutes to an hour or more between treats instead of going all in.)
This isn’t to downplay some of the risks to marijuana. Some people have done really bad things on the drug — including trying to drive and getting in a deadly car crash. And some people can experience psychotic episodes, or they might overuse the drug and become dependent on it — to the detriment of their schoolwork, career, or social life.
But most people who try marijuana will be fine. If they overdose, they’ll likely have an experience similar to this poor 53-year-old dad, and maybe traumatize a cat along the way. But they wouldn’t die from an overdose — it’s just not possible.
Compare that to tobacco, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links to 480,000 deaths each year. Or alcohol, which the CDC links to 88,000 deaths each year. Or opioid painkillers and heroin, which were linked to nearly 29,000 drug overdose deaths in 2014.
The total number of marijuana overdose deaths, meanwhile, is zero. There are likely some deaths from pot-related accidents, but the CDC doesn’t track such deaths — although studies have found marijuana is much less likely to cause a fatal car crash than other drugs, particularly alcohol.
Yet marijuana is illegal at the federal level, while some of these other drugs aren’t — and one (opioid painkillers) is actually distributed by doctors. It’s a very strange place for drug policy to be at, even if there are legitimate arguments for keeping pot illegal. And it helps explain why most Americans now think that marijuana should be legal.