Learn / Can Weed Kill You?

Can Weed Kill You?

Hannah Friedman
 June 13th, 2023|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Dr. Malasri Chaudhery-Malgeri, Ph.D.

Key Points

  • Marijuana is not deadly, but it can pose significant health risks.
  • Marijuana use can be addictive; risk of addiction increases with the amount of THC.
  • Professional support is available for those concerned about their marijuana use.

Many drugs can be dangerous—but can weed kill you?

While there aren’t records of deaths as a direct result of cannabis, smoking weed still has significant risks that shouldn’t be ignored.

Marijuana is growing more and more socially acceptable. It seems like more states legalize cannabis in the U.S. every year. With such an abundance of legal weed, it makes sense to wonder about its safety.

Many people think marijuana is harmless. Understanding more about marijuana can empower you to decide if using it is in your best interest.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

You’ve likely heard the term “gateway drug” used to describe marijuana. Some studies support this idea, while others dispute it. Data shows marijuana use typically comes before other drug use.1 Still, most people who use marijuana do not go on to try other substances. 

There are a few factors at work here. Your family history, mental health, and social life can play a role in marijuana use.2 Some people use weed with trusted friends as a way of connecting more deeply. Others smoke because of peer pressure, or to improve their social status. This is often an issue for teens. Research shows that using marijuana as an adolescent3 can increase the risk of addiction as a young adult. 

Is Marijuana Addictive?

It’s all too easy to overlook the risks of marijuana, partly because of its medicinal benefits. We still need more research on questions like, “Is marijuana deadly?” But so far, we do know that marijuana can be addictive.4 

Several factors can make this condition more likely. For example, new research suggests that marijuana addiction might be genetic.5 Dr. Arpana Agrawal, professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says that public perception could be a barrier to treatment:

Although many consider marijuana to be less addictive than other drugs, our findings clearly confirm that people can become dependent on cannabis and that cannabis use disorder has genetic and biological underpinnings.”

The amount of THC you consume6 also plays into whether marijuana is addictive. THC is just one of many cannabinoids in marijuana. And manufacturers are putting out new cannabis products at a dizzying speed. Many of these have high levels of THC and other cannabinoids—including synthetic ones. When you regularly ingest high levels of any cannabinoid, your risk of addiction goes up.

Other factors can influence the likelihood of marijuana addiction:

  • The perception of marijuana as a low-risk substance
  • Media and social media influence
  • Peer influence and acceptance
  • Someone’s general tendency toward risk-taking behavior (teens, for example, might be more inclined to take risks)

Potential Risks of Smoking Marijuana

Marijuana has wide-ranging benefits,7 from chronic pain management to aiding digestion. But like any substance, it has the potential for abuse. To keep yourself safe, it’s vital to understand the potential risks of smoking marijuana:8

  • Learning and memory problems: Regular marijuana use affects your memory, impulse control, and ability to learn.
  • Chronic cough: Smoking cannabis, cigarettes, or anything else can cause inflammation in your lungs. If you know someone who smokes marijuana often, you might notice they have a cough that just won’t go away. 
  • Frequent respiratory infections: Harmful toxins go into your lungs when you smoke.9 Over time, this can lead to serious health problems like lung damage and chronic bronchitis.
  • Mental health issues:10 Research suggests a link between heavy marijuana use and depression, anxiety, and temporary psychosis.

If you’re using marijuana for medical purposes like pain management, doing so as prescribed in a controlled manner can help you avoid abuse. 

Explore Marijuana Treatment Centers

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

Yes, it’s possible to overdose on weed. But not all overdoses are fatal. In fact, experts say that both overdose and death from cannabis are very unlikely. To date, there’s no record of a person dying directly from marijuana use.11 

However, marijuana use has been linked to health risks and negative outcomes—like cardiovascular disease,12 lung cancer, traffic fatalities, and severe intoxication—that can lead to death.

Overdosing on marijuana13 can also have intense short-term effects that shouldn’t be overlooked:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Panic
  • Depression
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Fear of dying

If you have a co-occurring mental health condition, overdosing on marijuana can exacerbate its symptoms. For example, people with schizophrenia may experience psychosis. 

These issues are especially common with certain forms of cannabis. In particular, weed edibles often lead to overdose.14 Unlike smoked products, edibles have to go through your digestive system before they kick in. People often take too much because they don’t feel the effects of the THC right away.

Know When to Get Help for Drug Abuse

It’s easy to feel like marijuana addiction isn’t that serious. But it’s worth getting to the root of anything that makes you feel out of control. If you’re considering rehab, being honest with yourself is the first step. You might start by answering the question: Do you think cannabis is making your life better or worse?

The National Institute of Health defines addiction15 as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.” In other words, if a drug is hurting you, but you keep using it anyway, you might need treatment. If marijuana helps you manage chronic pain and has no negative effects on your relationships, it might not be an issue. But if you regularly skip work to stay home and smoke weed, it’s probably time to ask for help. 

Only a mental health professional can diagnose you with addiction. If you’re asking the question, it’s probably time to get an expert opinion. You can also call a confidential drug addiction helpline to learn more about recovery and plan what to do next.

If you decide to start treatment, your care team might recommend various types of therapy for marijuana abuse.16 There are countless ways to approach healing, but a few treatments are especially helpful for treating this addiction:

Browse our list of marijuana rehabs and learn more about available treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana Use

Are there any deadly risks associated with smoking weed?

While weed itself isn’t considered lethal, there are potential negative outcomes associated with its use. These include increased risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, traffic accidents, and severe intoxication that can lead to dangerous situations. It’s crucial to be aware of these risks and use marijuana responsibly to minimize potential harm.

Can marijuana kill you?

There’s no record of a person dying directly from marijuana use. But marijuana can impair functioning and lead to traffic fatalities, as well as other health risks that can ultimately be fatal.

Can marijuana use lead to addiction?

Yes, marijuana can be addictive. Factors like genetics, high levels of THC consumption, and public perception can contribute to marijuana addiction. It’s important to recognize the potential risks and consider seeking treatment if you feel marijuana is negatively impacting your life.

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