One thing that cannabis supporters have always touted is that no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose. How much cannabis it takes to overdose has been debated for a long time, with at least one report stating that a person would have to ingest fifteen hundred pounds of cannabis in fifteen minutes to die – an impossible human feat. A number of other substances that are legal require a much smaller dose to result in death.
News broke this week that researchers have found the first known case of a fatal marijuana overdose. The case involved the death of an 11-month old boy in 2015, which to be very clear, is a tragedy. Unfortunately the boy’s death has become politicized after media reports made the claim that the boy died because of cannabis ingestion. It is a fact that the boy had cannabis in his system at the time of his death, which was noted in the researcher’s report. But was the death caused by cannabis? The claim of a deadly marijuana overdose has one really big caveat – the original researchers did not state that the boy died from marijuana, and are now pushing back on the media claims. Per excerpts form an article by the Washington Post:
A case report about the seizure and death of an 11-month old after exposure to cannabis has prompted headlines about “the first marijuana overdose death” this week. Except that’s not what the doctors meant.
“We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child,” said Thomas Nappe, an author of the report who is now the director of medical toxicology at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pa.
The authors added that,” As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure.” Nappe emphasized that the word “associated” should not be interpreted as indicating a cause and effect.
Again, the death of this 11 month old boy is terrible. But also terrible is the sensationalizing of the death in media reports via the claim that the death was caused by cannabis ingestion. I am not a doctor, but plenty of doctors are weighing in on the recent media claims, and there seems to be a strong conclusion that the cause of death is ‘myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.’
To be fair, studies have shown that cannabis consumption can accelerate the heart, but so can other factors. To automatically jump to the conclusion that cannabis resulted in this boy’s death is irresponsible, and takes away from the real conversation that should be going on – keeping cannabis away from kids. A point that the researchers were trying to hammer home in their report was for parents to be responsible with cannabis, but that is a point that has largely been lost because of mainstream media jumping to the wrong conclusion. Hopefully this is a situation that is discussed in a rational way moving forward, although I suspect cannabis opponents will try to use the false claim of a fatal cannabis overdose to fit their ongoing anti-cannabis rhetoric, which would be really sad if that’s the case.