Recreational marijuana is now legal in 18 states across the country and medical marijuana is legal in several more. If you live in one of the states, living with legal pot can take some getting used to. You may be tempted to try marijuana for the first time, or the first time in decades, now that you don’t have to worry about getting handcuffed or winding up on the nightly news. You have a career to worry about after all.
Edibles have also become extremely common over the past few years. You or someone you know can easily take a bite of the wrong chocolate bar by mistake, sending them into an all-out panic attack. The CDC notes that edibles come with a greater risk of poisoning compared to smoking weed. Poison control centers received 554 calls about children accidentally ingesting THC edibles in 2020 alone. When people get too high or ingest marijuana by mistake, they may get paranoid and their heart rate will likely increase.
So, we asked several medical professionals what to do in this situation. Should you go to the emergency room or just wait for the high to pass? Here’s what they said:
What to Do If You Accidentally Get Too High?
It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for edibles to take effect. The side-effects of ingesting too much weed include:
- extreme confusion
- fast heart rate
- delusions or hallucinations
- increased blood pressure
- severe nausea or vomiting
Ingesting too much weed can also lead to accidental injury or death if the person is driving, walking in a dangerous area, or operating heavy machinery.
Experts say the high will eventually wear off. Your heart rate should return to normal after several hours.
The side-effects can be more severe in children and older adults, especially those with respiratory or cardiac chronic conditions. This can lead to a lot of visits to the ER.
“Every ER chart I saw sounded the same,” said Larry Bedard, a retired emergency medicine physician at Marin General Hospital in California and the former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Dad had finally agreed to share a joint with his son. Fifteen minutes later he’d say, ‘My chest feels tight, I feel lightheaded, maybe I’m having a heart attack, call 911.'”
But the hospital may not be able to do much for the person except give them a safe space to wait it out. In some cases, the patient may receive benzodiazepines to help them relax, but there is no drug to make someone un-high.
Anxiety can intensify symptoms as well, but it’s usually best to keep calm.
“Reassurance and observation,” Bedard said. “Someone with vomiting may need an IV due to fluid loss, but not more than that.”
Going to the ER can often result in an expensive bill, so it may be better to stay home unless someone is having trouble breathing.
Of all the patients hospitalized for ingesting marijuana that Bedard has treated, “not a single patient needed to be hospitalized.”
Peter Grinspoon, a primary care doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, says going to the hospital can actually make symptoms worse.
“The ER is busy and stressful. It’s not a great place for dealing with anxiety effects of marijuana,” Grinspoon says. “If you’re having anxiety, the best thing to do is remind yourself that it’s not going to kill you, then find a quiet place, hold the hand of a close friend, and listen to some calming music.”
There is some evidence to suggest that taking a hot bath can help relieve the symptoms of marijuana, but the only real “cure” is to quit weed altogether.
What About Children that Accidentally Ingest Marijuana?
The CDC says that marijuana can make small children very ill. They may have balance or coordination issues and have trouble sleeping or breathing. Children are also more likely to require hospitalization if they ingest marijuana considering their small weight and size.
Be sure to check the label on gummies and other snacks before consuming them to avoid accidentally ingesting marijuana. If you attend a party at a friend’s house that likes to smoke weed, ask them if any of the food contains weed. Keep edibles out of reach from children to prevent poisoning.
If you or someone you know is showing signs that might suggest they have used too much marijuana, call poison control center at: at 1-800-222-1222. In case of emergency, call 9-1-1.