Emergency room doctors in states where marijuana is legalized–either for medical or recreational use–are reporting a slight incline in patients where marijuana-related anxiety is the chief complaint. But as Dr. Larry Bedard, the former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians importantly noted, “The most common reason someone goes to the ER for a marijuana reaction is anxiety,” which is nothing too serious, especially in comparison to side effects caused by other legal and illegal substances. Nobody has ever overdosed or died from marijuana use alone, a fact the federal government confirms.
Dr. Bedard said, in a phone interview with The Cannabist, “Part of an anxiety reaction is you have an impending sense of doom. So a lot of people come in [to the hospital] thinking they’re dying, when they’re actually having a panic attack. That’s very common. If you’re smoking a joint and suddenly you can’t breathe and your chest feels tight and you start to get numb and tingly, you start to think you’ve been poisoned.”
The doctor recommends time, water consumption and practice taking calms breaths if anxiety forms from marijuana use. If a patient is experiencing extreme anxiety and does not have alcohol in their system, a sedative is sometimes administered to speed the relief from anxiety.
Writer for The New York Times, Maureen Down, noted an unpleasant experience following the consumption of a marijuana-infused edible: “The fact that I was not a regular marijuana smoker made me more vulnerable, and I should have known better.”
When asked about marijuana-related deaths, the physicians noted that no deaths are reported solely from marijuana consumption.