THC toxicity

Chuck Miller rellim at tulane.edu
Wed Feb 12 14:58:43 EST 2003

There is not much literature on this subject in Medline. Here are a couple
of abstracts which suggest that it may be difficult to produce a lethal
effect with THC, at least if smoked or ingested as marijuana.


Chuck Miller

Dr. Charles Miller
Associate Professor
Environmental Health Sciences Dept.
Tulane University Health Sciences Center
New Orleans, LA 70112
504-585-6942, rellim at tulane.edu

Pharmacol Rev 1986 Jun;38(2):151-78
Cannabinoid pharmacology.
Dewey WL.
The pharmacology of the cannabinoids is characterized by at least two very
provocative phenomena. First, the multiplicity of effects. As I have
mentioned throughout this review, most of these effects are due to actions
on the central nervous system. The major problem in the search for a
therapeutic agent in this series has been due to the inability to find a
cannabinoid with the therapeutic action at doses below those that produce
side effects. The high lipid solubility of the cannabinoids allows them to
be distributed throughout the brain at reasonable doses. The second aspect
of their pharmacology worthy of special mention is their low toxicity.
Throughout this review, I have indicated that the minimal effective dose of
delta 9-THC for a particular pharmacological effect in animals was higher
than that usually consumed by man. Yet, in almost all cases, it was much
lower than the dose which produced toxic effects in the same species. These
two characteristics of the animal pharmacology of cannabinoids carry over to
humans. For instance, each of the cannabinoids tested in man causes many
side effects at active doses and lethal effects of overdose by humans are
nonexistent or rare. Toxicity following chronic use may be a different
issue. A great deal of work has been carried out in an attempt to
characterize the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids. It is clear from
the material reviewed in this article that most if not all of the
predominant effects of cannabinoids in whole animals are due to the direct
effects of these compounds on the central nervous system. Our state of
knowledge is too limited to rule out the possibility that they also produce
effects on certain peripheral organs. It is expected that the majority of
these effects will be shown to be due to the interaction of the cannabinoids
with the neuronal innervation of the organ rather than directly with the
organ tissue itself. Very high doses of cannabinoids just like all active
drugs have an effect on many organ systems. These are toxicologic not
pharmacologic and are nonspecific. The effects of cannabinoids at the
molecular level have been reviewed by Martin (182a) in this series. This
type of research is expected to elucidate the mechanism of action of
cannabinoids at the cellular level. It is clear that the cannabinoids
produce a unique behavioral syndrome in laboratory animals and in
Publication Types: 
*    Review
PMID: 3529128 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Gastroenterology 1979 Jan;76(1):166-9
Ingested marihuana-filled balloons.
Dassel PM, Punjabi E.
Three cases of ingestion of balloons containing marihuana are reported. In 2
patients, balloons caused intestinal obstruction. In another patient, there
were symptoms of drug overdose when the contents of the balloon spilled into
the intestinal tract. Pure marihuana in the gastrointestinal tract has not
been reported to cause death by intoxication; however, it may be mixed with
more potent substances, especially cocaine. The ingested drug or drugs
should be identified as soon as possible to avoid lethal intoxication if a
balloon ruptures. A balloon containing drugs will usually pass spontaneously
through an uncompromised gastrointestinal tract. Nonoperative management
seems appropriate if the substance has been determined to be only marihuana.
PMID: 758138 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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