An American coroner is standing by his report that a 39-year-old woman died because of a THC overdose – despite experts saying it’s impossible.
If it’s true, this could be the first confirmed case of death by THC overdose.
Coroner Dr Christy Montegut, from Louisiana in the United States, said there was no other possible cause of death that he could find in the autopsy of the unnamed woman, who died in February this year after vaping THC oil.
“It looked like it was all THC because her autopsy showed no physical disease or afflictions that were the cause of death,” Dr Montegut told the New Orleans Advocate newspaper. “There was nothing else identified in the toxicology – no other drugs, no alcohol. There was nothing else.”
Montegut has been a coroner since 1988. He said this could be a case for the medical record books, because THC has never been listed as a sole cause of death before.
“I’m thinking this lady must have vaped this THC oil and got a high level in her system and (it) made her stop breathing, like a respiratory failure,” he said.
According to a toxicology report, the woman had 8.4 nanograms per millilitre of blood. Montegut said it probably came from vaping high concentration THC oil.
However, scientists and policy-makers alike are calling bull on the idea that THC could have killed her.
In the past, it has been estimated that you’d need to smoke more than 20 000 joints to reach even a potentially toxic THC level.
Addiction scientist Professor Bernard Le Foll at the University of Toronto estimates that a lethal dose would probably be between 100 and 1000 times higher than the level that was measured in this woman’s blood.
Just 8.4 nanograms should not have killed her.
“That number is not very high,” Le Foll said.
If cannabis really was toxic, we would know it by now, said Keith Humphreys who is a former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“We know from really good survey data that Americans use cannabis products billions of times a year, collectively. Not millions of times, but billions of times a year,” said Humphreys. “So, that means that if the risk of death was one in a million, we would have a couple thousand cannabis overdose deaths a year.”
Zootly says: You probably shouldn’t smoke 20 000 joints in a day. But short of that, there’s no evidence that THC can kill you in normally consumed amounts. Puff and pass!