After ingesting some cannabis infused homemade brownies, you start getting the giggles. Everything wrong that has happened to you in the last few months rolls off your shoulders like a hot shower. You’re ready to conquer the world. Several minutes later you feel like a hot lava cube is spreading through your nervous system causing pain and euphoria. Your heart starts racing. You think you are having a heart attack. In seconds you went from King of the Galaxy to a paranoid idiot facing death. You cannot speak but you can hear. Finally, your cotton mouth moves with the sound of “help” and 911 is called.

A senior goes to a dispensary and asks for something to help his knee pain. The dispensary sells him a tincture. The senior comes back to the dispensary two days later. Tells the budtender the cannabis did nothing. Another product is purchased. Within 30 minutes of ingesting the cannabis the scenario with the brownie lady is repeated. Due to poor eyesight the inability of budtenders in dispensaries to educate or just plain misunderstandings seniors can get a scare of their lives and never want to try medical cannabis again.

These scenarios are all too prevalent to paramedics now that recreational marijuana is legal is 9 States and medically legal in 30 States. In Canada the ER visits for “green out” what they call cannabis overconsumption, has tripled. In Denver Dr. Eric Lavonas, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at Denver Health Medical Center, states they see three or four a week. Cannabis today is cultivated to produce high potency -9-tetrahydrocannabinoi or THC.


When people smoke marijuana, the user has more control, taking tokes at will and stopping before the paralyzing high. With edibles the experience can last 30 minutes to two hours. While the incidence with adults is very low the incidence for children and teens increased four-fold between 2009-2015 in Colorado when recreational cannabis became legal. Parents who use cannabis need to treat cannabis the same way they treat alcohol, medications, opioids, and household cleaning chemicals.

First aid from paramedics includes hydration, calm reassurance that the effects will wear off with time occasional anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medications intravenously. The antidote at home for overconsumption of THC is cannabidiol or CBD. CBD is non-psychoactive. Taking a 5-10 mg of CBD without THC every hour will speed up the reversal of symptoms. CBD unlocks the THC from the receptors and mitigates the side effects. Drink lots of water, the juice of a lemon, and/or pepper corns which has the chemical beta-carotene that counter acts the high. (not ground pepper) All these measures help hasten the recovery.

THC is stored in fat and controls temperature. As the THC is released in large amounts due to these first aide steps, there may be a surge in the body’s temperature. This is not the return of the high just the body’s endocannabinoid system restoring balance. So far, most adults do not need hospital admission.

Everyone’s metabolism is different. The dose that gives you a “high” may be like eating candy for someone else. We all make mistakes with medications and edibles. Ever eat food left out of the refrigerator and get diarrhea? Ever misread the directions on a medication label and take the medicine daily instead of three times a week. We are all human. What saves us is good quick “first aide.”

If someone brings you a bag of pretzels from a dispensary and you eat the whole bag cause it tastes so yummy do not panic. At the first signs of a “high” chew some pepper corns, drink 8-12 ounces of water, and tell someone in the house to get CBD. Most dispensaries have long business hours. Stay calm and take a CBD tincture under the tongue. Time is your best antidote. Cannabis is not lethal. There are no receptors for THC in the brain stem which controls breathing. Lastly become educated by a cannabis nurse navigator who will point you to safe medicinal cannabis.  

Ruth Hill RN is retired hospice nurse. Visit for more information.