Heart / Lung Urban Health

It’s 4/20 time: here are tips to stay safe

Past 4/20 event
Photo: Daily Hive

The annual 4/20 cannabis event takes place Saturday at Sunset Beach, where tens of thousands of people will converge to consume the now-legal drug.

This year, the event occurs on a long weekend and will boast a free concert. Those factors have prompted concern that crowds might be larger than usual, with more underage people and first-timers attending.

To ensure people enjoy a safe experience, St. Paul’s Hospital Emergency Department doctor and toxicologist Dr. Chris DeWitt offers the following tips:

  1. Use responsibly, legally, and don’t overdo it, especially with edibles.
  2. Don’t mix cannabis with other drugs, alcohol or prescription medications.
  3. If you’re worried that someone has overdosed or is having an unexpected reaction, including difficulty breathing or swallowing, then call 9-1-1 immediately.
  4. People can also have medical conditions that occur at the gathering that are not related to cannabis use, such as seizures connected to an existing seizure disorder. They need medical attention too. Don’t assume that every adverse reaction at the event is due to cannabis.

Cannabis edibles poses higher risks of overdose

Pot brownies are just one kind of cannabis edible that may be found at 4/20 events.

People typically run into problems with cannabis when it is ingested, as opposed to smoked, in a joint, bong, or vaped. This is because you can generally eat more cannabis than you can smoke.

While the effects of cannabis smoking are felt almost immediately, it can take 30 minutes to two hours for peak effects of ingested cannabis to occur.

Frequently people ingest cannabis and expect to feel effects quickly. However, the full impact can be delayed up to two hours. During that window, people may ingest more cannabis, assuming they didn’t take a big enough dose because they don’t feel as “high” as expected. Then they run into problems. They essentially double dosed. Imagine if you unwittingly  double dosed the alcohol by mistake. 

Double doses of cannabis can lead to unpleasant symptoms of anxiety, weakness, nausea, or paranoia. People suffering these often need a period medical supervision (typically in an Emergency Department) until symptoms have subsided.

What’s more, since edibles aren’t yet legal in Canada, there’s no way to know that the dose on the label of edible products equates to the actual dose of the product.  

The bottom line

At 4/20 and any other time, in fact, use with care, don’t mix with other drugs, alcohol or prescription medications, and be careful with dosing edibles. 

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