In light of the recent news of the unfortunate drug overdose of popular recording artist, Demi Lovato, questions have once again risen over drug abuse and overdoses in our younger populations.
Just to recap, Lovato is an American singer, songwriter, and actress who became an overnight sensation at a young age, in part due to her role on the Disney channel. She is no stranger to addiction and sobriety, as she has been vocal about her struggles with mental illness and a stint in rehab for alcohol and cocaine use.
She recalled how she used to self-medicate with alcohol, cocaine, and oxycontin.
“I lived fast and I was going to die young,” Lovato said in an interview with American Way in 2016. “I didn’t think I would make it to 21.”
After many relapses, she decided to clean up her life and declared herself clean and sober in 2013. She stated that she wanted to strive to be a role model for her fans.
This past week, however, after 5 years of sobriety, it was reported that Lovato had suffered an apparent overdose and was found unconscious in her L.A. home. She was rushed to a local hospital where she will be kept until discharge. It is unclear as to which drug she used.
Many of her fans, as well as Hollywood patrons, have publicly issued support for the singer, offering her well wishes for a speedy recovery from her struggles and addiction.
Can cannabis be fatal?
This news has once again sparked a conversation about drug abuse and overdoses in our younger populations. One of the drugs that garner much criticism is cannabis, but does this drug actually cause overdoses? Can it help with the multitude of overdoses that we see in young people?
Cannabis can cause an overdose, however, the amount needed to cause a fatal overdose is no way near the amount an average user consumes on a daily basis. It can, however, prove to be lethal for young children, as seen in the case of an 11-month-old baby in Colorado in 2015, whose heart muscles were damaged after ingestion of cannabis.
Even then the doctors on the case don’t go as far as to say cannabis caused the boy’s death. Only that a link between cannabis and myocytes need to be further examined.
But in many cases, cannabis overdose only elicits unpleasant symptoms like increased heart rate, hallucinations, mental confusion, panic attacks, and extreme paranoia, to name a few, and these symptoms can evoke a visit to the emergency room. Problems may arise, though, if the cannabis is laced with other drugs, which can be life-threatening.
The reason why cannabis does not cause overdoses is because its CB1 and CB2 receptors are not found in the brainstem. Due to this reason, it does not affect the normal functions of the brain which regulates breathing, or other functions.
But other drugs like fentanyl and cocaine are absorbed in the brainstem which also houses the area where respiration is regulated, so users can essentially fail to breathe due to this.
How effective is cannabis in other overdoses?
Cannabis has been used to help with the opioid crisis, which has lead many patients and users to overdose. When physicians prescribe cannabis over opioids, patients can get the relief they require without having to deal with a potential addiction to these drugs.
Usage of opioids can also lead to the harsh use of other drugs like heroin and cocaine, as many patients have previously reported.
Advocates and critics alike, have to acknowledge that cannabis, when used correctly and in moderation, does have benefits. While it is lauded for its many medical benefits, its benefits for deterring patients from overdosing on a multitude of other drugs need to be recognized.
The news about Demi Lovato, although a sad one, reminds us once more to take a deeper look at drugs and to identify which ones can truly harm our younger populations, and which ones can help. For friends and relatives of someone suffering from addiction and relapse, experts advise to talk to them and to listen to their story. That may be all they need to seek they help they need to get back on track to recovery.