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Questions about edible pot reached new heights on Monday after CBC Toronto learned that two Toronto police officers had been suspended for allegedly ingesting marijuana edibles, hallucinating and calling for help while on duty. Learn why some cannabis users experience hallucinations as a side effect and how to combat side effects to get the most out of your cannabis.

Can pot cause hallucinations? Report of officers who allegedly ate edibles fuels debate

Questions about edible pot reached new heights on Monday after CBC Toronto learned that two Toronto police officers had been suspended for allegedly ingesting marijuana edibles, hallucinating and calling for help while on duty.

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2 experts share different views on whether or not pot can cause hallucinations

There has been much debate about whether pot can cause hallucination when inhaled or ingested (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Questions about edible pot were begging for answers on Monday after CBC Toronto learned that two Toronto officers were suspended after allegedly ingesting marijuana edibles, hallucinating and calling for help while on duty.

The two officers, who both work at 13 Division, were on duty not far from the station at Eglinton Avenue West and Allen Road when they allegedly ingested pot edibles late Sunday.

Police sources told CBC Toronto the officers began complaining of “hallucinations” and one made a call for an officer needing assistance. Both officers were found in a police vehicle and later treated in hospital.

That incident has fuelled debate about whether marijuana can actually cause hallucinations.

Ryan Vandrey, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, says there have been very clear demonstrations and scientific studies proving it does.

“Folks tend to be more prone to have hallucinations if they have a family history of psychosis, but there have been cases, even one recently in my laboratory, where somebody without a family history of psychosis has had hallucinations following acute dosing with cannabis,” he said.

Ryan Vandrey says there have been very clear demonstrations and scientific studies of acute dosing of cannabis causing hallucinations. (Ryan Vandrey)

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People tend to believe that edibles are more potent, says Vandrey. He argues that is a misconception.

“It comes from the fact that people have a tendency to eat more than they would smoke or vaporize,” he asserted.

The main difference is in the timing, he says.

“When you eat it, it usually takes a lot longer for the effects to have an onset and the effects last longer.”

Vandrey also said there are individual differences in both the type and magnitude of drug effects with any drug. Cannabis is no different, he says.

“You are more apt to laughter and feeling giddy; in some cases you can become anxious or paranoid. Hallucinations in particularly high doses are a possibility,” he explained.

Windsor doctor Christopher Blue is adamant that cannabis that is obtained from a source that has been inspected and approved is not a hallucinogen. (Jason Viau/CBC News)

But Christopher Blue, a Windsor, Ont., doctor, says cannabis in its raw form does not cause hallucination.

He concedes, however, that there is a possibility illegal cannabis could be laced with hallucinogens.

“They often use cutting agents in it like salvia, or K2, or spice,” which can have hallucinatory effects, often blamed on cannabis, he said.

Salvia is a psychedelic plant, while spice and K2 are synthetic cannabis compounds.

While Blue stresses that in the purest form, cannabis is not hallucinogenic, he says certain strains of cannabis can impair cognition and judgment.

CBC News has learned that Const. Vittorio Dominelli is one of two Toronto police officers suspended pending the outcome of an investigation by the force’s professional standards unit. (Toronto Police Service/Facebook)

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday, Coun. Shelley Carroll of the Toronto Police Services Board said the news of the incident involving the two officers was troubling.

“These are officers who should be trained such that they know how dangerous these things are because they do deal with people who have over-imbibed when they have a prescription for edibles,” she added.

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Carroll said the side effects that the officers experienced are the very reason why the federal government is moving in stages and hesitating to make edibles widely legal at this point, other than by strict prescription.

CBC News has learned that one of the officers under investigation is Const. Vittorio Dominelli, but has not confirmed the name of his partner.

Hallucinations

Whether you’re a caregiver or a patient, it’s essential to understand the potential side effects any medication may cause. One of the rarer but completely possible side effects of medical weed is hallucinations.

Additional Side Effects of Medical Cannabis

Like any medication your physician may prescribe, medical cannabis can cause side effects. A notable difference with medical weed, however, is that it can also trigger beneficial side effects for some patients, including an increased appetite. For patients with cancer or eating disorders, for instance, an appetite stimulant is helpful.

When you meet with your medical cannabis doctor, they’ll discuss the side effects of medical marijuana with you. If you both feel its potential benefits outweigh its side effects, your physician will issue a recommendation for medical weed.

How Does Medical Weed Cause Hallucinations?

Hallucinations from medical weed are rare. Those in the medical field, as well as researchers, believe medical weed-induced hallucinations result from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psychoactive cannabinoid. Studies have shown that when THC lowers the activity of the caudate nucleus in your brain, it creates hallucinations.

During this study, researchers eliminated the possibility that other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), were causing hallucinations by testing them. They found that instead of decreasing activity in the caudate nucleus, CBD increased it.

Because hallucinations are so rare, it’s thought that medical weed must have a THC content of more than 20 percent to cause visual or auditory hallucinations. On average, medical cannabis strains have a THC content of 10 to 20 percent.

Signs of Hallucinations From Medical Cannabis

A significant sign of a hallucination includes perceiving something that doesn’t exist. While visual hallucinations are less common, they can range from seeing geometric shapes, colors, lights or even lifelike images of people.

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With an auditory hallucination, you may hear sounds that are defined as elementary and include:

More advanced auditory hallucinations are referred to as complex and can produce voices and music. If you or a loved one are experiencing hallucinations from medical weed, contact your physician.

Long-Term Side Effects of Hallucinations

In most cases, hallucinations from medical weed don’t pose long-term effects. Most patients recognize they’re hallucinating, which prevents them from becoming confused or taking irrational action during an episode. In some cases, however, hallucinating can be a symptom of a much more serious condition.

Some of these illnesses include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Cancer

Due to the risk of these conditions on a loved one’s well-being, it’s critical they visit their doctor.

How to Avoid Hallucinations From Medical Marijuana

Because the medical community understands why medical marijuana can cause hallucinations, physicians often recommend a few techniques for avoiding this side effect, including:

  • Using an Indica Strain: Three different strains of medical cannabis are available: indica, sativa and hybrids. Sativa is more prone to causing a cerebral effect, which is why your physician may suggest using an indica strain instead to avoid hallucinations.
  • Limiting THC Consumption: Switching to an indica strain is one way to lower your THC consumption. Dispensaries can also recommend strains that are low in THC and high in CBD, which offer a more relaxing experience.

Before making any changes to your medical cannabis treatment plan, meet with your physician.

Talk to Your Medical Marijuana Doctor About Your Hallucinations

When it comes to managing your health, medical cannabis typically offers more benefits than risks. It’s essential to work with your medical marijuana doctor, however. They can offer the advice, recommendations and answers you need to make an educated decision about whether medical weed is right for you.

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