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But while Four Loko has been recalled amid reports of alcohol poisoning and accidental deaths, the worst side effect of overdoing it with marijuana soda might just be a really bad tummy ache. California-based entrepreneur Clay Butler has developed a line of cannabis soft drinks that will hit the shelves of medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado in February and California in the spring. Each 12-ounce beverage — which will come in such varieties as Canna Cola, Doc Weed and Orange Kush — will contain 35 to 65 milligrams of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But how much is that compared with, say, the amount of the drug in a marijuana joint? And how does Canna Cola's intoxicating effects stand up to Four Loko?

According to a report by the World Health Organization, a typical marijuana joint may contain anywhere from 5 to 150 mg of THC, and only a fraction of that — “2 or 3 mg — is required to produce a brief, pleasurable high for the occasional user." On the other hand, "heavy users in Jamaica, for example, may consume up to 420 mg of THC per day." This means the drug content of a Canna Cola, though a mere mid-morning snack for a Rastafarian, is 10 to 30 times that required to get most people high. Joshua Lile, a pharmacologist in the department of behavioral science at the University of Kentucky who studies drug addiction, said the dosage in a Canna Cola is indeed quite high, and that it might be even higher than it seems when compared to a joint. "When you ingest THC orally, it's much more potent than when you smoke it," Lile told Life's Little Mysteries. "Active metabolites such as 11-hydroxy-delta-9 THC get produced in the liver and intestines when you metabolize the drug, and these add to the effects it has on the brain." Few studies have ever used more than 30 mg of orally administered THC, making the 35-65 mg in a Canna Cola "a pretty high dose for a single beverage." However, Lile explained that this doesn't necessarily mean the pot sodas are dangerous: "THC exhibits what's known as a 'flat dose effect curve'. Once you hit a peak dose you don't see much change in how high people become. For example, I've administered up to 90 mg of THC to study subjects. Some get sick to their stomachs at around 30 mg, but experienced marijuana users can handle much more." Rather than becoming super high, then, a Canna Cola-drinker may just be in danger of becoming really sick to his stomach. "The effects of orally ingested marijuana take a while to set in," Lile said.

"You may drink one, then be sitting around waiting for something to happen and then decide to drink another one. Depending on your absorption level (which varies a lot between people), you could feel really nauseated." This is not the worst-case scenario, however, that results from drinking too much of the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko. Until its manufacturers decided to re-formulate the drink last November in response to an FDA warning, each 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contained 12 percent alcohol by volume and 135 mg of caffeine. That made drinking one can roughly the equivalent of downing four regular beers and a large coffee, all hidden behind a fruity taste. Several states banned sales of the beverage after its frequent involvement in cases of alcohol poisoning and death on college campuses. Lile said, "In general, if you're going to compare the two, performance impairments are less severe from cannabis than they are from alcohol." Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover. Why Weed Should Never Be Labeled In 'Drug' Category (Video) With the recent developments of marijuana legalization inВ ColoradoВ and rumors of New York to be the next state to legalize the herb, we can't help but think back to all the stigmas weed has endured throughout the years. For centuries, America has popularized weed as the "gateway drug," giving parents a reason to freak out when their kids were caught with dime bags in their backpacks. However, anyone who has ever smoked the reefer, or been in contact with its effects, knows that it's absurd to label weed a "drug," the same umbrella term term under which meth, crack and bath salts fall. It's less dangerous than alcohol, yet gets the same stigma as crack cocaine. It doesn't make people want to jump out of six story windows or eat a homeless man's face. It's mostly comprised of sitting in basements, listening to Simon and Garfunkel records. If the biggest danger of weed is finishing a tub of ice cream, then America has become soft. This video of marijuana versus crystal meth tackles the issue head on with a debate between the two "drugs," and I think it's safe to say the nug comes out on top. Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. The terms "soft drugs" and "hard drugs" are arbitrary terms with little to no clear criteria or scientific basis. Typically, the term "hard drug" has been used to categorize drugs that are addictive and injectable, notably, heroin, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine. Marijuana is usually the only drug included within the category of "soft" drugs, although some people include nicotine and alcohol in the soft drug category because of their legal status for use by adults, and their relative social acceptability compared to illegal drugs. The term "soft drug" is sometimes used interchangeably with the term gateway drug, a term that is equally inaccurate. Use of the terms "hard" and "soft" drugs raises more questions than it answers. Surely heroin, crack, and meth is not "soft" drugs when they are smoked. With these drugs, it is the purity, amount, frequency of use, social context, and route of administration that typically determines how harmful it is. And the implication that marijuana is a soft or relatively harmless drug is being increasingly questioned. There are several different types of marijuana, with hashish and hash oil traditionally being thought of as harder forms of cannabis.

However, stronger strains of weed are being genetically engineered and longer-term harms are becoming more apparent.

Criminology research shows that few drug offenders limit themselves to only one drug, bringing into question the idea that drug users are able to limit themselves to a single "soft" drug, although there is a clear pattern among this population of progression from marijuana to heroin. If we were to categorize drugs according to how hard or soft they are, several drugs would be particularly difficult to categorize. Hallucinogens, such as magic mushrooms and LSD, and the rave drug ecstasy, are generally not considered by users to be addictive — although some research tells a different story.   But given the lower incidence of addiction to these drugs and the fact that they are taken orally rather than injected, would they be considered soft drugs? As the risks associated with bad trips and flashbacks are well-documented, and with their status as controlled drugs, it is unlikely that experts would support the view that they are soft drugs.


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