During the 1800s, Canadians were increasingly aware of the medicinal and psychoactive effects of cannabis. The smoking of cannabis and hashish was seen as an exotic habit from the East, but many Canadians were taking cannabis in tincture and extract form, for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
Canadian medical journals included stories of doctors experimenting with cannabis extracts for fun, and sharing them with their friends.
In 1858, The Montreal Journal of Medicine and Surgery published an article called "A Poisoning-case from Haschish" by Dr. William Wright, Professor of Materia Medica at McGill University.
Dr. Wright explained that since it was such a rare occurrence, he wanted to share the details of a cannabis overdose, as experienced by "a much esteemed friend whose only fault was in the love he bore to science."
The man had heard "the extraordinary tales related of the Cannabis Indica" and wanted to experience it himself. He had tried smaller doses of cannabis resin and extracts several times with no psychoactive effect, and finally decided to take a very large dose of potent extract, supplied by Dr. Wright.
Two and a half hours later he felt "a strange and sudden sensation of warmth at the pit of the stomach, which quickly extended over the whole body."
He started having a panic attack, feeling that he was suffocating, that he couldn't move his limbs, and that he was going to die.
"I could scarcely speak, and felt certain that death would quickly terminate my rash experiment. Completely overpowered, I seemed like a cork floating up and down, now gently, now swiftly, through space. Then I was a balloon, gradually expanding as I filled with gas, till, becoming more and more buoyant, I suddenly with a feeling of ecstasy shot up high through the air."
He recounted that, after "whirling through an ever-changing scene" of hallucinations, "I concluded I was dead... and experienced a very distressing sense of isolation." Describing his experience as "most frightful," the man claimed "nothing should induce me to repeat the experiment."
Dr. Wright noted that another patient, who took a smaller dose, "got into a sort of hysterical state, ready to laugh at anything," and said his eyes felt "too large."
• A Poisoning-case from Haschish
Article: A Poisoning-case from Haschish, by William Wright MD, The Medical Chronicle, Vol. 5, no. 11, April 1858