With at least 18 states allowing medical marijuana and the recent legalization of the drug in Colorado and Washington, doctors are concerned about children accidentally ingesting the legal marijuana.
About four years ago doctors at the Children’s Hospital Colorado noticed more kids coming in after accidentally eating marijuana. However, they weren’t sure if the kids were just finding the marijuana or if it was due to more relaxed policies.
“To find out, they analyzed emergency room visits for kids under 12 seen for poisonings and ingestions of any kind between 2005 to 2011, using the fall of 2009 — when new enforcement guidelines were issued — as a dividing line.”
“From Jan. 2005 through Sept. 2009, there were no marijuana-related visits among 790 patients, according to the research, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics. Between Oct. 2009 to Dec. 2011, however, 14 of 588 children were seen for marijuana exposure — eight involving medical marijuana and seven from food containing the drug.
“The researchers say that homemade brownies speckled with pot may not pose a significant threat to kids, but commercial products formulated for medical use — as well as loose-leaf marijuana grown for medicinal purposes — could be more concerning, since they contain concentrated amounts of THC, the chemical that induces a high.
“They’re sold as edible products and soft drinks that kids will eat or drink because they don’t know it’s any different,” says Dr. George Wang, the study’s lead author and a medical toxicology fellow at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. “If they’re going to eat a whole cookie with 300 mg of THC, they will get much more symptomatic and sick and have to be admitted to the hospital.”
Children who are exposed may hallucinate, may be difficult to wake and have trouble breathing – symptoms emergency rooms may not diagnose correctly.
“We’re in this new age of allowing marijuana and we are seeing things we haven’t seen before,” says Wang, who is also a clinical instructor in the department of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We need to educate families to keep it out of the reach of kids. Treat it like a drug because it is a drug.”
The researchers say parents and doctors need to be more educated about the symptoms so they will be correctly diagnosed in emergency rooms. Legislature is also being introduced in Colorado for child-resistant packaging for edible marijuana products.
Are you surprised by an uptick in children ingesting medical or legalized marijuana? Do you know parents or grandparents with it in their homes? How do they store it? Do they leave in the kitchen or treat like a drug in the bathroom or closet?