Marijuana Poising In Kids Increases In Colorado
May 28, 2013

Marijuana ‘Poisoning’ On The Rise Among Colorado Youngsters

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

The recent changes to Colorado´s marijuana laws have made it easier for those who need pot for their ailments to get their medicine. Unfortunately, with an abundance of marijuana and easier access to it come some unintended consequences.

According to new research, there´s been a marked uptick in accidental ingestion of marijuana by children. What kids may believe to be a harmless brownie or cookie may be laced with powerful marijuana which can affect children much differently than it does adults. Dr. George Sam Wang is a medical toxicology fellow at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver who calls this accidental ingestion “poisoning” and claims more than one dozen children have been admitted to the hospital since the passage of 2009´s state-wide legalization act.

Dr. Wang also points out, however, that no children have died from accidental ingestion nor were any of the individuals left with lasting side effects. Still, he urges state agencies and others to work to prevent more of these hospitalizations.

“We are seeing increases in exposure to marijuana in young pediatric patients, and they have more severe symptoms than we typically associate with marijuana,” said Dr. Wang in a statement.

"We hadn't seen these exposures before the big boom of the medical marijuana industry,” he added.

Wang´s research was recently published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

According to Dr. Wang, it´s sometimes difficult for doctors in emergency rooms to treat children who accidentally eat pot-laced baked goods.

Despite this recent uptick in accidental ingestion cases, doctors aren´t yet accustomed to treating children who are under the influence of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active chemical in marijuana. Furthermore, it can sometimes be difficult to get the child´s parents to admit that the child discovered their stash.

Once the doctor discovers that the child has injested marijuana, either through parental admission or through their own diagnoses, there´s little that can be done to treat the child. Brownies, Cookies, lollipops and other cannabis-infused baked goods have a notoriously stronger effect than the traditional method of smoking marijuana. This, when combined with the child´s lower tolerance for marijuana leads to more severe symptoms in the hospital.

Yet even though children feel the effects of pot more strongly, the treatment is the same for them as it is for the adults. According to Dr. Wang, the only thing doctors can do for a child who has ingested their parents´ pot prescription is to simply wait until it wears off.

"They don't need more than a day or two of hospitalization," he said. "There were no deaths or lasting side effects."

Dr. Wang considers this accidental ingestion to be a form of poisoning and based his findings off data in one Denver hospital before and after the 2009 legalization of marijuana. In the more than 44 months since legalization, 14 children have been admitted for accidental ingestion. Most of these children were boys, some as young as eight months old. Dr. Wang says like most accidental poisonings, these children got the pot accidentally from their grandparents who were using it to treat their ailments.

Though the data in this study is sourced from only one hospital in Denver, accidental ingestion has been seen in other states as well. Last July a three year old from California was rushed to the emergency room after breaking into his grandmother´s cookie jar. Though the grandmother stashed the baked goodies in a refrigerator in the garage, the boy was able to slip away when his older sister, who was babysitting at the time, looked away. The boy´s family became concerned when he didn´t wake up until after 10:30 the following morning.