Legalized Marijuana Has Increased Unintentional Pediatric Marijuana Exposure
February 6, 2014

Pediatric Exposure To Marijuana Higher In States That Have Legalized It

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Legalizing the use of marijuana has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of children requiring emergency medical attention, according to new research published online Wednesday in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

As part of their research, lead author Dr. George Sam Wang of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center and his colleagues set out to compare state-by-state trends in unintentional pediatric marijuana exposures by measuring the number of calls placed to US poison centers between January 2005 and December 2011.

They found that there were 985 unintentional marijuana exposures reported from 2005 through 2011 in children below the age of 10. Of those, 396 took place in states where cannabis use was decriminalized, while 93 occurred in transitional states and 496 in states where marijuana use was prohibited by law.

“More exposures in decriminalized states required health care evaluation and had moderate to major clinical effects and critical care admissions compared with exposures from nonlegal states,” Dr. Wang’s team wrote. “The call rate in nonlegal states to poison centers did not change from 2005 to 2011. The call rate in decriminalized states increased by 30.3 percent calls per year, and transitional states had a trend toward an increase of 11.5 percent per year.”

Despite the increases, the researchers said that the overall number of unintentional cannabis exposures among youngsters remained low across the board. The most common treatment in these cases was the administration of intravenous fluids. Furthermore, aggressive interventions were rare and no fatalities were reported.

“We believe that high-dose edible products – such as candies, cookies and chocolates – may have played a significant role in the increased rate of reported exposure chiefly because kids can't distinguish between products that contain marijuana and those that don't,” Dr. Wang said in a statement. “These edible products may be attractive to children and tend to contain higher concentrations of the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol.”

As of last December, 18 US states and Washington DC had approved legislation allowing for the sale of medical marijuana, including several types of edible products. Colorado, home of Dr. Wang’s institution, is among those states, with the nation’s first state-licensed marijuana retailers opening for business there on January 1.

“Pediatricians, toxicologists and emergency physicians need to be willing to advocate for the safety of children to lawmakers as this burgeoning industry expands across the US,” the lead author said. “As more states decriminalize marijuana, lawmakers should consider requirements – such as child-resistant packaging, warning labels and public education – to reduce the likelihood of ingestion by young children.”