Toddlers High on Marijuana

There’s a frightening new outcome of the laws legalizing marijuana — an increase in the number of toddlers being seen in emergency departments with marijuana overdoses.

A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics came out of Colorado, where the laws changed in October of 2009. From 2005-2009 there were no visits for children with marijuana overdoses. But between October 2009 and the end of 2011, the Rocky Mountain Poison Center had ER calls for 14 patients under the age of 12.

With the legalization, marijuana is now readily available in many new edible forms — from sweet beverages to brownies, lollipops, s’mores and popcorn.

If these foods aren’t kept out of reach of little ones, it’s easy for them to help themselves.

States where medical marijuana is legal

Of the children in the study, 1/3 came from medications prescribed for their parents, and 1/3 for their grandparents.  Over half involved a cookie, candy or cake.

In this study, eight children required hospitalization, with two ending up in the ICU.

Conditions treated with medical marijuana

What should you look for if you suspect your child has eaten a marijuana-laced food or has been exposed to secondhand smoke? Signs of marijuana intoxication in children can be broad, ranging from anxiety, chest pain, hallucinations and panic attacks to lethargy, shortness of breath, sleepiness and even coma.

ER’s are often the “canary in the land mine” — we’re the first to see the outcomes of legislation on people’s immediate health.  Regardless of the benefits or risks of this law — I’ll leave that to the lawmakers — we need to take steps to keep it from accidentally falling into the hands of our susceptible children.

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Dr. Darria

Darria Long Gillespie, MD, is Executive Vice President, Clinical Strategy at Sharecare, where she answers users' health and wellness questions on her blog Ask Dr. Darria, and brings her expertise as a physician to the development of Sharecare's products and program offerings. In addition to her role at Sharecare, Dr. Darria is an Assistant Professor at the Emory University School of Medicine and works as an emergency room doctor in the Emory University Hospital Emergency Department.

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