Science

Children risk getting poisoned by medical marijuana infused food products

By Enozia Vakil , May 28, 2013 08:40 AM EDT

After the medical marijuana laws were relaxed on Oct 1, 2009 in Colorado, there has been a surge in the number of children, particularly under the age of 12, accidently consuming marijuana-laced foods like cookies and candies and getting poisoned by the drug, a study shows.

This study, carried out by medicos from the University of Colorado, was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study took in a total of 1,378 patients, all under the age of 12 years, and were evaluated for any unexpected indigestions or digestive troubles. Among the 1,378, most of the children were admitted to the emergency department, under the expense of marijuana exposure.

"The proportion of ingestion visits that were related to marijuana exposure increased after September 30, 2009, from 0 of 790 to 14 of 588," study author George Sam Wang, of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, said. "Eight of the 14 cases involved medical marijuana, and 7 of these exposures came from food products."

Such incidents may prove to be particularly life-threatening for children, especially those below the age of 10 years.

"We know that children will act quickly to ingest even unpalatable items like household cleaners, pills and capsules," Michael Kosnett, a medical toxicologist at the University of Colorado, explained. "The allure of these marijuana edibles which taste and look like simple sweets makes them especially risky."

In most cases, around 50 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, an active ingredient of marijuana, is enough to give an adult the 'high.' Surprisingly, some infused candy bars were found to contain around 300 milligrams of the same, which is potentially lethal. Children who ingested this drug, especially in such a high concentration, showed respiratory problems, extreme sleepiness, and lethargy, difficulty in walking and other physical activities and more. Many of these children also had to undergo a series of expensive tests to diagnose their problems, as doctors were unfamiliar with these effects of marijuana on children.

"Before the marijuana boom these kinds of edibles were not mass-produced and the amount of THC ingested was somewhat limited, but now we are seeing much higher strength marijuana," Wang said. "We need to educate marijuana users, the community and medical professionals about the potential dangers."

One of the best ways to prevent these cases from occurring is to develop child-resistant packaging for marijuana edibles, the study authors say.

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