Cannabis poisonings in children predicted to rise

November 8, 2018 by Lesley Young, University of Alberta
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Now that cannabis is legal, children face a higher risk of intentional and unintentional poisoning from edibles, according to Andrew Dixon, an emergency pediatrician and professor at the University of Alberta.

"The new law is going to result in carelessness. While cannabis edibles are not yet legal, they exist and they're going to be in the house and lying around, which is going to be a risk for kids," said Dixon.

"We are preparing to see a lot more children arriving at hospital with both intentional and unintentional cannabis poisoning from pot-based edibles."

Dixon based his prediction on data from Colorado, which experienced a 34 per cent increase in unintentional ingestion by children under the age of nine after legalization.

"Thirty-five per cent of these cases required hospitalizations for overdose symptoms," he added.

He also noted he has been involved in two cannabis poisonings this month alone at the Stollery Children's Hospital, whereas he has seen only two or three children with cannabis poisoning over the past few years.

The trouble with edibles

Dixon said unintentional poisoning is a risk in younger kids who are drawn to cannabis edibles because they are disguised as harmless temptations such as brownies or gummies.

"We expect to see intentional poisonings among teens—and adults, for that matter—experimenting with edibles because they don't realize that absorption takes hours compared to minutes when smoking, and will likely ingest toxic amounts hoping for an effect."

Signs of poisoning include abnormal behaviour, trouble focusing well or balance difficulties.

"The main effect is a profound lethargy, decreased breathing and seizures. Some kids may show symptoms of agitation and panic."

Death is extremely unlikely but can occur without medical intervention, said Dixon.

He added there is no research showing what long-term effects can occur in children who recover from cannabis poisoning.

"Nor are there any medications that can counteract the . We provide largely supportive care at the hospital, which may include respiratory tubes or intravenous fluids while we wait for it to pass."

Dixon said the best prevention—as with any other medication or legal yet dangerous substance—is to always be aware of where it is in the house and make sure it is out of reach of toddlers and .

Explore further: Cannabis legalization will increase injuries

Related Stories

Cannabis legalization will increase injuries

April 9, 2018
Albertans can expect to see increases in injury rates—including traffic fatalities, child poisonings and burns—when Canada legalizes recreational cannabis use this year, according to a report prepared by University of ...

The trouble with edibles

July 18, 2018
On Oct. 17, smoking cannabis will become legal in Canada. As for cannabis edibles, they will take a bit longer: Cannabis-infused food products will be legal in a little less than a year's time.

Oregon allows sale of pot edibles, oils to general public

June 2, 2016
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon may now legally sell edibles and extracts to recreational users who do not have a medical marijuana card.

Report explores factors that might attract children to marijuana edibles

August 26, 2016
When Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, a primary concern was how to ensure it was kept out of the reach of children.

Teens who've tried marijuana have used it in more than one form

September 28, 2018
Most teens who've tried marijuana have used the drug in more than one form, including cannabis products that are smoked, eaten or vaped, new USC research shows.

Recommended for you

Youth dating violence shaped by parents' conflict-handling views, study finds

November 16, 2018
Parents who talk to their children about nonviolent ways of resolving conflict may reduce children's likelihood of physically or psychologically abusing their dating partners later—even when parents give contradictory messages ...

A low-gluten, high-fiber diet may be healthier than gluten-free

November 16, 2018
When healthy people eat a low-gluten and fibre-rich diet compared with a high-gluten diet, they experience less intestinal discomfort including less bloating. Researchers at University of Copenhagen show that this is due ...

Why we shouldn't like coffee, but we do

November 15, 2018
Why do we like the bitter taste of coffee? Bitterness evolved as a natural warning system to protect the body from harmful substances. By evolutionary logic, we should want to spit it out.

Dietary fat is good? Dietary fat is bad? Coming to consensus

November 15, 2018
Which is better, a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet or a high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet—or is it the type of fat that matters? In a new paper featured on the cover of Science magazine's special issue on nutrition, researchers ...

Colder, darker climates increase alcohol consumption and liver disease

November 14, 2018
Where you live could influence how much you drink. According to new research from the University of Pittsburgh Division of Gastroenterology, people living in colder regions with less sunlight drink more alcohol than their ...

Survey reveals how we use music as a possible sleep aid

November 14, 2018
Many individuals use music in the hope that it fights sleep difficulties, according to a study published November 14 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tabitha Trahan of the University of Sheffield, UK, and colleagues. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.