Hospital finds uptick in kids accidentally ingesting marijuana

With at least 18 states allowing medical marijuana and the recent legalization of the drug in Colorado and Washington, doctors are concerned about children accidentally ingesting the legal marijuana.

About four years ago doctors at the Children’s Hospital Colorado noticed more kids coming in after accidentally eating marijuana. However, they weren’t sure if the kids were just finding the marijuana or if it was due to more relaxed policies.

From Time Healthland:

“To find out, they analyzed emergency room visits for kids under 12 seen for poisonings and ingestions of any kind between 2005 to 2011, using the fall of 2009 — when new enforcement guidelines were issued — as a dividing line.”

“From Jan. 2005 through Sept. 2009, there were no marijuana-related visits among 790 patients, according to the research, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics. Between Oct. 2009 to Dec. 2011, however, 14 of 588 children were seen for marijuana exposure — eight involving medical marijuana and seven from food containing the drug.

“The researchers say that homemade brownies speckled with pot may not pose a significant threat to kids, but commercial products formulated for medical use — as well as loose-leaf marijuana grown for medicinal purposes — could be more concerning, since they contain concentrated amounts of THC, the chemical that induces a high.

“They’re sold as edible products and soft drinks that kids will eat or drink because they don’t know it’s any different,” says Dr. George Wang, the study’s lead author and a medical toxicology fellow at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. “If they’re going to eat a whole cookie with 300 mg of THC, they will get much more symptomatic and sick and have to be admitted to the hospital.”

Children who are exposed may hallucinate, may be difficult to wake and have trouble breathing – symptoms emergency rooms may not diagnose correctly.

“We’re in this new age of allowing marijuana and we are seeing things we haven’t seen before,” says Wang, who is also a clinical instructor in the department of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We need to educate families to keep it out of the reach of kids. Treat it like a drug because it is a drug.”

The researchers say parents and doctors need to be more educated about the symptoms so they will be correctly diagnosed in emergency rooms. Legislature is also being introduced in Colorado for child-resistant packaging for edible marijuana products.

Are you surprised by an uptick in children ingesting medical or legalized marijuana? Do you know parents or grandparents with it in their homes? How do they store it? Do they leave in the kitchen or treat like a drug in the bathroom or closet?

54 comments Add your comment

[...] regulationsThe ColoradoanMore Kids Accidentally Ingesting Marijuana Following New Drug PoliciesTIMEHospital finds uptick in kids accidentally ingesting marijuanaAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)TheCelebrityCafe.com -Reuters -The Guardianall 109 news [...]

Mayhem

May 29th, 2013
7:20 am

This is hysterical. I can’t wait to see the replies…..

FCM

May 29th, 2013
7:33 am

TWG you do realize that 14 of 588 is 2.38%? And the previous number for those from 2005 – 2009 was 0 of 790 which is 0%

ANY number above 0% is going to be an uptick!

FCM

May 29th, 2013
7:35 am

Also I would question the statistics anyway:

“however, 14 of 588 children were seen for marijuana exposure — eight involving medical marijuana and seven from food containing the drug.”

Was it 14 or 15 children? They reported 14 but said 8 and 7 later…that is 15. Can the researchers (I supposed doctors) do basic math?

BTW 15 of 588 is 2.5%

Cutty

May 29th, 2013
7:44 am

How many ingested alcohol in the same period?

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
8:04 am

@Mayhem…guess you won’t be fussing today since you think it will be hysterical.

This is funny?

“Children who are exposed may hallucinate, may be difficult to wake and have trouble breathing – symptoms emergency rooms may not diagnose correctly.”

Are parents likely to immediately say they think the child has ingested it? Or will this come later when the child has suffered needlessly? Working with little children, I am sad to think a 3 year old might eat a “tainted” brownie…unaware.

I have no personal experience with this nor do I know of anyone who keeps it in their house. I may know them but I know nothing about the marijuana. I suppose this could be similar to any drug sitting around at the house but perhaps it is more appealing? I remember kids sneaking cigarettes. I never did. They still make me sick. Even when I sit next to a smoker on the airplane. I have sinus trouble!

FCM

May 29th, 2013
8:13 am

@ MJG…certainly I am concerned for children who could ingest the stuff. My guess is that the difference is these are “middle class” suburban people bringing the kids in.

I have read more stories than I would like about children in crack house areas. I would think the risks in that area, for children to “hallucinate, may be difficult to wake and have trouble breathing – symptoms” would be quite large.

Would a “middle class” parent leave the Tylenol where kids can get into it? Or the NyQuil? I doubt it. So why would they leave this? ANYTHING in an overdose is going to be an issue…even water…yes people have died from drinking too much water.

Like Cutty I wonder what the alcohol ingestion of kids was during that time frame.

xxx

May 29th, 2013
8:40 am

What’s th big deal? All we hear now is how this is a safe and natural and we should end the war on drugs yadda, yadda…. either it is or it isn’t. Tructh is recreational drug use is risisng and these are the consequences.

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
8:50 am

@FCM….not trying to complain about your post. I am not a statistics person myself.
I wonder how many parents would fess up to having marijuana out in the open.

Seems having $$$ does not correlate with having sense…this lady drove an Escalade:

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/police-say-drunken-mom-had-6-kids-car-her/nX5cj/

Mayhem

May 29th, 2013
9:00 am

What I find funny is that weed is illegal, but alcohol isn’t. Way more people have died and have health problems as a result of alcohol.

Weed is an herb which grows naturally in the ground. There are very few, if any, reports of death caused by smoking weed. It DOES NOT cause cancer, it does NOT make you go rob a store to get more money for weed.

I wish more people would educate themselves on weed, and quit listening to the goverment propoganda. It is NOT addicting, and unless it is a VERY strong strain, you don’t really hallucinate. This I know for sure.

Education is the key. But it’s so much easier to listen to someone who doesn’t have all the facts, than to actually do your own research.

Scooby

May 29th, 2013
9:11 am

Well said Mayhem.

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
9:12 am

@Mayhem…thanks for clearing things up. I did not get that from your first post.

I agree with education being the key to most anything. I learn things, from this blog, that I never knew. There are people on this blog whom I would probably never meet in person. Nor would I have anything in common with them. I can learn things from them.

I know nothing about marijuana and have no plans to.

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
9:13 am

add; on a personal level….sorry!

Ann

May 29th, 2013
9:22 am

@ xxx – Being safe and natural does not mean it has the same “reaction” on a toddler vs. an adult. Coffee, caffeinated drinks, herbs and medicines, etc. are other examples. Many consider those safe and some are natural, but you don’t give necessarily give them to a baby or young child, as the reactions can be different.

In recent years, we have had increased media attention of pranks where kids take marijuana brownies to school. These types of pranks are repeated when they make the news. That may explain some of the small uptick.

So, 14 of 588 were related to marijuana. Any health effect trends should be evaluated, but my question is: Should we perhaps be more concerned about what caused the poisonings in the other 574 cases, as we are talking about a very small percentage here.

Ann

May 29th, 2013
9:23 am

Meant to type “don’t necessarily give them to a baby”

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
9:29 am

@ Ann….that is what I was thinking. Small children will be attracted to food or beverage that could contain marijuana. Has anyone mentioned pets?

Mayhem

May 29th, 2013
9:34 am

Scooby – Thank you!

@MJG – You’re welcome!!

lakota

May 29th, 2013
9:35 am

As a longtime cannabis user (and 2 time parent), the burden falls on the parents to protect their kids from any mind-altering substance, cannabis included. When the time is right, I will have the conversation with my kids about weed (and alcohol), but neither will be taboo in my house. Though more importantly attractive edibles will *never* be within reach of my kids. Whenever I smoke cannabis, I actually leave the house and make sure that the kids are far away or asleep.

FCM

May 29th, 2013
9:43 am

@MJG I did not think it was an attack on me…I certainly was not attacking you. I was just concerned that doing stats made me callous.

I do not want my children or my dog ingesting any of this stuff. Like you I am not inclined toward this stuff…although I have some limited knowledge of it from College. In fact that knowledge is why I am unlikely to have it in my home if it were legal.

Certainly having money does not mean people have sense.

@ Ann…yes that was my thought when I showed that it was 2.3 – 2.5% what happened to the other 97+%? As to caffine etc…have you seen kids drinking soda lately? Young kids? Sugar too (Read sugar blues)…Granted mine do drink coffee or latte from time to time…but they seldom finish the drink…usually a few sips and they are done. Caffine has shown to have positive effects on ADD/ADHD and so I have been known to let them have caffine if they are particularly offtrack in the morning.

For the last time (I hope)...

May 29th, 2013
10:26 am

…there is no longer anything such diagnosis, per the AMA, as ADD; it now falls all encompassing under ADHD…

Uh, Mayhem...

May 29th, 2013
10:33 am

…A study was published in January 2013 contesting the interpretation of the large-scale marijuana study…

“The message inherent in these and in multiple supporting studies is clear. Regular marijuana use in adolescence is part of a cluster of behaviors that can produce enduring detrimental effects and alter the trajectory of a young person’s life—thwarting his or her potential. Beyond potentially lowering IQ, teen marijuana use is linked to school dropout, other drug use, mental health problems, etc. Given the current number of regular marijuana users (about 1 in 15 high school seniors) and the possibility of this number increasing with marijuana legalization, we cannot afford to divert our focus from the central point: Regular marijuana use stands to jeopardize a young person’s chances of success—in school and in life.”

“Observational studies in humans cannot account for all potentially confounding variables when addressing change in a complex trait like IQ, and future studies will be needed to further clarify exactly how much intelligence may be lost as a result of adolescent marijuana use. That such a loss does occur, however, is consistent with what we know from animal studies. Though limited in their application to the complex human brain, such studies can more definitively assess the relationship between drug exposure and various outcomes. They have shown that exposure to cannabinoids during adolescent development can cause long-lasting changes in the brain’s reward system as well as the hippocampus, a brain area critical for learning and memory.”

Other studies have shown a link between prolonged marijuana use and cognitive or neural impairment. A recent report in Brain, for example, reveals neural-connectivity impairment in some brain regions following prolonged cannabis use initiated in adolescence or young adulthood. But the New Zealand study is the first prospective study to test young people before their first use of marijuana and again after long-term use (as much as 20+ years later). Indeed, the ruling out of a pre-existing difference in IQ makes the study particularly valuable. Also, and strikingly, those who used marijuana heavily before age 18 showed mental decline even after they quit taking the drug. This finding is consistent with the notion that drug use during adolescence—when the brain is still rewiring, pruning, and organizing itself—can have negative and long-lasting effects on the brain.

While this study cannot exclude all potential contributory factors (e.g., child abuse, subclinical mental illness, mild learning disabilities), the neuropsychological declines following marijuana use were present even after researchers controlled for factors like years of education, mental illness, and use of other substances. Mental impairment was evident not just in test scores but in users’ daily functioning. People who knew the study participants (e.g., friends and relatives) filled out questionnaires and reported that persistent cannabis users had significantly more memory and attention problems: easily getting distracted, misplacing things, forgetting to keep appointments or return calls, and so on.

Unfortunately, the proportion of American teens who believe marijuana use is harmful has been declining for the past several years, which has corresponded to a steady rise in their use of the drug, as shown by NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Since it decreases IQ, regular marijuana use stands to jeopardize a young person’s chances of success in school. So as another school year begins, we all must step up our efforts to educate teens about the harms of marijuana so that we can realign their perceptions of this drug with the scientific evidence.”

FCM

May 29th, 2013
10:38 am

@ for the last time….I have one child of each diagnosis and their doctor said it is not the same thing. One child shows no signs of the “H” and many doctors are refuting the all encompassing ADHD lable.

jmb

May 29th, 2013
10:39 am

I have more concern about all the lazy teen moms out there giving their babies benadryl to put them to sleep. My teen daughter/mother knows of many who do this and I think it’s child abuse and needs some atttention. I’ve never heard of anyone, child or adult overdosing from pot.

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
10:57 am

@jmb….over 25 years ago our Pediatrician, in Texas, told me, ” A little Dimetap will not hurt your son.” I rarely used it but when he was extra fussy and we all needed some sleep, I gave it to him. Grape flavored then…not sure if they still have it. Benadryl sends me into ORBIT! It does not make me drowsy at all. Same with Tylenol PM. I have taken every sleeping pill on the market and none work for me. Some nights, it is impossible to fall asleep!

My personal issue is COKE OR SWEET TEA IN A BABY BOTTLE.

Me

May 29th, 2013
11:10 am

I don’t feel the issue here has anything at all to do with studies or the “culprit”; be it marijuana, alcohol, or caffeine. The issue here boils down to parents not being responsible and either willingly providing, in the case of soft drinks and sweet tea, or “accidently” providing, in the case of marijuana and alcohol, by being lazy and irresponsible, these substances to those too young.

Logical Dude

May 29th, 2013
11:17 am

I’d rather have it a medical issue than having all those kids tossed in jail for possibly testing positive for drug use.

jmb

May 29th, 2013
11:41 am

MJG – a lot of Dr’s prescibed small doses of paragoric and other things many years ago….they are more informed these days though and I doubt many (other than the old timers) would advise that anymore. Heck, back in the day they gave the pregnant mothers diet pills to avoid weight gain but again, they no longer practice like that. It just makes me sick though to read a facebook status from a 16 yr old mother that says “bedtime, gotta get the benadryl”. And this is not a one time thing, she does it every night.

Mayhem

May 29th, 2013
12:08 pm

Benedryl was what Casey Anthony used on her baby so the baby would sleep while Momma went out partying. When she talked about the “babysitter” during the investigation and the trial, that’s what she was referring to. “I left her with a babysitter”.

K's Mom

May 29th, 2013
12:21 pm

Well I guess I am a horrible mother, I do not keep pot in the house, but my kids (1yo and 3yo) have bth been given benedryl for allergies with the blessing of 2 pediatricians. They have gotten it often recently because our allergies have been so bad. I also took almost nightly while pregnant both times because of serious allergies and sinus issues caused by pregnancy. I spoke to my Ob, a nurse midwife and 2 pharmacists and they all said it was fine. So put me in the category with Casey Anthony!

motherjanegoose

May 29th, 2013
12:32 pm

@ K’s …giving Benadryl for allergies and giving it to put your kids to sleep are very different IMHO.
From what I read about your life here, you are MILES ahead of some parents. I do not even know you but I think you are doing a fine job!

I gave my son Dimetapp ( sp?) and now he is a Pharmacist himself…haha!

OFF TOPIC BUT RELATED…you can now get Pet Meds at Costco and I think Walgreen’s/Wal Mart carry them too. We took our dog to the vet for her check up yesterday and got her Heartguard Plus at Costco. SAVE!

Me

May 29th, 2013
12:41 pm

@K’s Mom — Totally different scenario when provided as per the advice of your doctor.

K's Mom

May 29th, 2013
12:48 pm

Thanks MJG…that is a high compliment coming from you. My cousins adopted from India and China and were told to give their kids benedryl for the plane ride home. I think lumping anyone who give their child benedryl in with Casey Anthony is a bit extreme and that is the way I took one of the posts. Our little guy has really bad respiratory funk. I have given him several things trying to loosen phlegm with the blessing of his doctors and one was Dimetapp. He has the added bonus of getting so choked he will cause himself to throw up, so I do anything to keep that from happening.

On topic, I do know a couple who kept a “super secret” stash of pot in their home and their teenage kids found it caused all kinds of trouble. I have never been a smoker, but that let me know having an illegal substance (whether or not it should be is irrelevant) in the house is not a great idea with kids in the house. My husband and I do drink and my parents did too when I was growing up. My parents let us have sips now and again and made alcohol totally mundane and my brother and I made good decisions with it as we got older. Since Pot is illegal for all in most states, I thnk not having it around is the best practice.

Denise

May 29th, 2013
12:59 pm

@jmb – my mama used to give me paragoric when it was time for HER to take a nap. I’m sure that was not the designated usage. My grandmother corrected that behavior once she found out it was happening but my mama didn’t think anything was wrong with giving me something that would make me sleep when she wanted me to sleep.

Common Sense

May 29th, 2013
1:01 pm

Whatever the potential risks, the benefits to society at large from every significant reduction in the failed war on drugs are worth it. The rampant violence, the police and judicial corruption, the massive waste of money (over $1 trillion to date), the destruction of families, the destruction of futures (both prison related issues), and the general violation of the principle that you should be the owner of your body, not the government, are all the horrible result of yet another failed experiment in prohibition. THC as a drug is no different from any other drug or alcohol. Treat it as such folks. Lock it up or do whatever is necessary to insure that your children are not ingesting it either purposely or accidentally. We should not have to fight with our government to regain freedom and liberty. It was supposed to be their job to protect them, but in the case of certain drugs, fight we must. Personal responsibility needs to be at the core of every human action and cannabis, whether legal or illegal needs to be as much a part of that as anything else.

FCM

May 29th, 2013
1:03 pm

@ jmb “Donnagel-PG, Parepectolin, and their generic equivalents) were classified as Schedule V drugs. They were available over-the-counter without a prescription in many states until the early 1990s,”…. I recall in the late 80s I worked for a pharmacist. He learned of my stomach issues (I was headed toward an ulcer) and he had me use Donnagel PG. I couldn’t stand the taste of the stuff and used it rarely but it really did work for calming the stomach…then again so did the old dimetapp on a cough they had to reformulate that one too. You may recall that sudafed (extended release) is now hard to obtain too….which I hate when my sinuses are acting up.

Too bad the abusers make it so those of us who do not abuse something that actually works at healing you unobtainable.

Mayhem

May 29th, 2013
1:21 pm

@K’sMom, Yes I’ve given my kids benedryl when they were younger for allergies, etc. There are some parents who put their kids to sleep, so they can party while the child is asleep.

@MJG – I am highly allergic to benedryl. Every time I go to the doctor and put that under allergies, they are amazed. It makes me itch like crazy, and that’s what it’s prescribed for..I too go off the walls when I’ve taken it. But I haven’t had to in many years…

jmb

May 29th, 2013
1:32 pm

K’s Mom, as others have said, totally different when using as inteneded. Mayhem, that’s how I view the teen girl and others I’m speaking of. She uses it as a babysitter so I get what you’re saying. Denise – that’s excactly what these girls are doing. When they get stressed they just give them a good dose of it. And FCM, you’re exactly right. I suspect it won’t be long before they make us get many drugs from behind the counter instead of on it.

I suspect it won’t be long before they make us get many drugs from behind the counter instead of on it....

May 29th, 2013
1:51 pm

…well if we could get the meth makers to stop then we may not have this “over/under/behind the counter culture” debate…

HB

May 29th, 2013
1:51 pm

Mayhem, you’re allergic to an antihistamine? Seems like that would cancel out. Fascinating.

Lots of people react badly to Benedryl– overly groggy or keyed up and anxious, hallucinations, etc. I can’t imagine giving it to a child just to get them to sleep. I’ve heard several doctors say it should be prescription only and that it’s far more potent than other prescription allergy meds that only recently went over the counter (Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec), but once a drug is OTC it’s hard to get it back to prescription only. Benedryl hits me hard, so I only take it if an allergy attack is too severe for Zyrtec to help. Primatene Mist is another OTC that raises concerns.

catlady

May 29th, 2013
2:15 pm

People should be concerned about kids ingesting illegal marijuana. We have kids who get out of the car in the morning, all “smoked” up from their parents’ dope on the way to school. “Oddly” enough, many of these kids are in the bottom-most rung, achievement-wise.

Ann

May 29th, 2013
2:16 pm

@ Uh Mayhem – Thanks for sharing the research study information. It is useful to read. I don’t think Mayhem or any other commenter, though, said it was okay for teens to smoke marijuana. I think most would agree that teenagers can easily lose focus on their education and other goals when they get involved in drinking alcohol, using marijuana, prescription or other drugs. Just because someone advocates for marijuana to be legal does not mean they are suggesting it is okay for kids. It could fall under the same rules as alcohol.

Our country does, however, have strange laws as to what is legal and illegal. Cigarrettes and alcohol being legal and marijuana not being legal. I am absolutely for marijuana being available for medical purposes across the U.S. Yes, there may be side effects, just as any other prescription drug. There are many prescription drugs much stronger than marijuana, with more serious effects. For those that benefit medically, it is simply humane to allow access.

catlady

May 29th, 2013
2:19 pm

MJG at 10:57–or KOOL AID! Especially RED!

Ann

May 29th, 2013
2:24 pm

@ HB – Benadryl and other allergy meds are not likely to be removed from their over the counter status. I would bet that pharmaceutical companies make a lot more profit charging the consumer directly, considering the high price we pay now for these meds. Before, they had to negotiate with insurance companies regarding the amount of payment they would get and deal with all that paperwork processing.

MrLiberty

May 29th, 2013
2:41 pm

We could end the problem of illegal meth labs blowing up in neighborhoods, dangerous chemicals from meth labs polluting our communities and the misery of being treated like a criminal when one simply wants to stop a runny nose. All we need to do is have the intelligence to realize that prohibition is a failure and causes more problems than it solves. End the war on drugs. Meth, heroin, and other drugs are all produced legally today by pharmaceutical companies in safe factories for use as controls and standards in drug testing procedures. The cost even with the excessive regulations they must deal with is only about 1/20 of what drugs cost thanks to prohibition. Lower cost means lower profits means no incentive for the neighbors to get into the business and no longer a reason for you and I to be treated like criminals at Walgreens. Utopia? Of course not. But dealing with the problem medically and out in the open rather than criminally and behind closed doors is always the better approach.

K's Mom

May 29th, 2013
2:46 pm

Very interesting opinions on Benedryl. During my first pregnancy, I was taking zyrtec because it was on the “safe” list. It made me terribly drowsy which was not a horrible side effect since I was on bed rest and bored to tears, but my doctor and the nurse midwife both said they thought benedryl was the safest thing on the market for anyone, so we switched. A pharmacist agreed with their opinion and I always ask a pharmacist opinion because they know far more about the drugs than the doctors in most cases. I have never heard anyone say it was horribly dangerous. I have even been told to rub liquid benedryl on my 1yo old’s swollen gums to ease some of the inflammation. Hmmm.

K's Mom

May 29th, 2013
2:50 pm

One last comment on benedryl. My 3yo can only take the dye free Target brand. Every other formulation has made him a lunatic. He also had a panic attack from a children’s prescription decongestant when both of my kids were on the road to pneumonia this past winter. My 1yo took the same medication and it helped him tremendously. So I also think some opinions may be anecdotal based on how the healthcare professional has seen his/her own kids react.

FCM

May 29th, 2013
3:19 pm

I remember a stoner in college who alleged that since dope kills brain cells…and presuming it goes for the weakest first, he figured he was making himself smarter.

catlady

May 29th, 2013
3:25 pm

FCM at 8:12–I have the problem with water intoxication. I used to present at conferences but I always had a friend to look after me. While most folks were drinking alcohol, I would guzzle water. They knew to “cut me off” after 2 glasses!

Uh, Ann...

May 29th, 2013
5:21 pm

…while I appreciate your comments, and concur with them, what I was really trying to emphasize was the difference between what Mayhem said – “…, it does NOT make you go rob a store to get more money for weed.” and compare that to what the report said “marijuana use is linked to school dropout, other drug use, mental health problems, etc.”… which COULD lead to robbing a store for additional money to buy more drugs that are not necessarily weed.

I just got carried away with the article I was plagiarizing and, evidently, lost the focus of my point – my bad…