Children With Marijuana-Related Illness Increased During Pandemic

The frequency of young individuals smoking weed to the point that they need emergency assistance or ingesting deadly amounts of marijuana edibles increased considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on July 13 that the new numbers are "concerning" to pediatric emergency care specialists.

While older adolescents made up the great majority of cannabis-related ER visits, children under 11 had the most startling growth—a 214% rise, on average, between 2019 and 2022. Up to 23 states have made marijuana legal for recreational use, and 38 others allow it for medical use.

"Many homes in the United States now have edible cannabis products in them," says Caleb Ward from the Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. "They see these products that look like candies or brownies, sometimes in cartoon packaging, and they're ingesting them not because they want a cannabis product, but because it looks fun."

To compare them to comparable visits in 2019, CDC researchers examined cannabis-related data from 1,671 emergency rooms from 2020 through 2022.

Teenagers and adults between 15 and 24 comprised 90% of visitors. The average number of ER visits in this age range connected to cannabis increased by 8% between 2019 and 2022, with the most significant increases occurring shortly after the implementation of stay-at-home orders in the spring of 2020.

This might mean that some kids were using marijuana to relieve the stress brought on by the pandemic. Additionally, the prevalence of ailments associated with marijuana usage may be linked to the THC-rich vaping devices and other marijuana products that this age group often uses.

The report says: "Products with high THC concentration can increase the risk for excess consumption and lead to greater intoxicating effects."

The survey found that marijuana-related ER visits due to some sort of marijuana illness increased significantly in younger age groups. Girls had a powerful surge among youngsters aged 11 to 14: a 111% average increase between 2019 and 2022. The average rise for middle school males during the same period was 24%. A CDC survey released in February shows that young adolescent girls feel more depressed and hopeless than ever.

That data looking at our younger girls is what really saddens me.

- Willough Jenkins from the Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego

According to the study's authors, unintentional poisoning from marijuana edibles packaged in kid-friendly packaging probably led to these exposures. Federal officials are seeking to deal with the problem. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters to six businesses earlier this month for marketing THC-containing food products that were illegally copied.

"These products can easily be mistaken for traditional foods like chips, cookies, candy, gummies or other snack food items. The FDA is concerned that these products can be accidentally ingested by consumers, including children, or taken in higher doses than intended," stated the regulators.

It can be challenging to assess marijuana's effects on young children, according to Ward. For instance, a two-year-old may be extremely tired and vomit, but frequent testing for common viruses and bacterial diseases is conducted.

Only after further discussions with the family is it discovered that it's possible the kid accidentally ate a marijuana treat. Experts advise keeping edibles locked up and out of children's reach like other harmful goods.

Ward concludes that clinicians usually advise families to raise these concerns before playdates and sleepovers that involve weapons. He adds that the same query should be put forth regarding edibles.


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