Alarming surge: hospitalizations of children who consumed marijuana edibles soar by 1375%

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Cannabis-infused treats resembling candy, chocolate, and drinks are causing concern as more young children are being hospitalized due to accidental consumption, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers found that the number of kids under the age of six who accidentally ate cannabis rose from 207 cases in 2017 to 3014 in 2021. Toddlers aged two or three were found to be the most affected, with more than 70% of children experiencing central nervous system depression. The study also revealed that 573 kids required critical care, 1,027 were hospitalized in non-critical care units, and 2,550 sought emergency care. Luckily, no one died.

“It’s becoming more and more common. It’s important for people to understand that it’s a danger; it’s something that we’re really having to deal with,” said Christopher Pruitt, M.D., medical director of the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, according to the MUSC website.

“The worst is where they’re very minimally responsive, and we are worried. I’ve had a number of these cases where we’re worried that we might have to place an artificial airway and put them on a ventilator.”

In addition to being unresponsive, the National Capital Poison Center says kids may also suffer from vomiting, dizziness, and drowsiness. They might also be confused and have trouble walking and breathing. In severe cases, children can suffer from hallucinations, an abnormally slow heart rate, and low blood pressure.

Photo by Elsa Olofsson on Unsplash

The study found that more than 90% of the overdoses happened in the child’s home, prompting researchers to urge parents to be more vigilant about keeping marijuana out of children’s reach. They recommend storing edibles in a locked container outside of the kitchen and away from other food items. Adults should also avoid using the cannabis product in front of children because kids may be likely to copy adults and try to eat the edibles.

Researchers also suggest changes to product packaging and labeling, as well as regulating the maximum allowable dose in a package. Some states, like Illinois, have implemented measures such as limiting the total amount of THC allowed per package and requiring child-resistant packaging.

This increase in children consuming marijuana-infused treats coincides with more states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana. Currently, 37 states in the US permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes, with 21 states allowing some form of adult recreational use.