According to a new study, accidental consumption of ediblessuch as brownies or candy infused with cannabis, among children under 6 has increased in recent years, while the number of US states that have legalized cannabis has more than doubled in 5 years.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, reveals that in 2017, just over 200 cases of accidental consumption of cannabis edibles by children under the age of 6 were reported. In 2021, this number has increased to 3,054, an increase of 1,375%.
A total of 7,043 exposures to edible cannabis were reported to the poison control center between 2017 and 2021 in children under the age of 6.
“These exposures can cause significant toxicity and are responsible for an increasing number of hospitalizations,” the authors wrote.
Main place of ingestion: home
The vast majority of children found these edibles in their own home. While most children suffered mild impacts, 22.7% of exposed children required hospitalization, and 8% of these – 573 children over the five years of the study – required critical care.
Marit Tweet, an emergency physician at SIU Medicine in Springfield, Ill., is the study’s lead author. Tweet’s curiosity about the subject was piqued in 2019, when she began a fellowship at the Illinois Poison Control Center.
“The big buzz at that time was that cannabis was going to be legalized for recreational use, for adults, on January 1, 2020” in Illinois, she says.
A study in Colorado showed that the number of children 10 and under accidentally exposed to marijuana products increased between 2009 and 2015.
So Tweet wanted to know if this would also happen nationally as more states legalize cannabis. She was most concerned about children 5 and under, an age particularly vulnerable to accidental poisonings.
“This age group accounts for approximately 40% of all calls received by poison control centers nationwide,” Ms. Tweet explains.
The authors offered several possible explanations for the increase in cases, including the time spent at home during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools and daycare centers were closed, and the greater availability of legal products. to cannabis over the past decade.
They also note that many cannabis edibles are “offered in brightly colored and attractive packaging, identical to the style of candy and snack marketing,” which contributes to their appeal to young children.
Packaging and education
Tweet and his colleagues analyzed the information from the National Poison Data Systemwhich is based on calls received by the 55 regional poison control centers that serve the United States and its territories.
The study ultimately draws attention to how edibles are packaged and marketed, according to Nora Volkow, who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
“If you’ve ever been curious, go to a dispensary or a store that sells cannabis products, which of course I, being a curious person, did,” Volkow says. “And the edibles are extremely attractive, in terms of packaging.”
She adds that parents and caregivers who consume cannabis edibles should store them in childproof containers and keep them out of reach of children.
“It is important that providers are aware of this in their practice and this represents an important opportunity for education and prevention” concludes the study.