Pot-Linked Poisoning Cases Rise as Edibles’ Popularity Booms

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, May 25, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Newfangled marijuana products – edibles, concentrates, vapers – are leading to an overall increase in marijuana-related calls to U.S. poison control centers, according to a new study.

There were more than 11,100 calls related to marijuana use in 2019, up from around 8,200 in 2017, according to the researchers.

More and more of these calls relate to manufactured products containing distilled amounts of THC, CBD and other chemicals found in cannabis.

“We’ve seen this widespread increase in calls nationwide,” said senior researcher Julia Dilley, an epidemiologist with the Oregon Division of Public Health in Portland.

“But when we dug in it, that increase was due to these manufactured products,” Dilley continued. “Calls for exposure to flowering cannabis are actually on the decline.”

Potted plant exhibits made up the bulk of calls to centers in 2017, with 7,146 for marijuana plants and only 1094 for manufactured products. But in 2019, calls related to manufactured goods totaled 5,503 calls, while exposure to potted plants attracted 5,606 calls.

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The results were published on May 24 in the journal JAMA network open.

Manufactured products tend to contain high amounts of THC, the chemical in pot plants that causes poisoning, and these numbers show that they are at greater risk of causing a bad reaction.

More than 81% of calls related to manufactured products were from people using those products alone, and not in combination with alcohol or another substance, Dilley noted.

“It was enough that the exposure to cannabis products was serious enough that any help was needed,” Dilley said.

The risk of poisoning increases

On the other hand, only 38% of calls for the use of potted plants came from the use of marijuana alone. “They used it more often with alcohol or some other substance in the mix,” Dilley said.

Edibles account for the largest share of poison control calls related to manufactured products, accounting for just over half of exposures.

And “exposures to edibles are more likely to be [involving] children than other types of products, so it’s definitely a concern, ”Dilley said.

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In three years of calls to the poison control center, there have been 2,505 cases involving manufactured products and children under the age of 10, compared with 1,490 herbal exposures reported in this age group, the researchers said.

However, Dilley pointed out that more than 60% of the time, these exposures caused minor medical problems. Most of the time people call because they just aren’t feeling well.

“Some people might be going through something that scares them,” Dilley said. “Maybe they’re feeling dizzy and not sure if it’s okay or not, so they call but they don’t really need medical treatment.”

The rate of poison control calls was higher in states where recreational use of marijuana was legalized, researchers found.

For example, the manufactured product call rate was 2.5 per 100,000 people in 2019 in legalizing states, compared to 1.3 per 100,000 in states where recreational marijuana is still banned.

“This tells us that the states that have legalized marijuana are not doing enough to protect children from its harms,” ​​said Linda Richter, vice president of prevention research and analysis for The Partnership to End Marijuana. the addiction.

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“Edibles can all too easily be mistaken for popular types of candy and other sweets and are often designed and packaged in a way that explicitly appeals to young people. [e.g., gummy bears, mini chocolate bars with names and branding that mimic popular brands]”Vaporized marijuana is odorless and extremely discreet and, therefore, carries all of the same risks to children that we have seen emerge from the recent nicotine vaping epidemic.”

Childproof packaging reduces risk

State regulators could play an important role in protecting children from accidental exposures to marijuana, Dilley said.

“We can design hard-to-access packages for kids,” Dilley noted. “I know Washington State requires each serving of an edible to be packaged separately, so if a child finds an edible, they have to open each individual serving separately. This makes it a bit more difficult for children to get in and be accidentally exposed. “

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano highlighted another reason why call rates might be higher in states with legal recreational use – people in those places might feel more comfortable calling a poison control center because they do not face any potential criminal charges.

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But state regulators should have a role to play in these new recreational markets.

“These products should be uniquely and distinctly labeled to clearly indicate that they contain cannabis and sold in child-resistant packaging, to better discourage inadvertent consumption,” Armentano said.

Increased public awareness about the differences between manufactured products and the use of marijuana plants would also help, he added.

“With non-traditional cannabis-infused products becoming more prevalent in the retail market, parallel efforts should be made to raise awareness of the dramatic differences between herbal and oral products,” said Armentano. “At a minimum, potential consumers should be made aware that oral cannabis infused products have a delayed onset, greater variability and longer duration of effect compared to inhaled marijuana.

“Imposing sensible regulations on the cannabis industry, coupled with better public safety information and greater responsibility and accountability of consumers, are the best strategies to address specific cannabis health issues due to the ‘inadvertent ingestion or excessive ingestion of these products,’ Armentano concluded.

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Parents should also be encouraged not to leave jarred products lying around within the reach of children, Richter said.

“As with any addictive substance, if these products are in the home, adults should be sure to protect children from them by making sure they stay out of sight and out of reach of young people.” Richter said. “If adults use them in the presence of children, they should be very careful to explain that they are dangerous for children to touch or ingest and should refrain from saying that the products are harmless or fun or necessary for themselves. relax and enjoy it. yourself. “

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States has more on marijuana.

SOURCES: Julia Dilley, PhD, epidemiologist, Oregon Division of Public Health, Portland; Linda Richter, PhD, vice president, prevention research and analysis, Partnership to End Addiction; Paul Armentano, Deputy Director, NORML; JAMA network open, May 24, 2021

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