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More Parents Are Calling Poison Control About…This?

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album

Reviewed by Gayle Whitworth, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County

Here in the state of Florida, an effort to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes recently failed to pass. But did you know that almost half the states (as of January 2015) do now allow legalized medical marijuana? Four states also permit the use of recreational marijuana. These numbers are likely to rise.

Ensuring That Pot Stays out of Children’s Hands

While legal and personal attitudes towards pot will surely continue to evolve, there’s one point most of us are likely to agree on: children should be protected from exposure to the drug. At first glance, this may seem obvious and relatively easy. But as marijuana becomes increasingly available, there are possible pitfalls.

Popularity of “Edibles” Presents a Problem

For instance, marijuana dispensaries in legalized states now sell large volumes of marijuana “edibles”—cookies, brownies, chocolates, lollipops, and other sweet treats which also contain relatively large amounts of pot. It’s easy to see the risk here to young children, who may happen upon such tempting-looking items (even if they are “put away”) and consume them.

While there is little concern about a lethal dose of marijuana, what happens next could still be unpleasant for parent and child. Depending on the amount eaten and the age and weight of the child, he or she could experience little to no effect…or impacts including drowsiness, overemotionality, confusion, irritability, anxiety, and, rarely, seizures, impaired breathing, or coma could occur.

Calls to Poison Control Up in Legalized States

A new study examines marijuana-related calls to poison control centers for children under the age of 6 . The results show that such calls have risen dramatically since 2000, and especially so since 2009, when the federal government stopped prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries. Calls to poison centers regarding children and pot were two to three times higher in states with some type of legalized marijuana than in states where pot remains illegal. Most children were treated and released, or did not need treatment; however, about 18% were admitted to the hospital.

Caution and Safety Measures Needed

Marijuana-related poisoning and intoxication in children is still a rare problem compared with other types of childhood poisoning (for instance, overadministration of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or poisoning with household substances like dishwasher soap or bleach). However, it’s likely that these incidents will continue to become more common unless steps are taken to prevent them. For this reason, child safety advocates believe it is crucial for commercial marijuana products, especially edibles, to be sold in childproof, opaque packaging that will keep kids out and not reveal a “tempting” product inside. Some states do require this type of packaging already.

Parents and caregivers also need to make any marijuana users in their home aware that children must be physically prevented from access to marijuana. (It should also be mentioned that medical use of marijuana by parents is a legal minefield at this time.) Just as we lock up and secure our prescription medicines, prescription marijuana must be treated the same way. No parent wants to bring his or her impaired, confused, or ill child to the ER and deal with the possible consequences. If marijuana is being used in your home, ensure that children and teens cannot obtain it.

(Photo credit: Medical marijuana dispensary by KayVee.INC CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Cropped.)

References:

Onders, B. , Casvant, M. J., Spiller, H. A., Chounthirath, T., & Smith, G. A. (2015). Marijuana Exposure Among Children Younger Than Six Years in the United States. Clinical Pediatrics, 1-9. doi: 10.1177/0009922815589912

Rettner, R. ‘Twixed’ and ‘Munchy’? Candylike Marijuana Could Endanger Kids. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/50110-edible-marijuana-health-concerns.html

Ingraham, C. (2014). Your kid is 136 times more likely to be poisoned by diaper cream than by weed. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/17/your-kid-is-136-times-more-likely-to-be-poisoned-by-diaper-cream-than-by-weed/