Calls to poison control centers in the US from January 2017 through December 2019 revealed that children are at elevated risk of accidental poisoning from cannabis products, particularly edibles, according to a study.
Such products make it much more likely that a child may mistake cannabis for candy and risk dangerous overdosing.
Calls about poisoning as a result of consuming products such as weed concentrates, extracts, beverages, vape juice and edibles more often involved children under 10 years old, the study found, compared to calls about dried or pre-rolled cannabis plant.
But the largest proportion of those calls (36.6 percent) involved edibles the study, published in JAMA Network found.
The authors of the study, from Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and Colorado also compared exposure statistics for manufactured products (e.g., concentrates, edibles, vaporized liquids) and unprocessed plant materials (e.g., flower).
Although they did not see more serious health outcomes for manufactured product exposures compared with plant products overall, the investigators commented that cannabis plant exposures usually involved polysubstance use, whereas most cases for manufactured products were for those products alone. This suggests that “exposure to manufactured products alone may be relatively more likely to generate adverse events…consistent with studies of acute health effects”.
Manufactured products may present risks both because of THC levels that cause cognitive and psychomotor impairment, and other processing ingredients — for example, liquid additive ingredients in vaped cannabis.
Children are especially vulnerable to harm from cannabis in edible products, because they look like cookies, brownies, gummies, candy or soda. Many are even intentionally packaged to resemble popular sweets. Indeed, Wrigley’s is in the process of suing a marijuana brand for selling THC-infused candy labelled as Skittles. Other cannabis edibles that look like Starburst and Life Savers are also on the market.
Higher rates of cannabis poisoning in children in legal states suggests that continued increases may be expected with adult cannabis use legalization in more states the study also found.