While no deaths occurred, 32.7% of patients required hospitalization, and 3.6% required ICU admission.
According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, Ontario had a ninefold increase in the number of emergency department (ED) visits per month for cannabis poisoning in young children under the age of 10 after Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2014.
While single hospitals have previously reported on child cannabis poisonings, this is the first study to look at a large geographic area for child cannabis poisonings.
“We saw more frequent and severe ED visits due to cannabis poisoning in children under 10 following the legalization of cannabis, and the legalization of edible cannabis products appears to be a key factor,” says Dr. Daniel Myran, lead author.
Experts investigated all ED visits in Ontario region during three periods; before legalization, after flower-based cannabis products and oils were legalized in October 2018, and after commercial cannabis edibles (e.g. gummies and chocolates) and other products were legalized and became available for sale in late January 2020.
During the entire study period (from January 2016 to March 2021), 522 emergency department visits for cannabis toxicity in children under the age of ten were recorded. The average age of the youngsters in this study was three years, nine months.
While no deaths occurred, 171 (32.7%) of the visits needed hospitalization, and 19 (3.6%) required ICU admission.
The number of emergency department visits for cannabis poisonings increased the highest after commercial edibles were permitted, and more of these visits needed hospitalization than during the other two time periods (39% compared to 25%).
Pre-legalization (January 2016-September 2018)
- Total ED visits: 81
- Average number of ED visits per month: 2.5
- Percentage of ED visits that were hospitalized: 25%
Legalization of cannabis flower, seed and oil (October 2018-January 2020)
- Total ED visits: 124
- Average number of ED visits per month: 7.8
- Increase in average monthly ED visits compared to pre-legalization: 3 times
- Percentage of ED visits that were hospitalized: 24%
Legalization of edibles and other products (February 2020-March 2021)
- Total ED visits: 317
- Average number of ED visits per month: 22.6
- Increase in average monthly ED visits compared to pre-legalization: 9 times
- Percentage of ED visits that were hospitalized: 39%
The researchers noted that the legalization of cannabis in Canada coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
When they looked into it, they discovered that while visits to the emergency department for juvenile poisonings of any kind reduced in Ontario during the pandemic, visits for cannabis poisonings tripled.
Following the legalization of commercial edibles, cannabis-related poisonings in children accounted for approximately 10% of all emergency department visits in the province of Ontario.
“Canada’s approach to legalization was intended to prevent increases in child cannabis poisonings through policies limiting the strength of cannabis edibles, requiring child resistant packaging and education for parents and caregivers.” says Dr. Myran. “Unfortunately, the rates we saw in our study suggest the approach has not met that goal.”
“As more places around the world consider legalizing recreational cannabis, we need to learn how to better protect children from cannabis poisoning,” adds Dr. Myran. “More education is a start, but we may need to consider other measures to reduce cannabis edibles’ appeal to young children, such as much stricter limits on what edibles can look and taste like after they are removed from their packaging.”
Image Credit: Getty
You were reading: Incidents of Cannabis poisoning in young children increased ninefold in Ontario since Marijuana legalization