Marijuana edibles such as brownies can be dangerous, especially for children and first-timers, warn doctors
Scientists found that 10% of cannabis-related emergency department visits are linked to edible forms of weeds, which is 33 times higher than what was expected
Doctors warn that brownies, gummies and other edibles containing cannabis are not safe, especially for first-time users, children and older people. The effects are worse for children and pets who accidentally consume it, say researchers from the University of Toronto.
In Colorado, for instance, the state poison control centre saw a 70% increase in calls for accidental cannabis exposure in children from 2013 to 2017, and studies of healthcare usage reported more children than adults being treated for ingestion incidents, the doctors write in a commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).
“Children in particular have differences in metabolism that make them susceptible to overconsumption, and often times may also be drawn to cannabis edibles that resemble non-cannabis treats,” Lawrence Loh, a clinician and public health researcher at the University of Toronto, told Gizmodo.
The doctors dispel a common myth on cannabis use. Contrary to what people think, edibles are not risk-free. And the evidence supporting their benefits such as boosting mood, lowering anxiety, or helping you sleep better are mixed.
The commentary comes on the heels of legalization across several US states and in Canada. Americans over the age of 21 can legally smoke marijuana in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.
Edible cannabis can be dangerous because users may not know the right dosage. What is worse, people tend to overconsume edibles because the effects of the drug set in late, say the experts. This is because cannabis mixed with food is processed differently. When ingested, the body absorbs the drug only after the food is digested, they explain.
According to experts, during an overdose, patients experience rapid heartbeats, anxiety, and vomiting - forcing them into emergency rooms.
A case in point is the Colorado study: scientists found that 10% of cannabis-related ED visits are linked to edible forms of weeds. "That is 33 times higher than what we expected.” Andrew Monte, associate professor of emergency medicine and emergency toxicology at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine, told NBC News.
The Colorado study also suggests that edibles cause more serious side-effects. Psychiatric symptoms -- panic attacks or bouts of psychosis -- were more common among those who consumed edibles.
To address the issue, doctors recommend that physicians must have open discussions with their patients on the use of cannabis, including edibles, to enable counselling on safe consumption and driving, and to discourage the consumption of illicit or homemade edibles.
The commentary can be found here.