NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Marijuana use has been sending more children to the emergency room over the past few years, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.
The study revealed a big spike in the number of ER visits due to marijuana-related health issues in people under 25 years old from 2019 to 2022. The largest increase was in children under 11, the data said.
The study found an average of 21 kids under 11 were visiting the ER for weed-related health issues per week in 2019. That number rose to an average of 66 children per week in 2022, which is a more than 200% increase.
Dr. Marla Levine, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, told News 2 many of her young patients accidentally ingest cannabis through edibles, which look like candy or chips, but contain THC, the chemical found in marijuana that causes impairment.
“They’re very, very high doses of these edibles in very enticing, child-friendly appearing forms,” Levine said.
While many adults consume just one or two pieces of the edible, Levine said children often eat much more because they don’t realize they’re drugs.
“They think it’s a whole bag of Nerds, or they think it’s a whole bag of Doritos, and they’ll eat the whole thing, and then we get into very serious problems with these small children,” Levine said.
The symptoms of consuming toxic levels of THC can be serious, according to Levine. Kids can experience seizures, go in and out of consciousness, and have trouble breathing.
Pediatric emergency medicine physicians encourage parents and guardians to be extra careful with their cannabis products to avoid an unnecessary and preventable trip to the emergency room.
“In spite of the appearance of these candies, these edibles, these are drugs,” Levine said. “We have to be as vigilant with these products as we would be with any other medication within the home; with any other dangerous product within the home. These have to be safely out of reach of children.”
Levine said it’s important to note the CDC’s data applies to the nation; the number of children visiting the ER after ingesting marijuana likely varies greatly from state to state, depending on whether marijuana is legal.
To read the full study, click here.