The number of young children accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles has skyrocketed in recent years in the United States, where recreational marijuana has become legal in a growing number of US states.
In 2017, just over 200 children just 5 years old and younger were reported after consuming a cannabis product, compared to more than 3,050 in 2021, according to a study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Pediatrics. This is an increase of more than 1300%.
These foods, also called “edibles,” often come in the form of candies, chocolates, or cookies that children love.
This work, based on a national database, calls for more prevention on this issue with parents, as well as stricter packaging regulations for these products.
If no deaths were recorded during the five-year study period (about 7000 in total), these accidents can be dangerous for babies, especially because of the very high dose for their small weight.
The average age of affected children was 3 years.
About a quarter of the children had to be hospitalized, including 8% in intensive care.
Among the symptoms caused were, in particular, depression of the central nervous system (including coma), tachycardia (an abnormally fast heartbeat), or even vomiting.
Children were treated, in particular, by the introduction of fluids intravenously.
The study states that the increase in such poisonings is “believed to be related to an increase in the number of states allowing recreational use of cannabis by adults.” In 2017, only eight US states and the capital Washington allowed it, compared to 18 states at the end of May 2022.
The Covid-19 pandemic may also have played a role, as children stayed at home more often and therefore had more opportunities to be exposed to these products.
The study indicates that over 90% of the ingestion occurred in the child’s home.
“Ideally, these products should be stored in a place unknown to the child, and in a sealed container,” if possible outside the kitchen, away from other products, the authors of this work advise.
They also encourage these products to be sold in opaque packaging that is difficult for children to open, with a warning message and a National Poison Control Center number.
Some states, including California, have already taken such measures, but there is no law at the national level.