Marijuana exposure in kids rose after recreational use legalized in Colorado

The JAMA Network Journals, July 25, 2016

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado was associated with both increased hospital visits and cases at a regional poison center because of unintentional exposure to the drug by children, suggesting effective preventive measures are needed as more states consider legalizing the drug, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics

The authors identified 81 children – 62 included in the analysis – evaluated at the hospital and 163 marijuana exposure calls to a Colorado RPC. The median age of children who visited the hospital was 2.4 years and for children in RPC cases. 

 The authors report these findings:

  • The average rate of marijuana-related visits to the children’s hospital increased from 1.2 per 100,000 population two years prior to legalization to 2.3 per 100,000 population two years after legalization.
  • Annual RPC pediatric marijuana cases increased more than 5-fold from nine in 2009 to 47 in 2015,
  • Colorado saw an average 34 percent increase in RPC cases per year compared with a 19 percent increase in the rest of the United States.
  • Sources of marijuana were a parent, grandparent, neighbor, friend, babysitter or other family member.
  • Most pediatric marijuana exposures involved infused edible products; many exposures happened because marijuana products weren’t in child-resistant containers, there was poor child supervision or product storage issues.
  • The median length of hospital stay for marijuana-exposes children was 11 hours.
  • Clinical effects of marijuana-exposure included drowsiness/lethargy, ataxia/dizziness, agitation, vomiting, tachycardia, dystonia/muscle rigidity, respiratory depression, bradycardia/hypotension and seizures.


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