Medical marijuana, which is legal in 18 states, can bring relief to the patient taking it, but it can also be a risk if it inadvertently falls into the hands of children. The rise in medical marijuana prescriptions over the past few years has also increased the number of emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers when young children ingest marijuana-laced products, such as brownies, cookies, and candies. The Boston Globe reports on the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics:
Marijuana-infused products have become popular for patients who are unable, or do not want, to smoke the drug.
"In our study, most exposures were due to ingestion of medical marijuana in a food product," wrote the study authors.
Dr. George Sam Wan of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center and his colleagues compared the proportion of marijuana ingestions by young children who were brought to the emergency room before and after October 2009, when drug enforcement laws regarding medical marijuana use were relaxed.
The researchers found no record of children brought to the ER in a large Colorado children's hospital for marijuana-related poisonings between January 2005 and September 30, 2009 -- a span of 57 months.
By comparison, they found 14 cases involving marijuana ingestion between October 1, 2009, and December 31, 2011, a span of just 27 months.
Eight of the 14 cases involved medical marijuana, and all but one of those came from food products, the authors said. In all, eight of the patients had to be admitted to the hospital, with two of them ending up in intensive care. None died.
The ages of children studied ranged from 8 months to 12 years old. During those years, Colorado had no laws requiring medical marijuana to be sold in child-proof packaging.
Image: Child reaching for cookie, via Shutterstock