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Emergency rooms seeing alarming rise in children with cannabis-related health issues

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  • Staff Report 

Emergency rooms nationwide are experiencing an alarming rise in visits by children with cannabis-related health issues, states a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Particularly concerning is the drastic increase among children aged 10 and under, with the ingestion of cannabis edibles in those under six having risen by over 1,000% in recent years. This trend aligns with observations made by healthcare professionals like Dr. Marla Levine from the Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, who has seen an “uptick in the last two years.”

According to the CDC, the surge in cannabis-involved ER visits started several years before the pandemic and persisted throughout 2022, across all age groups except those aged 15-24 years. The increase might stem from multiple factors including the use of cannabis as a coping mechanism for pandemic-related stress, increased consumption of highly concentrated THC products, and more widespread availability as more states legalize cannabis. There have been roughly 540,000 cannabis-related ER visits for individuals under 25 in the last four years, with 90% of these visits involving the 15-24 age group.

However, the most significant rise was observed in children aged 10 and under, with weekly cannabis-related ER visits during the pandemic jumping from a pre-pandemic average of 19-23 to a range of about 30-70. Both the CDC and Dr. Levine warn about the risks of child-appealing packaging for cannabis products that may be mistaken for regular snacks, leading to accidental exposure. Levine strongly advised parents to be aware of these risks and to store cannabis products securely out of children’s reach.