Poison center calls spike for kids ingesting edible marijuana products

Calls nearly tripled from 2021 to 2022

A troubling trend has been reported in Virginia.

Calls to UVA Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center for kids accidentally consuming edible marijuana products nearly tripled from 26 in 2021 to 77 in 2022.

About 68% of those calls involved children five or younger, and most of them needed to be hospitalized.

“Children are getting into these and none of us want that to happen,” said Dr. Chris Holstege, the center’s medical director.

He says in most cases, kids mistake edible marijuana products for candy.

“They look just like skittles, for example, or caramel, gumdrops,” said Holstege. “Some of these doses are really high.”

Holstege added that there aren’t any studies about what the drug can do to such young, developing minds.

“There are no studies on how these impact kids,” said Holstege. “These are psychoactive substances. They impact a lot of neurotransmitters in the brain.”

Dr. Paul Stromberg is an emergency medicine physician with Carilion Clinic. He says kids can experience rapid heart rates, low blood pressure, vomiting, confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.

“They’re very somnolent or sleepy, sometimes to the point where we actually worry about them not being able to breathe on their own,” said Stromberg. “Occasionally, children do have to be intubated or have a breathing tube inserted.”

Holstege says calls to the poison center are anonymous. He hopes the report serves as a wake-up call to parents, lawmakers, and the marijuana industry.

“How do we keep this out of the hands of young toddlers? And that’s not making products with high THC content in things that look like candy. That is a bad idea. And then do we do things that we’ve done with other things that are considered medicines, right? We put them in child-proof containers. We want to make sure that the parents are well-educated,” said Holstege.

“I think this kind of holds true for anything in the home — cleaning supplies, firearms — keep them locked and away from kids,” said Stromberg.

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