The majority of Canadian edibles overdoses involve youth

Published Oct 1, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Darren415

Canada truly is the land of the free, and there is nowhere that’s more apparent than when you take a look at how quickly the country has adapted to include a legal cannabis industry. A recreational drug that just a few years ago was illegal is now a bustling business, and that’s a good thing, but like with any substance, there are some adverse implications.

At first, only the simplest cannabis products like the flower were available on the legal market, and they are not activated, which means that if children were to find them and eat them, they wouldn’t get high as a result, but then along came the more potent options that cannabis enthusiasts were waiting for like cannabinoid filled edibles.

Quite a few people were concerned about this brand-new line of cannabis products, saying that if they were to become more widely available, they could pose a risk to our most vulnerable citizens, the children. They’ve held that opinion for a good reason because even before they were legal, minors were showing up on occasion in emergency rooms from both accidental and purposeful ingestion of edibles.

To combat the issue, the federal government put in place restrictions on the cannabinoid content that is legally allowable in edibles, which are currently capped at a meager 10mg of THC, and yet we still see more and more incidences where youth are succumbing to a marijuana overdose because of edibles. This is partially believed to be the result of homemade edibles, but it’s something that is happening more frequently since the introduction of the cannabis-infused goods in dispensaries.

What we mean by a marijuana overdose

The word overdose tends to bring to mind some devastating images because we often use the term to refer to drugs that leave people lifeless in the streets after taking too much, but in this case, it means that an individual has taken so much that they feel the need to seek emergency medical attention. Symptoms of a marijuana overdose could be a deep and undisturbedly slumber, or an episode of panic, paranoid, and heart palpitations that make a person feel like something is seriously wrong.

Is an overdose on cannabis life-threatening?

The reason we associate the word overdose with death is that it’s truly the case in most overdose situations. If you were to overdose on Tylenol, your life would be in danger, and the same would be true with pharmaceuticals and street drugs. Luckily, a marijuana overdose is typically not something that you have to worry about losing your life over, as there is not a single recorded death on record due to cannabis.

Though there are plenty of situations where an overdose could lead to a life-threatening situation, for instance, if an individual were to overdose in a dangerous situation like near water, or while walking along the side of the road, as a bout of panic is just enough to send some people running into the wrong direction at the wrong time, but typically a marijuana overdose requires just enough sleep or water to get through.

Restrictions in place to keep our youth safe

Right now, as we mentioned before, there are some pretty strict cannabinoid maximums in Canada for just this reason, and it's not just so that youth don’t experience this uncomfortable situation, as it’s meant to protect inexperienced adult users too. Unfortunately, the limits don’t seem to do much to provide safety for those whom the goods are made for, because most people who use them a lot will make their own edibles, which is entirely legal, rather than buying them, and this results in much stronger cannabis products.

The study

The researchers from this study, which was titled ‘Sentinel Surveillance Of Injuries And Poisonings Associated With Cannabis’, used case reports that were provided by 19 of Canada’s largest hospitals to assess the total number of overdose cases and the ages of those involved. In most cases, they were also provided with an explanation of how or why edibles were consumed, with some of them being intentional and others labeled as accidental ingestion.

The results

The electronic Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (eCHIRPP) database is an extensive program that provides experts real-time estimates for all different types of substance injuries, and right now, it looks like the most widely reported drug there, is cannabis. Per every 100 000 eCHIRPP reports, 74.6 incidents involved edibles alone, and 11.3 involved both alcohol and edibles. 7.9 of those 100 000 cases, cannabis was combined with other illicit drugs, and 25 of the cannabis edible related cases involved children who were under the age of 10.

What we can do to change it

It is unfortunate that so many children fall victim to scenarios where they have to experience what we often consider to be unlikely reactions due to cannabis, and though, it is important to remember that these numbers are for the entire country, which means that it’s not a common situation, we can still do better by educating ourselves and taking the steps necessary to keep cannabis edibles out of the hands of our youth.

That means investing in proper storage solutions and enforcing cannabis consumption laws where minors are concerned. It also means that there needs to be accountability among those who make these mistakes, as the majority of youth accidentally ingest edibles that are found to be within reach around the home. It is important that parents and edible consumers who host children take the matter seriously, as a marijuana overdose is a terrifying and dangerous thing for developing minds to endure, and it is entirely preventable.

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