There has been an increase in exposure to marijuana among young children over the last 13 years, according to a new study. In the United States, there were nearly 2000 cases of marijuana exposure reported from 2000-2013 in children under the age of 6. Of those cases, 75 percent involved children under the age of 3. The study published in the most recent issue of Clinical Pediatrics, compiled the statistics using information from the National Poison Data System, a database that tracks poison cases reported. The information is gathered from calls made to Poison Control Centers located in the U.S.
Many of the cases that were called into the center were only minor and did not require a visit to the emergency room. More than 18 percent of the children exposed were taken to the hospital to receive care. Some children had respiratory issues such as decreased breathing and others suffered from seizures and comas.
The rate of exposure increased in states that legalized marijuana from 2000-2013. The largest increase in exposure among states that have legalized marijuana was a whopping 147 percent from 2006-2013.
Most of the cases involved children ingesting it through food products made with marijuana, which are available in states where the drug is legal. The main psychoactive ingredient in the drug is THC, which can have especially high dosages in manufactured marijuana food products like brownies, cookies, and chocolate. These products seem innocuous to children because they look like any other treat their parents may bring into their homes. Because laws do not require the products to be in child-proof packaging, a child can get into them as easily as they would any other snack.
This raises concerns among the study researchers that there should be packaging laws enacted to protect children from accidental exposure. The researchers suggested that the methods used to protect children from getting into medicine, household cleaners and other hazardous products should also be used for products containing marijuana, including childproof caps and opaque, child-resistant packaging. When the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, a law requiring child-resistant packaging for household cleaners and drugs, was passed there was a noted drop in exposure to hazardous household materials among children.
The researchers also recommended that the laws be established while marijuana regulations are being created so that they will both go into effect at the same time.
Education should also play an important part, according to the researchers. They believe that parents and caregivers need to be taught how to take preventive measures to keep the items out of the hands of children. Regulations would not apply to homemade edible products made with marijuana legally obtained in states where it is available. Like any product that could pose a danger, parents should be reminded that any product containing marijuana should be kept out of reach and out of sight from children.
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