United States: In the United States, the surge in accidental consumption of cannabis-infused treats, notably THC gummies, among kids is becoming a worrisome issue. Recent reports from USA Today highlighted the prevalence of THC-infused gummies being readily available in stores, leading to heightened accessibility for the general public.
But what exactly are THC gummies?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound present in cannabis plants, remains federally illegal. However, its usage has significantly surged in the US following the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. While hemp typically contains lower THC levels compared to traditional cannabis, some manufacturers have altered the potency of this psychoactive element in edibles. These edibles, including gummies, chocolates, lollipops, cookies, and other baked goods, have seen an increase in availability, according to USA Today.
The escalating incidents of accidental consumption among children are cause for concern. Research conducted in Illinois revealed a stark rise in cases where children under the age of six mistakenly ingested cannabis-infused products, soaring from 207 instances in 2017 to 3,014 cases in 2021. Shockingly, approximately a quarter of these children required hospitalization, as reported by USA Today, citing a study published in Pediatrics earlier in the year.
Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal reported a tripling in pediatric hemp poisoning cases since 2021. The National Poison Data System documented over 7,000 cases of child exposure to edible cannabis products from 2017 to 2021, with more than half of the affected children being toddlers aged 2 to 3. Notably, over 90 percent of these incidents occurred in a home setting.
Accessibility to cannabis products has expanded significantly across the US, with 37 states permitting medical marijuana use and 21 states allowing recreational use for adults. Consequently, as these products proliferate in the market, the incidents of children inadvertently consuming marijuana-laced treats are on the rise.
Recognizing the signs of cannabis poisoning in children is crucial. Symptoms such as slowed breathing and heart rate are commonly observed among children admitted to Critical Care Units. Additional indicators include drowsiness, respiratory issues, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and impaired motor control. However, there have been no reported deaths among children in the past five years due to cannabis ingestion, according to USA Today.
Kevin Osterhoudt, Medical Director of The Poison Control Center and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia at the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasized that accidental marijuana consumption often occurs at home. Hence, parents should securely store any edibles and refrain from purchasing products packaged similarly to conventional candies or treats.
Researchers advocate for changes in packaging, labeling, and the regulation of maximum allowable doses per package to mitigate these incidents.