Marijuana use among children has soared 250% in just two decades, according to an analysis of data from the poison control center.
Although weed is not legal for children, researchers warn that the recent wave of legalization among adults has made it increasingly easier for young people to access it.
The latest study looked at nearly 340,000 reports to poison control centers involving all drugs over 20 years. The researchers only looked at those involving children between the ages of 6 and 18.
They found that cases involving marijuana rose the fastest of any substance, replacing alcohol in 2014 and rising the fastest between 2017 and 2020 – when the herb began to be federally decriminalized.
It comes after a separate study found that women in states where cannabis is legal are five times more likely to smoke the drug during pregnancy, despite the huge risks to babies.
The chart above shows the number of alcohol (orange) and marijuana (green) poisonings reported in the United States by year among people ages 6-18. It also includes those of other items such as antidepressants and opiates. A case of abuse is when a patient takes too much for the purpose of “getting high”, while abuse is when they are taken badly for some reason other than the mental effects.
The above shows cannabis use in US states. Twenty-one states and DC have legalized it for recreational use in addition to medical use, while nearly all now allow its use for medicinal purposes.
Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Now the drug is licensed for recreational use in 21 states and for medical use in 37 states.
For the latest study — published today in Clinical Toxicology — researchers at Oregon Health and Science University looked at data from the National Poison Data System (NPDS).
Reports to poison control centers were calls from medical professionals, public health agencies, or the public.
The calls may have been received because people misused the drug, took it to a high, or overdosed.
This graph shows the number of abuse or abuse cases by age group from 2000 to 2020. It reveals that more than half involve people over the age of 13
During the 20-year study, there were 338,000 cases involving all drugs. Of these, 26,100 (seven percent) were due to marijuana.
Annual marijuana cases have increased from 510 at the start of the study in 2000 to 1,761 in 2020, a 245% increase.
Annual reports involving weed overtook alcohol in 2014 and became the most common in 2018.
Marijuana edibles accounted for the largest increase in calls to poison control centers across the entire study.
Dr Adrienne Hughes, an emergency medicine expert at Oregon Health and Science University who led the study, said: ‘These results may reflect the impact of rapidly changing cannabis legalization on this population. vulnerable.
“Along with the increasing legalization of cannabis, we are also seeing the emergence of alternative modes of consumption, particularly non-combustible products such as edibles and vaping devices.
“These edibles and vaping products are often marketed in ways that appeal to young people, can be used with more discretion, and are more convenient.
“A focus group study with teenagers found edibles to be appealing to those concerned about smoking or the smell associated with marijuana use.”
The biggest increase in marijuana use took place between 2017 and 2020, increasing by around 40% in three years.
What are the health risks of marijuana?
About 48 million Americans smoke cannabis at least once a year, according to official estimates.
Marijuana is the third most widely used drug in the United States behind alcohol and tobacco.
This figure is increasing as states continue to legalize the drug.
21 US states have legalized the drug for adult recreational use.
But evidence is also mounting on its health risks, especially for young adults.
Researchers suggest that it has the following negative impacts:
- brain damage: It can lead to a permanent loss of IQ because it hinders brain development and could even have long-lasting cognitive effects in young adults;
- Mental Health: It has been linked to increased rates of suicide as well as psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, although it is not clear whether marijuana is the cause;
- Daily life: Polls associate it with more problems in careers and maintaining healthy relationships;
- Conduct: Those who drive under the influence have slower reactions and less coordination, research shows.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
During the same period, annual alcohol cases fell by almost a third, from 1,318 to 916 reported by the NPDS.
Dextromethorphan, an over-the-counter cough medicine sold under many brand names, including Delsym, was the most common cause of poisonings in the study with 51,667 cases (15% of the total).
Next come benzodiazepines, prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia, with 26,037 cases (7.7%).
The majority of cases involving alcohol or marijuana involved boys (58%).
Eight in ten also belonged to people aged 13 to 18, and almost half were aged 16 to 18.
But there have also been cases in very young children.
Last year, a mother in Hawaii was in shock after her six-year-old daughter accidentally ate a weed gum that left her suffering from seizures.
Of the registered cases, almost a third had worse than minor clinical findings.
Cardiac arrests and seizures have been recorded in severe clinical cases, both of which can be caused by an overdose of marijuana.
In the study, 66 deaths were recorded due to weed overdoses (0.3% of all marijuana cases).
Recreational legalization surged in the United States during the study period.
By 2014, four states had legalized the drug, rising to 11 five years later. Four others eliminated the drug during the last year of the study.
Marijuana is considered particularly dangerous for young, developing brains and can permanently alter their structure, leading to a loss of IQ.
It has also been linked to increased rates of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Dr Hughes added: “Cases of ethanol abuse exceeded marijuana cases every year from 2000 to 2013.
‘[But] since 2014, cases of marijuana exposure have exceeded cases of ethanol each year, and by a greater amount each year than the previous one.
“These edibles and vaping products are often marketed in ways that appeal to young people, and they’re seen as more discreet and convenient,” she said.
“Compared to smoking cannabis, which usually results in an immediate high, intoxication from edible forms of marijuana typically takes several hours, which can lead some people to consume larger amounts and experience unexpected and unpredictable highs. ” As of 2022, cannabis is legal for adult recreational use in 19 states and for medical purposes in 36 states.