Pediatric Poisoning

The Effects of Marijuana on Children
Children’s Hospital Colorado

How do the symptoms of smoking differ from ingestion? After smoking or inhaling marijuana, the onset of symptoms is quick (within 5 to 30 minutes), but symptoms typically do not last long (a couple of hours).   In contrast, after ingestion of marijuana in the form of food or beverage, the onset of symptoms can take as long as one to four hours, and symptoms can last for several hours.

How does this differ in younger kids? The most common overdose incidents in children occur when the drug has been combined with food in an “edible” form of marijuana. This is because marijuana ingested in this manner can have a stronger and prolonged effect, especially in children under the age of 12 years old.  In these instances, kids mistake “edible” marijuana (like gummy bears, brownies, lollipops, etc.) for regular food and eat it unknowingly. Small children are at higher risk based on their size and weight.  Because edible products have very high amounts of marijuana, the symptoms are more severe on a small child. Many young children who consume marijuana edibles require hospital admission due to the severity of their symptoms. 

What are the long-term effects of marijuana on children? Long-term effect of acute marijuana exposures on children is unknown, as it has not been systematically studied. Because we don’t yet have the research and science findings to know the full effects, doctors do not fully understand marijuana’s long-term effects on children after acute exposures. Read tips from our experts on how to talk to your child about marijuana

Medical Marijuana Poisoning in Kids
National Capital Poison Center

Researchers in Colorado recently reported an increase in the number of children brought to the emergency room after swallowing medical marijuana products. The children ranged in age from as young as 8 months to 12 years old. Most of the children ate medical marijuana cakes, cookies or candies belonging to their grandparents, parents, babysitters, or friends of the family.

The most common symptoms were excessive sleepiness, dizziness, and trouble walking. However, a few became too sleepy and their breathing slowed down. That could mean the child doesn’t get enough oxygen. Fortunately, none of these children died. They all recovered without permanent health problems.

  • Medical marijuana is sometimes prescribed for patients with HIV/AIDS, seizure disorders, cancer, severe pain, and severe nausea, among other conditions.
  • The active chemical in medical marijuana is usually stronger than in the marijuana plant.
  • Medical marijuana may be taken as a pill or liquid, smoked, heated and inhaled, or eaten in cookies, brownies, cakes, soft drinks and candies.
  • Today, there are no regulations for safe storage of medical marijuana products, such as child-resistant packages or warning labels.
  • Young children have been poisoned by swallowing medical marijuana. Some have needed treatment in an intensive care unit…

Pediatric cannabis exposures reported to MI poison center after medical marijuana legalization

  • Three Key Points
  1. States, where marijuana was legalized or decriminalized, have continued to show a concomitant rise in pediatric cannabis exposures and increases in emergency department visits or hospitalizations despite attempts to place in opaque, child-resistant packaging.  A doubling of events every 2.1 years was seen in Michigan.
  2. In reported single substance exposures to the Michigan poison center, marijuana ingestion was the most common route of exposure (76.8%) with edibles products being the most prevalent (69.4%) at a median exposure age of 5 years old.
  3. Both ingestion and inhalational exposures can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, altered mental status, dangerous behaviors, and a number of other health and psychiatric effects.