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Upstate Poison Center issues warning as calls about children eating marijuana edibles increase

The Upstate New York Poison Center has seen a sharp increase in the number of calls for children and teens who have eaten marijuana edibles.

Poison Center data shows calls increased nearly sixfold from almost four years ago for children and teens, 19 years old and younger who have consumed a cannabis-containing food product.

The change from 2019 to 2022 is even higher when considering children five and under.

The Upstate New York Poison Center handled only seven cases in 2019 and as of early August this year, it has received 64 calls. The calls are being received at a rate that could make could make this year the largest call volume for marijuana edibles in the center’s 65-year history.

“There are multiple factors for why we are seeing an increase in calls,” says Vince Calleo, MD, medical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center.  “We think some of the biggest reasons for the increase is because these products are more readily available—and many products have enticing packaging. Our number one concern right now is for the pediatric population because marijuana can have serious effects on their small bodies.”

Because edible THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, products often look like candy or sweets, children tend to eat more than what is considered a single “dose” for an adult.

These edible products look appealing to young children, and many times, children don’t eat just one.

Officials stress that, unlike smoked marijuana, the effects of edibles may not kick in for almost 90 minutes. Pediatric exposures to edible THC products frequently require a trip to a healthcare facility. In young children, marijuana can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate, severe tiredness, trouble breathing and even coma.

“It’s easy to forget and leave something out on a table or a counter, but please remember to treat marijuana products just like a dangerous medication,” Calleo said. “Kids are curious and can’t normally tell the difference between products with and without THC. Up high and out of reach of children is the best place to store all cannabis-related products. Placing THC edibles in medication lock boxes can decrease the chances of children accidentally eating them.”

The poison center is staffed by trained registered nurses, pharmacists and physicians who have completed training on how to handle a poisoning call for marijuana edibles and when to send someone to a healthcare facility.

If you think a child has consumer marijuana—or for any other suspected poison situation—contact the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.