Cannabis use is causing a rise in emergency department visits among the youth
A recent study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised serious concerns about the impact of cannabis use on young people. The study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, analyzed nearly 540,000 cases of hospitalizations among individuals under the age of 25 due to complications from cannabis use. The findings revealed a troubling trend of increased cannabis-related emergency department visits among kids, teenagers, and young adults between 2019 and 2022.
One of the most alarming aspects of the study was the noticeable rise in cannabis-related emergency department visits among children under the age of ten. This development has raised questions about the potential dangers of marijuana consumption among very young children and the need for heightened awareness among parents and caregivers.
The study also pointed out that while more than 90% of cannabis-related hospital trips occurred in the oldest age group (ages 15 to 24), there were significant increases in younger kids' cases as well. Before the pandemic, children under 10 visiting emergency departments due to cannabis consumption happened around 18 to 23 times a week, on average. However, during the pandemic, this figure surged to as high as 71.5 weekly cannabis-related emergency department visits.
The reasons behind this increase in cannabis-related youth emergency visits were not explicitly identified in the study. However, the report proposed several possible causes, including the use of cannabis as a coping mechanism for pandemic-related stressors and the higher availability of highly concentrated THC products. During challenging times, such as the pandemic, substance use may be resorted to as a way to deal with increased stress and anxiety, especially among those already struggling with substance use disorders.
Additionally, the study highlighted the impact of edible marijuana consumption on young children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's alert in June 2022 warned about the accidental ingestion of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by children. Edible THC products resembling popular food brands led to cases of mistaken ingestion and adverse effects such as hallucinations, increased heart rate, and vomiting.
To address these concerning trends, the study recommended implementing evidence-based substance-use prevention programs tailored to the needs of youth during the pandemic. It also stressed the importance of adults safely and securely storing cannabis products out of the reach of children to prevent accidental ingestion.
The study's findings underscore the need for increased education and awareness regarding the potential risks of cannabis use among young people. Moreover, it calls for targeted efforts to address the root causes behind the rise in emergency department visits and to ensure the safety and well-being of the younger population in relation to cannabis consumption.