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Cannabis edibles cause poisoning among older users




Cannabis edibles cause poisoning among older users

The legalization of cannabis and the popularity of its edible versions are having an unexpected effect: more seniors are ending up in the emergency room with an overdose.

A new Canadian study shows that the number of ‘cannabis poisonings’ in the province of Ontario tripled among older users after edibles became legal, compared to the pre-legalization era.

“Overall, this study demonstrates the health outcomes of cannabis legalization and commercialization for older adults and highlights the consequences associated with edible cannabis,” wrote a team led by Dr. Nathan Stall of Sinai Health and University Health Network in Toronto.

The study was published May 20 in the news JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the study, Stall’s group looked at Ontario Ministry of Health data on emergency room admissions for cannabis poisoning over three periods. The first period was before marijuana became legal in the province (January 2015 to September 2018); the second was from October 2018 to December 2019, when cannabis was legal, but only in the form of dried marijuana; and the third was from January 2020 to December 2022, when edibles were also allowed to be sold.

In total, there were more than 2,300 emergency department visits for cannabis poisonings among older adults (people with an average age of 69.5 years) over the three periods.

But the number of emergency visits during the initial legalization period was double that of before the legalization period, Stall’s team reported, and the number of emergency visits tripled after edibles became available.

It’s unclear what role edibles played in the sharp increase in poisonings, as access to legal marijuana generally grew at the same time, the researchers said.

Still, the likelihood of accidental ingestion increases when edibles are nearby, and the researchers noted that most of these products do not come with age-appropriate instructions for use.

They pointed out that “older adults are at particularly high risk for the adverse effects of cannabis” due to their age, the fact that many are taking multiple medications that can lead to drug interactions, and any underlying diseases.

“Jurisdictions with legalized cannabis should consider measures to reduce unintentional exposure in older adults and provide age-specific dosing guidelines,” Stall and colleagues said.

More information:
Nathan M. Stall et al, Legalization of Edible Cannabis and Cannabis Poisoning in Older Adults, JAMA Internal Medicine (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jamainintermed.2024.1331

There are some safety tips for using cannabis edibles

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