There has been debate regarding the repercussions that would follow the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. These discussions have focused on health and marijuana use, the financial cost for adults to consume the drug, crime rates and the economic benefits of legalization. A recent study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics and conducted by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has brought attention to the issue of marijuana exposure among children.
This study revealed that the rate of marijuana exposure among children ages 5 years and older increased 147.5 percent between 2006 and 2013 in the U.S. Additionally, this same rate has increased by a whopping 610 percent in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical use prior to 2000.
In the states where marijuana was legalized for medical use, from 2000 to 2013, the rate increased 16 percent per year following legalization. States that had not legalized marijuana by 2013 still indicated that the rate of exposure to marijuana among children between 2000 and 2013 jumped by 63 percent. Another alarming statistic showed that 75 percent of children who were exposed to marijuana were younger than three years old and most of them were exposed by ingesting marijuana orally.
This study found that most childhood exposures were not fatal, where the child incurred minor issues from the drug. On the other hand, some did experience decreased breathing, seizures and even coma. More than 18 percent of children who ingested the drug were hospitalized. These hospitalizations pose the need to investigate the circumstances which led to the children being exposed to marijuana in the first place.
Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and co-author of the study said, “The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods.” Spiller also discussed how young children are very prone to swallowing items as this is how they typically “explore their environments.”
Between 2000 and 2013, there were collectively 1,969 young children reported to Poison Control Centers due to marijuana exposure. While this may seem like a relatively low number, the dramatic increase in occurrence among states that have legalized the drug for medical use is very concerning, said Gary Smith, the senior author of the study. Smith added, “Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning…Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana.”
Studies have shown a link between drug use early in life and drug addiction. Sovereign Health Group is among the national leaders in providing addiction treatment. We offer various inpatient and outpatient treatment programs across the country for patients who suffer from mental illness, drug addiction and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who’s struggling with a mental illness and is in need of addiction treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us anytime over the phone or through our online chat to speak to a member of our team.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer