Five years after the first legalization of marijuana in Colorado, a new study shows that the poor effects of pots cause more people to be sent to the emergency room.
Inhaled marijuana caused the biggest problems in a large hospital in Denver. Marijuana-infused food and sweets, called food, also caused problems. Patients came to the emergency department with symptoms such as repeated vomiting, racing hearts, and psychotic episodes.
The study published in Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday came from stories of tourists in need of emergency care after consuming too many marijuana gums. "It was hard to know if these were just anecdotes or if there was a true phenomenon," said lead author Dr. Andrew Monte from UCHealth University in Colorado Hospital.
Three Colorado deaths linked to edible products also led to the study.
Emergency room records from Monte's hospital show a threefold increase in marijuana cases since the state made the first sale of recreational marijuana in January 201
In 2012, the emergency department saw an average of one patient with marijuana-related problems every other day. By the year 2016, there were two to three per day.
That's not enough to flood the ER, said Monte, but it emphasizes an already loaded system.
Most people can safely use marijuana, Monte said, but with its increased availability and higher THC levels, "we may see more adverse drug reactions," he said.
THC is the part of marijuana that drives people up.
A growing cannabis industry promotes the drug as a cure. all while downplaying dangers, Dr. Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist at Northeast Ohio Medical University, who was not involved in the investigation. In more than 30 states, marijuana is now approved for at least medical use. New Jersey is the 11th state to approve the recreational potential. The US government considers marijuana illegal.
"You can not trust the people who sell the drugs take the risk," Messamore said, calling for warning signs similar to those on tobacco products.
The analysis confirms edible is annoyance. Nationwide, they accounted for less than 1 percent of total cannabis sales in terms of THC content. However, 11 percent of ER visits were triggered by food.
Monte said that food is too dangerous to participate in the leisure market. Slow to get in, their effects take too long for a good party drug, he said. They work better for those who want to use them as medicine.
However, information on safe dosing is lacking, as the Denver-based Arlene Galchinsky learned. She took a marijuana gum for pain next to a prescription narcotic and became so disoriented that her husband was called a paramedic. Galchinsky, 79, did not go to the emergency room, but the experience confused her.
"It was extremely scary," she said of the feeling. "When was that supposed to go away? It was so scary."
The government-funded study found 2,567 emergency visits to the Denver hospital from 2012 to 2016 caused by marijuana. It's not just tourists; Nine times out of ten were Colorado residents.
Seventeen percent of visits were due to uncontrolled bouts of vomiting. It was mostly from inhaled marijuana, not from food.
Twelve percent of cases involved acute psychosis, in which people without mental disorders lose contact with reality in the past. This was more commonly observed with edibles.
Intoxication and heart problems were other common complaints.
In an editorial, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse, further research on the benefits and harms of marijuana. She and co-author Ruben Baler wrote that it was "urgent" to increase control over manufacturing and labeling as the use of marijuana increases with the legalization of the state.
Monte, an ER doctor specializing in toxicology, does not use marijuana. "I'm too busy," he said. "I can not spend time getting up."
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