The number of children in France who were admitted to hospital emergency rooms for marijuana intoxication has jumped by 133% in 11 years, a new study states.
Marijuana intoxication occurs when a child accidentally consume a product laced with pot, or inhales marijuana smoke, CNN reports. Symptoms may vary according to the child’s age and size, but the most common symptoms include difficulty breathing, sleepiness, seizures and at worst, a coma.
The drug is illegal in France, but the country has the highest rate of cannabis use in Europe, according to Isabelle Claudet, lead author on the study and pediatric emergency physician in Toulouse. Claudet said,
And that means we are facing an increase in emergency admissions of marijuana intoxication and an increase in severe symptoms seen in children.
The researchers examined the number of French kids under six years old who were admitted to emergency rooms due to accidental marijuana intoxication, and the volume of pot-related calls involving children to poison control centers in France.
From 2004 until 2014, 235 children were brought to emergency rooms due to marijuana intoxication. There was a 133% increase in admissions rates. The number of calls to poison control centers increased by 312% in the same time frame.
Claudet added that most alarmingly, the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – the drug responsible for giving pot users a “high” – has been increasing in marijuana products. She said, “THC concentration in cannabis products has increased from 9% in 2004 to 20% in 2014. I believe that’s why we’re facing more adverse effects in children.”
The severity of symptoms among child patients in the ER because of cannabis has likewise grown worse. The cases in 2014 were 20 times more severe than in 2004, and four times worse than in 2013, the study found. There were also more marijuana-related admissions compared to other types of pediatric ER admittances.
The best way to address the problem is to decrease the concentration of THC through tighter regulations, Claudet said. “And we have to also warn consumers and parents that it could be very dangerous for children to eat such products. Because usually, parents think it’s not very harmful because they’re smoking it, and it relaxes them. But if a child ingests one stick or ball, they can become comatose.”
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.