A new study published this week is showing that the negative effects of marijuana are sending more people to the emergency room in Colorado.
The edibles have led to patients needing the emergency room for symptoms such as repeated vomiting, racing hearts and psychotic episodes.
There have also been three deaths in Colorado that have been tied to patients eating edible products.
According to the study, 2,567 emergency visits at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Denver were caused by marijuana from 2012-2016. Seventeen percent of the visits were for uncontrolled vomiting and it was often from inhaled marijuana, not edibles.
Just five years after Colorado first legalized marijuana, inhaled marijuana has caused the most severe problems at the hospital.
“It was hard to know if these were just anecdotes or if there was a true phenomenon,” said Andrew Monte, lead author of the study.
Hospital records show a three-fold increase in marijuana cases since it became legal in 2014.
In 2012, the ER saw an average of one patient every other day with a marijuana-caused problem. By 2016, it was up to two or three a day.
Most people can use marijuana safely, but with its increased availability and higher THC concentrations, “we may be seeing more adverse drug reactions,” Monte said.
Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist at Northeast Ohio Medical University says the growing cannabis industry promotes the drug as a cure-all while downplaying the dangers.
Today, more than 30 states allow marijuana for at least medical use.
The study shows that statewide, edibles made up less than 1 percent of total cannabis sales, yet 11 percent of ER visits were triggered by edibles.
Monte says edibles are the real danger and should not be a part of the recreational marketplace. The effects are slow to kick in and last too long to be a party drug.
Arlene Galchinsky of Denver shared that she took a marijuana gummy for pain on top of her prescribed narcotic. She became disoriented but did not end up going to the ER.
“It was extremely scary,” she said. “When was this going to go away? It was so frightening.”
Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, has called for more research on the benefits and harms of marijuana.
Volkow believes doctors need to be educated about the importance of screening for cannabis use and about the potential related health effects.
She also says there is an “urgent need” for greater oversight of manufacturing and labeling as marijuana use increases.
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