Misleading Headlines Circulate on Supposed Child Marijuana “Overdose”

shutterstock 682743157
shutterstock 682743157

Researchers regret how their words have been interpreted about the cause of a tragic death of an infant.

This week, media outlets have been promoting a research study about the death of an 11-month old due to a marijuana “overdose.”

But that is not what the doctors associated with the study meant.


“We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child,” said Thomas Nappe, an author of the report who is now the director of medical toxicology at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pa. according to the Washington Post.

Nappe, along with Christopher Hoyte, co-authored the study that examined the child’s death. The authors noted that the child had marijuana in his system and they thought it could be worth studying the relationship between cannabis and myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle that caused the child’s death.

Nappe and Hoyte looked at the “unstable motel-living” situation the child was in. The child’s parents admitted that drugs, including marijuana, were in their possession.

Their report suggests:

“In states where cannabis is legalized, it is important that physicians not only counsel parents on preventing exposure to cannabis but to also consider cannabis toxicity in unexplained pediatric myocarditis and cardiac deaths as a basis for urine drug screening in this setting.”

The report also said that “As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure.”

But Nappe feels that “associated” should not be interpreted as an established cause and effect.

Some on the medical community felt that Nappe and Hoyte needed to be more careful with the language they used.

“You just can’t make those statements because then what happens is lay people say, ‘Oh my God, did you hear a kid died from marijuana poisoning?’ and it can be sensationalized,” said Noah Kaufman, a Northern Colorado emergency room physician.

“It’s not based on reality. It’s based on somebody kind of jumping the gun and making a conclusion, and scientifically you can’t do that,” she Kaufman continued.

However, after Kaufman was relieved after finding out that Nappe and Hoyte were not claiming a definitive link between marijuana and the child’s death.

But this is not to say that marijuana presents zero danger for developing children.

“Unambiguously, cannabis can accelerate the heart,” said Professor Jonathan Caulkins, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College.

Caulkins is not a medical doctor but analyzes drug policy.

Currently, there are still no conclusive reports of marijuana causing an overdose death according to the DEA.

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