The headlines about marijuana poisoning may be alarming, but do they tell the whole story?
The number of teens poisoned by marijuana rose last year in Oregon. In no way is this good news, but it may not be as drastic as some would think.
There were 70 cases of teens between the ages of 13 and 19 who either went to the emergency room or contacted the Oregon Poison Center over marijuana. The symptoms reported were mostly hallucinations and anxiety. There were only 40 such cases reported the previous year.
While we expect the anti-marijuana crowd to seize on these numbers, Dr. Robert Hendrickson, associate medical director of the poison center at Oregon Health & Science University, was not ready to panic.
“I think you can look at it two ways,” Hendrickson said according to OregonLive. “It’s increasing and that is a concern. On the other hand, 70 cases for the entire state in a whole year is pretty small.”
The data from the Oregon Poison Center was collected from calls from calls to emergency rooms across Oregon. Some calls were from individuals seeking advice and not for immediate medical attention.
With marijuana’s legality shifting from totally outlawed to permitted (at least medically) in a majority of states, a rise in teen poisoning, unfortunately, may not be surprising. But it can easily be misinterpreted that marijuana is causing a widespread health crisis. Last year, much was made about a report highlighting a rise in hospitalizations for children related to accidental marijuana ingestion by the Journal of American Medical Association. But a deeper analysis showed that children were still much more likely to consume household poisons such as diaper cream, pain relievers such as ibuprofen, tobacco, contact lens fluid, and laundry detergents.
Overall, there is still one number that should calm the anxieties of those worried about marijuana’s impact on our youth. There has yet to be a single confirmed death directly caused by marijuana use.