Cannabis-related incidents are sending more Coloradans to the ER

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Cannabis-related trips to the emergency room have tripled in Colorado over the past five years since cannabis was made legal in the state, according to a new study.  

The study was published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine following several instances of tourists in Colorado needing to go to the emergency room from cannabis, with symptoms including a racing heart rate, psychotic episodes and excessive vomiting, especially after consuming edibles.

“About 10 percent of cannabis-related ED visits were associated with edible forms of weeds, but only 0.32 percent of total cannabis sales were for edible products. That’s 33 times higher than what we expected,” said Dr. Andrew Monte at the University of Colorado Hospital and lead author of the study. “Acute-on-chronic conditions such as acute exacerbations of schizophrenia were also much more commonly associated with cannabis edibles.”

The study was also prompted by three deaths in Colorado that are believed to be linked to cannabis edibles. dD

Monte believes that part of the problem may be that many people don’t realize that eating a cannabis edible has different effects than consuming cannabis in other ways such as smoking or vaping. People may be consuming more than they should because the effects are not as immediate as smoking.

“So some users over-consume edible cannabis products, resulting in adverse effects,” said Monte.

The study found there were 2,567 cannabis-related emergency room visits between 2012 and 2016 and that 9 out of 10 of those visits were Colorado residents. It also found that 17 percent of visits were for excessive vomiting, which were actually more often a result of smoking, and not consuming edibles. Edibles are believed to have caused the 12 percent of visits related to psychosis, in people who had no previous mental health issues.

Monte believes that currently edibles are too dangerous to be on the market while there is a huge lack of information on safe dosing. People that are not aware of their own tolerance, or are trying edibles for the first time, may be at risk of experiencing the adverse effects of overconsumption.

“We have to do a better job of educating users on the fact that this phenomenon exists.”

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