Higher potency in Cannabis sending consumers to the emergency room
LAS VEGAS - At an increasing rate, cannabis is sending consumers to local emergency rooms due to the strength of the THC in cannabis skyrocketing.
Compared with people who do not use, cannabis users were 22% more likely to end up in the emergency room, according to a study published in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research.
“There’s definitely an uptick,” emergency physician, Dr. Roger Martinez said. “Typically, it’ll be something psychiatric, anxiety, agitation. Sometimes they’ll have chest pain, or, they’ll have palpitations, nausea, vomiting.”
With marijuana being legal in 19 states, many users do not know how much stronger marijuana has become with higher levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis.
“Not only is the high more, but also the potential side effects can be more extreme,” Dr. Martinez said.
Decades ago the THC level in cannabis was around 2%-3% however, today it can be anywhere from 15%-30%
Studies show that this highly potent cannabis can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideations.
“I didn’t know that it can cause psychological issues,” mother, Stacey Weir said.
“You see a lot of people that have never taken cannabis before,” Dr. Martinez said. “The whole spectrum, all the way up to 80 years old. From kids to in their 80s.”
When taken excessively, this much more potent cannabis can also negatively impact a developing brain.
“A study out of New Zealand showed that heavy marijuana use in adolescence will shave off about six to eight IQ points. Doesn’t sound like a lot but that’s the difference between an A student and a B student,” Dr. Martinez said.
Doctors say moderation and knowledge of the drug’s strength are the keys to using.
Dr. Martinez also said that a 50 mg edible can look the same as a 5 mg edible, so consumers have to pay close attention to the dosage.
“The edibles are kind of scary, they look like candy, and brownies so you don’t know,” Weir said.
Over 22 million Americans used cannabis last year with most not ending up in the emergency room. Marijuana also has medical benefits including, treating seizures and inflammation.
“Marijuana has some legitimate medical uses it’s great for insomnia. Sometimes people use for anxiety, anti-nausea, pain reduction, so yes, in moderation and if used responsibly, it can help a lot of people,” Dr. Martinez said.
However, the risk associated with higher THC levels needs to be communicated to the public, especially young people.
“It would definitely help if there was more information and education to the general public about it,” Dr. Martinez said.
There are other methods of consuming THC such as vaping where the concentration is even higher with some cartridges going up into the 90% potency range.
This also carries an increased risk of needing medical attention. especially for children and teens, according to several studies.