The marijuana exposure rate among children age 5 and younger surged by 147.5 percent from 2006 through 2013, according to a study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Access to marijuana-infused foods may be to blame for the rising rate of pot exposure among young children, the study found. The findings were published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.
States that legalized marijuana from 2000 through 2013 saw the exposure rate spike almost 16 percent per year following legalization.
Even in states where marijuana remained illegal through 2013, the exposure rate increased by 63 percent from 2000 through 2013, according to a press release issued by Nationwide Children’s Hospital today.
Most exposed children were 3 years old or younger — more than 75 percent — and most consumed marijuana via swallowing.
Central Ohio Poison Center Director Henry Spiller, who co-authored the study, states in the press release:
“The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods. Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive.”
The study was based on data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System.
A total of 1,969 young children were reported to U.S. poison control centers due to marijuana exposure from 2000 through 2013.
The NCH study found that most exposure cases “resulted in only minor clinical effects,” but also included coma, decreased breathing and seizures. Eighteen percent of the children were hospitalized.
The press release explains:
The main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, THC, can be especially high in marijuana food products, and that may have contributed to some of the observed severe effects.
Children and adolescents are “more significantly affected” by marijuana exposure than adults, according to a 2009 study by the California Society of Addiction Medicine. They also are “at far greater risk” than adults of becoming dependent on the drug.