Montreal hospital sees spike in children with cannabis intoxication
CTVNews.ca Staff , with files from CTV Montreal’s Cindy Sherwin
Published Thursday, May 16, 2019 7:36PM EDT
Cannabis intoxication among children has spiked in Montreal since marijuana was legalized last fall, and health officials are urging parents to be vigilant about keeping candy-like edibles away from kids.
Since legalization last October, 26 children were admitted to the Montreal Children’s Hospital after consuming cannabis. Of those, nine cases involved children under the age of seven. Two children had seizures and required treatment in the intensive care unit.
That’s a significant jump from pre-legalization, according to hospital trauma director Debbie Friedman.
“[The number of cases] has gone from one every three to four years to nine within a very short period of time. So this certainly is alarming to us,” Friedman told CTV Montreal.
Cannabis edibles often resemble candies, cookies, chocolate or brownies and contain higher levels of THC. They aren’t legal for sale, but the federal government is expected to legalize edible cannabis products this fall.
The problem with cannabis edibles is that children may not realize that they contain psychoactive ingredients. Friedman encouraged parents to invest in safety locks and remain “extremely prudent” whenever cannabis edibles enter the home.
“Just because cannabis is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe for consumption by children and it doesn’t mean it should just be left around where it’s easily accessible to a child who’s curious, who is very attracted to the colour of gummy bears or a chocolate bar or a hash brownie,” she said.
In each of the 26 hospitalizations, parents told doctors that their children were experiencing symptoms because they probably consumed cannabis.
Some parents may be afraid to admit that – but they shouldn’t be, said Dr. Dominic Chalut, an ER physician and toxicologist with the hospital.
“Parents shouldn’t be afraid to bring their child to medical attention. We’re not there to call (Director of Youth Protection) on the cases. It’s like any other ingestion. Accidents can happen,” he said.
Children who accidentally ingest cannabis may experience more severe symptoms than adults. Symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, agitation and lethargy.
Quebec deputy health minister Lionel Carmant insisted that parents “remain vigilant” around cannabis edibles.
“It is clear to me that the risk of collateral intoxication is and will remain high. I call on all parents to exercise caution with these products,” he said in a statement.