In states where cannabis (marijuana) is legal, edible cannabis products are more likely to cause serious adverse effects than inhaled cannabis, according to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It looked at 2,567 visits by adults to emergency rooms in Colorado between 2012 and 2016 that were at least partly attributable to cannabis use.
Cannabis edibles include brownies, cookies, and gummy bears. Though they accounted for less than 1 percent of cannabis sales, cannabis edibles played a role in about 10 percent of the ER visits in the study. Of note, edibles were about twice as likely as inhaled cannabis to be associated with serious psychiatric events (such as acute anxiety or psychosis), cardiovascular symptoms (such as irregular heartbeat), and intoxication. Women and out-of-state visitors were over-represented among the edible-cannabis patients.
Orally consumed cannabis may be particularly problematic because it is absorbed by the body and cleared from it much more slowly than inhaled cannabis, so people may consume more of it because they don’t feel the psychoactive effects for a while. People may also overconsume the edibles because they look innocuous and may have inaccurate labeling of cannabinoid content.
Though this study focused on adults, other research has found that hospitals and poison control centers are seeing increasing numbers of children with adverse reactions to edible cannabis, which they may mistake for candy.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see How Legal is CBD?