Thousands of marijuana-related emergency visits occur in the United States each year. While a fatal overdose is unlikely, ingesting too much marijuana is possible, especially if you’re not familiar with the potency of the drug you’re consuming, officials said.
Recreational marijuana use became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, making the state the 11th in the nation to legalize cannabis. Local health officials are on the alert for marijuana overuse and injuries in the early days of legalization.
“Lessons learned from our EMS colleagues in Colorado have us watching for a significant increase in both marijuana use as well as marijuana-related injuries in the first few months after legalization,” said Sara Brown, manager of emergency medical services at Memorial Health System.
Brown said that EMS personnel in Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, saw a significant increase in what they described as marijuana tourism, which included citizens of Colorado whose first use came after the legalization, but also people travelling from other states to Colorado.
Marijuana is the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It contains a mind-altering compound called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Cannabis over-ingestion most often occurs when users consume foods containing marijuana, known as edibles.
Just like alcohol, how marijuana affects someone depends on their tolerance, genetics, gender, the method in which the drug is consumed and the potency, or strength, of the drug.
“The most frequent type of incident reported in Colorado was when people who had no experience with the drug consumed marijuana-containing foods,” Brown said. “If they didn’t feel any immediate effects, they would often consume more. By the time the marijuana had time to affect the person, they had taken a large enough quantity to significantly impair themselves, which could lead to injuries like falls.”
“If an adult chooses to consume marijuana, they should educate themselves and be responsible,” Brown said. “Never drive under the influence of any drug and ensure any medication or mind-altering substance is out of the reach of children. Edibles placed in candies and desserts may confuse children and lead to a trip to the hospital.”