Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Colorado visitors using marijuana more likely to end up in emergency room


Public Release: 24-Feb-2016
Colorado visitors using marijuana more likely to end up in emergency room
Out-of-towners go to emergency room at an increasing rate since legalization
Northwestern University

Out-of-towners using marijuana in Colorado -- which has legally allowed sales of the drug in retail dispensaries since 2014 -- are ending up in the emergency room at an increasing rate, reports a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

"Emergency room visits related to cannabis use have increased more dramatically among out-of-state visitors than among Colorado residents," said lead investigator Dr. Howard Kim, a postdoctoral fellow in emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine. "This may indicate that out-of-state visitors are unprepared for the adverse effects of marijuana use."


Adverse effects of marijuana use may include psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, hallucinations and altered mental status; cardiovascular symptoms such as a fast heart rate, high blood pressure or palpitations; and gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain and vomiting.

Although the investigators did not study if visitors to the emergency room used primarily edible or smoked cannabis products, edible products such as cookies or brownies often have a delayed effect, which could lead to overdosing, Kim said.

"People eating marijuana products often don't feel any effect immediately, leading them to eat another edible," Kim said. "Then they've ingested multiple products, so when the effect finally kicks in, it is much stronger."

In addition, the content of edible products is highly variable, so users don't know the potency of what they are eating.


"Anecdotally, we noticed that most out-of-towners were in Colorado for other reasons, such as visiting friends or on business," Kim said. "They ended up in the ER because they decided to try some marijuana." Most patients got supportive care and went home after a few hours, but some were admitted for further observation.


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