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cannabis poisoning

Six children reported to Dublin hospital with accidental cannabis poisoning earlier this year

One case involved two siblings aged three and four who consumed cannabis peach ring jellies.

DOCTORS HAVE WARNED of the growing public health threat of edible cannabis to children after a hospital in Dublin reported six cases of young children being accidentally poisoned with the drug over an eight-week period earlier this year.

A new study said there was an increase in cases of children under the age of 10 suffering from acute encephalopathy – a disease which affects the brain – as well as respiratory depression or hypotension linked to accidental use of cannabis products. 

The study, which is published in the latest edition of the Irish Medical Journal, documents the cases of six children – five under the age of six – who presented in the emergency department of Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin with acute encephalopathy who also tested positive for THC – the main active ingredient in cannabis. 

All cases occurred over an eight-week period dating from 17 March, with one child suffering a seizure. 

Researchers said it was the first series of paediatric cannabis poisoning reported in Ireland. 

The report revealed that two children were discharged after 12 hours from the emergency department, while four were admitted to a ward with one child requiring treatment in the hospital’s intensive care unit. 

All six cases were reported to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency. 

One case involving two siblings aged three and four occurred after they consumed cannabis jellies known as Chuckles Peach Rings which were in a schoolbag in a communal space. 

Each jelly had 50mg of THC. 

The older child needed to be transferred to the hospital’s intensive care unit requiring oxygen to assist with their breathing. 

The patient was eventually discharged after three-and-a-half days in hospital. 

The other sibling was treated in a hospital ward where three incidents of their lips turning blue were recorded. 

Both Tusla and gardaí were notified about the two cases. 

Another child, aged 10, was hospitalised after consuming his 26-year-old sibling’s cannabis sweets which left him dizzy and ataxic – a condition leaving someone with abnormal, uncoordinated movements. 

The study said the potency of edible cannabis products varies due to false labelling of products from unregulated sources, 

It noted the amount ingested from edible cannabis products can be 10 to 50 times the average dose of 5-20mg of THC inhaled by an adult smoking or vaping. 

“The delayed effect from oral ingestion compared to rapid effects from smoking or vaping is what poses the greatest risk to children and naive users who consume several edibles initially then overdose,” the study observed. 

Doctors said edible cannabis products could act as either a stimulant, hallucinogenic or sedative on young children. 

The younger patients in the study exhibited dilated pupils and altered sensorium.

The study said the six cases pointed to an emerging problem that has also been present in other jurisdictions where cannabis use had been decriminalised or under-enforced. 

It pointed out that edible cannabis products are attractively presented and not in childproof packaging.

“These products have uncontrolled concentrations of THC as they are largely made illegally and often supplied through the internet,” it added. 

“This is a serious evolving paediatric public health threat with child protection issues,” the study concluded.

Seán McCárthaigh
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