As the push for the legalization of cannabis grows, there continues to be an increased risk for accidental exposure of kids to cannabis products. Calls to poison control centers have increased, especially for edible products which are often packaged to look like children’s gummies or other sweet treats. Here’s what you need to know about cannabis edibles.

What to do if your child accidentally (or intentionally) eats a cannabis edible

Your response will vary depending on your child’s age and the quantity they ingested. In most cases, especially for young children, a trip to the emergency department, or at least to urgent care, is warranted. Your first course of action should be to call the poison control call line at 1-800-222-1222. Edibles take a longer time to show their effects since they have to be digested by the stomach and pass through the liver before reaching the bloodstream. This may take anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the ingested product, how much food is in your child’s stomach, the quantity consumed, etc. Because of this, it is important to pay close attention to your child’s reaction so you can choose an appropriate course of action.

What does cannabis poisoning look like?

In the case of children who consume a laced substance accidentally, cannabis poisoning may present as intoxication, nausea/vomiting, anxiety, slurred speech, palpitations and drowsiness and can even lead to seizures. Some of the symptoms, such as anxiety, palpitations or uncharacteristic drowsiness may also be present in children who eat edibles recreationally.

How to reduce your child’s risk of cannabis exposure

In many areas, cannabis is legal for recreational use with certain limitations. Parents who use cannabis should make sure their products are always stored safely in child proof packaging and in out-of-reach or locked locations. If possible, try to avoid buying products that come in packaging that looks like candy or chocolate, or communicate with your child, if they will be receptive, that these items are not for them. Be sure to talk to other adults taking care of your child, for example grandparents, family members, babysitters, etc., about limiting their use or discussion of illicit substances around your child. Finally, if you notice your child exhibiting any of the previously mentioned symptoms, inspect your child’s snacks and chocolates closely, looking for suspicious/unrecognizable brands or packaging.

Should I be worried about my child reviving cannabis edibles in their Halloween candy?

Rest assured that, most likely, no one is knowingly giving out illicit drugs to your children on Halloween. If your child is in possession of any of these items, they likely got them on their own.

It is never too early to talk to your children about alcohol and other drugs. Children as young as nine years old already start viewing alcohol in a more positive way, and approximately 3,300 kids as young as 12 years old try marijuana each day. The earlier you start talking, the better. If your child needs help or has developed a dependency, please seek medical and/or psychiatric help.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Sivabalaji Kaliamurthy Sivabalaji Kaliamurthy, MD, is a child and adolescent addiction psychiatrist. He is passionate about the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, the treatment of co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders and understanding the role of digital technology in mental health.

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