(CDC) Cannabis use related emergency dept. visits rise among youths during pandemic years

The following is an excerpt from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for July 14.

Cannabis-involved ED visits began increasing statistically significantly among all age groups except 15–24 years several years before the pandemic, potentially as a result of expanding state-level policies legalizing cannabis use.

Importantly, the current study found that cannabis-involved ED visits among all persons aged <25 years increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, and despite fluctuations, remained higher than 2019 pre-pandemic levels throughout 2022.

The specific reasons for these increases are unknown, and potential drivers might differ by age.

Among persons aged ≤10 years, cannabis-involved ED visit rates during the pandemic far exceeded those preceding the pandemic; these findings are consistent with recent National Poison Data System data demonstrating that from 2017 to 2021, cases of edible cannabis ingestion among children aged <6 years increased by 1,375%, with statistically significant increases in toxicity and severity during the Covid-19 pandemic relative to those observed 2 years earlier.

In June 2022, the Food and Drug Administration released a consumer alert warning that THC-containing edibles are easily mistaken for products that might appeal to children and recommended that these products be kept in a safe place out of children’s reach, such as in a locked box.

Strengthening policies requiring comprehensive labeling could also mitigate risk for unintentional ingestion.

Cannabis-involved ED visit rates among children and adolescents aged 11–14 years also increased during the pandemic.

Visit ratios by sex did not differ among children and adolescents aged 11–14 years until early into the pandemic; however, female cannabis-involved ED visit ratios surpassed those of males in the first half of the 2020–21 school year (2020, weeks 37–53), and this continued throughout most of the pandemic.

This might indicate that females were more likely than males to use cannabis to cope with pandemic-related stress.

Increased substance use by some young persons might be the result of pandemic-related stressors; a 2021 study found that during the pandemic, young females were more likely than males to use harmful coping mechanisms to address stressors and were more likely to require hospital admission for eating disorders.

Implementation of evidence-based school-based programs designed to improve coping and problem-solving skills during adolescence have shown promise in preventing cannabis initiation and harmful use.

Increasing substance use prevention efforts through youth-directed programming interventions might help address pandemic-related substance use.

Most cannabis-involved ED visits were among adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years.

More research is needed on age-related cannabis administration routes; however, administration routes that deliver higher concentrations of THC (e.g., vapes and dabs [highly concentrated extracts of THC derived from the marijuana plant]) are common among adolescents and young adults.

Products with high THC concentration can increase the risk for excess consumption and lead to greater intoxicating effects.

The largest visit ratios for this age group occurred immediately after the March 11, 2020, declaration of the pandemic as a public health emergency and during the initial implementation of many state-level stay-at-home orders.

Monitoring the Future data on past-year marijuana use for 2020–2022 showed decreases in use by students in grades 10 and 12 during the pandemic, and slight increases in THC vaping by grade 10 students in 2022, although still below prepandemic levels.

However, a National Institute on Drug Abuse analysis found that marijuana use among persons aged 19–30 years increased statistically significantly during 2021, reaching all-time high levels. 

Thus, the observed increases among persons aged 15–24 years might be driven, at least in part, by use among persons beyond high school age.

Read full CDC report here.

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3 thoughts on “(CDC) Cannabis use related emergency dept. visits rise among youths during pandemic years”

    1. been among weed users many years (non-user myself) and frankly I can’t really imagine what it is that would make weed users having to be admitted to the ER. did they use ‘bad’ batches? however, also reading in this article there are some very young weed users indeed, is new to me. yes, they market all kinds of innocent-looking weed-based candies, lollipops, bisquits, cakes and the like, but is there such a massive abuse to warrant visits to the hospital from CHILDREN?

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