Oklahoma sees uptick of accidental marijuana consumption among kids under 5

TULSA, Okla. — Most children would love to get into sweet treats, but some treats aren’t filled with sugar. Some are filled with THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s phycological effects.

New numbers here in Oklahoma show hundreds of young children are getting really sick after accidentally getting ahold of their family member’s medical marijuana stash.

For some adults, walking into a dispensary is like walking into a sweets shop.

“Basically, if it’s food, it can be medicated,” said Co-Owner of Med Pharm Denise Mink.

While in moderation, marijuana is not dangerous for adults, doctors say they are seeing a frightening trend. According to doctors, there is a huge spike in the number of young kids getting vey sick after accidentally ingesting THC-infused foods.

Dr. Ryan Brown is a pediatrician at the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Emergency Room (ER) in Oklahoma City. He said he sees children as young as 2-years-old in the ER due to marijuana poisoning.

“The kids cannot differentiate between a gummy bear that’s full of sugar and a gummy bear that’s full of THC,” Brown explained.

He’s not alone. The numbers from the Oklahoma Poison Center (OPC) are staggering.

Between 2010 and 2018, there were 54 reported cases of accidental marijuana consumption among children 0 to five. In 2019 — just one year after the state passed the Medical Marijuana Bill — that number jumped to 76 cases.

And it’s only gone up from there. OPC said in 2020, 152 cases were reported. In 2021, 211 cases were reported. Last year, OPC said 269 cases were reported.

And Brown said he feels those numbers are low.

“Because I think we’re seeing more kids out there that just are not being reported,” he said.

FOX23 took 2022 as an example. Of the 269 cases reported, the data shows 110 kids — nearly 40 percent — were admitted to the hospital. Close to 1/4 of those hospitalized went to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). That is approximately 20 Oklahoma children in critical care last year due to marijuana poisoning.

“I’ve actually had to intubate some kids because their breathing has slowed down so much,” Brown said.

FOX23 asked him what it felt like to have to intubate a young child who has gone through that.

“You know, it’s sad. It really is,” he said. “Usually, when you talk to the parents ... the parents are the ones that ... they just get this look on their face. Like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is happening.’”

Thankfully, no child has died, but Brown said it’s not out of the question if the trend continues.

FOX23 went to Med-Pharm, a dispensary in Broken Arrow, to get reaction.

“Well it’s shocking,” said Mink. “And it’s sad because it’s so avoidable.”

She said medical marijuana needs to be treated like any other medication.

“When a doctor gives you a prescription, you don’t open the lid and put it on the counter if you have a 2-year-old. It is no different [with] marijuana,” Mink said.

Sarah O’Brien is a registered nurse and herbalist who does consultations at Med Pharm. She talked to FOX23 about the dangers.

“In the body, THC is going to act like a sedative to children,” O’Brien explained. “There are things like depression in respirations. Typically, it’s going to bring down heart rates. It’s going to bring down respiration rates.”

She continued, “So there are a lot of ways that it can be dangerous for kids.”

O’Brien added the risk is even bigger if children ingest a large amount. But she said there are ways to stay safe. As simple as it is, O’Brien said getting a secure container for your medical marijuana can keep kids out.

“A kid is not going to be able to open this,” she explained. “You have to know exactly what you’re doing to get that open.”

And Mink said talking to your children is just as important.

“Put this [away] but educate your kids,” Mink said. “This is medicine. You can’t take this.”

Brown also told FOX23 that education is more important than ever, especially with voters deciding whether or not to legalize marijuana this March.

“I really predict our numbers will go even higher if it’s passed,” Brown said. “Because people may even be more careless.”

FOX23 asked Brown if he believed marijuana was a bad thing.

“No, I am not saying that marijuana is bad,” he said. “What I’m saying is, marijuana in the hands of children is bad.”





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