Characterization of edible marijuana product exposures reported to United States poison centers

Dazhe Cao, Sahaphume Srisuma, Alvin C. Bronstein, Christopher O. Hoyte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Context: Edible marijuana products are sold as brownies, cookies, and candies, which may be indistinguishable from counterparts without marijuana and are palatable to children and adults. The consumption of an entire product containing multiple dose-units may result in overdose. Objective: To characterize edible marijuana exposures reported to US poison centers with subgroup analysis by age. Methods: We analyzed single substance, human exposure calls coded to marijuana brownies, candies, cookies, beverages, or other foods reported to the National Poison Data System from January 2013 to December 2015. Calls were analyzed by state, age, gender, exposure route, clinical effect, therapies, and level of healthcare facility utilization. Results: Four-hundred and thirty calls were reported: Colorado (N = 166, 1.05/100,000 population/year) and Washington (96, 0.46) yielded the highest number of exposures. Three hundred and eighty-one (91%) calls occurred in states with decriminalized medical/recreational marijuana. The number of calls increased every year of the study. The most common age groups were: ≤5 years (N = 109, 0.15/100,000 population/year) and 13–19 (78, 0.09). The most frequent clinical effects were drowsiness/lethargy (N = 118, percentage = 43%), tachycardia (84, 31%), agitated/irritable (37, 14%), and confusion (37, 14%). Children ≤5 years have more drowsiness/lethargy, ataxia, and red eye/conjunctivitis. No deaths were reported. The most common therapies administered were intravenous fluids (85, 20%), dilute/irrigate/wash (48, 11 %), and benzodiazepines (47, 11%). Three patients (ages 4, 10, and 57 years) received intubation. 97 (23%), 217 (50%), and 12 (3%) calls were managed at home, treated/released, admitted to a critical care unit, respectively. Discussion: Although most clinical effects are minor, ventilatory support may be necessary for children and adults. We speculate the increasing exposures may be related to a combination of delayed absorption kinetics of Δ9-tetrahydrocannablnol, lagging packaging regulations, increased accessibility in decriminalized states, and increased familiarity of poison center specialists with edible product codes. Conclusions: Edible marijuana exposures are increasing and may lead to severe respiratory depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-846
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 20 2016


  • Epidemiology
  • poison center
  • toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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