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Prevalence and Clinical Characteristics of Unintentional Ingestion of Marijuana in Children Younger Than 6 Years in States With and Without Legalized Marijuana Laws

Leubitz, Andrew DO*; Spiller, Henry A. MS, D.ABAT†‡§; Jolliff, Heath DO*∥¶; Casavant, Marcel MD†‡§

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001841
Original Article: PDF Only

Objective The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between state marijuana legalization and the rates of unintentional ingestions of marijuana in children younger than 6 years.

Methods This was a retrospective review of all marijuana ingestions in the National Poison Data System in children younger than 6 years between January 1, 2000, and July 31, 2017. Data analysis from NPDS included, age, sex, state and year of occurrence, clinical effects, therapies, health care facility utilization, and medical outcome. Population of children younger than 6 years was obtained from the US Census Bureau. Public records search provided state legal status of marijuana and year of state marijuana legalization.

Results From 2000 through 2008, there was no significant change in the annual number or rate of ingestions of marijuana in children younger than 6 years across the United States. Following 2009, there was mean annual increase of 27% per year, rising to 742 ingestions per year or 2.98 ingestions per 100,000 population, respectively, in 2017. More than 70% of all cases occurred in states with legalized marijuana. Of all pediatric patients, 54.6% received some form of hospital-based care, of which 7.5% required critical care. Pediatric patients experienced a wide range of symptoms from drowsiness and confusion, to seizures and coma. Medical treatments ranged from hydration therapy to sedation and intubation. Poison centers safely managed 23.4% of these pediatric cases by phone, without the need for hospital evaluation.

Conclusion There was a strong association between the legalization of marijuana and ingestions of marijuana by children younger than 6 years.

From the *Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens;

Central Ohio Poison Center;

Nationwide Children's Hospital;

§Ohio State University, College of Medicine, and;

Doctors Hospital-OhioHealth, Columbus; and

Adena Regional Medical Center, Chillicothe, OH.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Henry A. Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, Central Ohio Poison Center, 700 Children's Dr, Columbus OH 43205 (e-mail:

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