IWK's poison centre sees sudden spike in children eating cannabis edibles

·2 min read

Parents are being asked to use caution after five children had to be admitted to the IWK's poison centre in the last nine days after consuming cannabis edibles.

That's the number of cases of unintentional ingestion the hospital typically sees in a year.

"Here we are pretty much in lockdown right now, people are spending more time at home and children are at home more, so right now the trend is an increase in exposures," said Laurie Mosher, the poison centre's clinical leader.

"Our calls have more than doubled from this time last year."

She said the spike is concerning because children can have a particularly strong reaction to cannabis.

"They're very small and they're not users, they don't have a tolerance," she said. "They can be drowsy for one or two days. They can have prolonged effects."

She said all children who consume cannabis are admitted to the hospital to be monitored because of the intensity of their reactions.

Brian MacKay/CBC
Brian MacKay/CBC

Mosher said that in most cases the children aren't consuming lower-dose products often found at the NSLC. She said these cases have involved products ordered online with concentrated dosages.

"We've had children consume a few hundred milligrams of THC."

Mosher said the edibles need to be locked up and that storing them in out-of-reach locations isn't good enough because children will climb and use chairs in search of treats.

Cases not just small children

She said the recent exposures haven't just been little kids.

"Sometimes it's easy to forget that it only takes a couple of seconds to properly lock and store these candies that contain a drug," she said.

She's reminding parents that children aren't going to stop and read the labels to make sure they can have the treats.

"They're not going to know it's cannabis edibles because it's gummies and chocolates and cookies and things that every kid and every adult likes."

Mosher said if someone has discovered a child has consumed cannabis, they should bring them to the hospital immediately.

So far in 2020, the hospital has had 16 cases of children less than five years old eating edibles, and another 12 cases for kids up to 19.

It's a jump from both 2018 and 2019, where there were five cases each year in the younger group, and less than five in the older.

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