Small cake bites stacked together with a cannabis leaf on top.

What to Do If My Child Consumes Cannabis

Julie Weber Trending Topics

If your child consumes enough marijuana edibles or other cannabis products, they can experience severe symptoms. These symptoms can range from anxiety, panic, dizziness, slurred speech, poor coordination, and coma. Children may need to be taken to the emergency department to receive oxygen and or IV fluids to help them process the marijuana from their systems. If your child has ingested cannabis and is experiencing any of these symptoms call the poison center right away.

CANNABIS EDIBLES

There are a number of ways to consume cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed. From smoking to oils to edibles, cannabis is now legal in many states and has become a popular recreational drug. Cannabis in Missouri is legal for medical use only. Edibles are offered at most cannabis shops and come in the form of gummies, cookies, chocolate, and other food products.

HOW STRONG ARE EDIBLES?

Delta-9 Tetrahydocannabinol (THC) is the active part of marijuana that causes the “high.” The strength of edibles ranges from as low as 0.5 milligrams (mg) of THC to 15 mg per serving size. If someone is just starting edibles, suppliers may recommend edibles that have 2.5-5 mg of THC. On average, most edibles contain 10-15 mg of THC. One concern with edibles is that a single edible may contain multiple servings in one item. For example, a 50 gram candy bar containing 100 mg total of THC is actually 10 doses of 10 mg each serving; the entire candy bar is not one dose. This can often lead to confusion with children or inexperienced users. The entire candy bar is much more dangerous than swallowing a single serving. Additionally, homemade products may contain unknown or unreliable amounts of THC which can cause unwanted effects.

HOW THE BODY PROCESSES CANNABIS: SMOKING VS EDIBLES

The body will process the THC from cannabis differently depending on how it is used. Most commonly, cannabis is used through inhalation of smoke or ingesting in edible form. Both have the ability to “get you high” but the way your body absorbs the THC is very different.

SMOKING

Your body processes THC differently when you smoke it vs. eat it. When you inhale cannabis, the THC enters your lungs and is almost immediately absorbed into your bloodstream where it is able to travel to your brain. The THC will bind with specific receptors in your brain, causing the euphoric feeling known as “feeling high.”

EDIBLES

Unlike smoking cannabis, the effects of cannabis edibles are slower but can get you just as “high” or more so. When someone eats an edible, there is a delay in “feeling high” since it takes time for it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Due to this delay, some edible users eat additional products thinking that they did not eat enough initially, this can result in overdose and unpleasant symptoms.

Cannabis gummy bears spread across a purple table beside a cannabis leaf.

HOW LONG UNTIL EDIBLES TAKE EFFECT? 

In general, the effects of THC after ingesting an edible takes anywhere from 1-2 hours to begin. The effects usually hit their peak after 2-3 hours but can last as long as 6-8 hours. Some factors, such as the weight or medical history of a person can affect how quickly and how strongly you feel the effects of edibles.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO OVERDOSE ON CANNABIS?

Overdosing on cannabis is unlikely, but someone can experience serious intoxication that can be scary. If someone has too much cannabis, they may experience THC poisoning. Cannabis poisoning can be very frightening and may need to be monitored by a health care professional.

CANNABIS TOXICITY SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

THC toxicity signs and symptoms can include:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Fast heart rate
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms after smoking or eating cannabis, call the poison center right away to talk with a registered nurse or pharmacist

It’s a free service with no judgments and is completely confidential. We’re open 24/7 every day of the year including holidays.

CAN CHILDREN GET “HIGH” FROM EATING CANNABIS EDIBLES?

Children can get “high” from mistakenly eating cannabis edibles. They can also experience severe symptoms because of their size and weight. Small children are at a higher risk of experiencing THC poisoning if they mistakenly ingest edibles. This toxicity can be very troubling because the symptoms may take time to appear and last for several hours. Symptoms include:

  • Loss of balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Extreme tiredness or lethargy
  • Paranoia or confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures 

If the symptoms are severe enough, you may need to take your child to the hospital for emergency care.

A stack of chocolate chip cookies infused with cannabis besides a nugget of cannabis.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA ON CHILDREN?

Researchers are still learning what the impact of marijuana has on children. But there is evidence suggesting that children and young adults, whose brains are still developing are exposed to cannabis can have permanent effects on memory, IQ, and executive function, especially with long-term usage.

HOW TO STORE CANNABIS AT HOME SAFELY FROM CHILDREN

The best way to store marijuana is to treat it like medication. Keep it out of sight and reach from children, and in a locked box or container. Keep edibles separate from candy and any other child-safe treats. Most children eat edibles because they found gummies or brownies that they thought were okay to eat. Often, the packaging looks almost identical to common candy brands.

SAFELY STORING EDIBLES & CANNABIS PRODUCTS

Here are five tips on how to safely store edibles and other cannabis products around children:

  1. Keep cannabis products in their original packaging.
  2. After each use, ensure the package is properly resealed and re-stored.
  3. Store edibles and cannabis products in a locked cabinet, cupboard, or drawer high-up out of children’s reach.
  4. Use cannabis products away from children and not in front of them, as children like to mimic adults.
  5. Keep purses and bags that belong to you or your friends out of reach from children as they may have cannabis products or other medications that can be poisonous to children.

RISE IN CALLS RELATED TO CHILDREN CONSUMING CANNABIS

At the Missouri Poison Center, we have seen a steady increase of calls related to children 5 years or younger consuming cannabis. Our data shows that the total number of calls has more than doubled every year since 2018. This, we have almost matched the number of total calls from 2020 in just six months (January – June).

 

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
January 0 0 0 0 1 1 8
February 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
March 3 1 0 0 2 5 5
April 0 0 2 0 2 3 17
May 0 0 1 0 2 13 7
June 0 1 0 0 5 5 3
July 0 0 0 0 3 4
August 0 0 0 0 1 6
September 0 0 3 1 1 3
October 0 1 0 2 2 7
November 0 0 0 1 4 5
December 1 0 0 3 3 4
Total 4 3 6 7 26 57 42

 

A line chart showing the increase of calls since 2018 in Missouri related to cannabis exposure in children 5 years or younger.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD CONSUMES CANNABIS?

Don’t panic! You are not the only one that this has happened to, and the most important thing is to make sure your child is okay. Take a moment to figure out how much cannabis your child ingested and in what form. Call the poison center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center will help you assess the poison risk your child is in, and tell you the next steps to take.

Calling the Missouri Poison Center is free and confidential. Our primary concern is the safety of your child. The specially trained nurses and pharmacists will help you understand what signs and symptoms to watch for and when you need to seek medical attention.

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