An emergency room pediatrician is seeing an uptick in children consuming pot-laced edibles that often look and taste like regular candy — and these kids get more than a sugar high.
In a recent TikTok video, Martin, known as @beachgem10 to her followers, shared a story about a little boy, who was brought to the ER by his non-English speaking parents. Martin noted that the family was from out of town and staying at an Airbnb in Florida.
During patient intake, the mom and dad explained that earlier that day, they went shopping and left their son with his 17-year-old brother.
“Big brother fed little brother a McDonald’s hamburger and a chocolate bar and put him to bed at noon time,” Martin said in the clip. “Family gets home at five o’clock and this kid is out cold. They cannot wake him up.”
Martin recognized the signs of cannabis poisoning and suspected that the little boy had accidentally ingested a marijuana product. Martin’s intern suggested that he was showing signs of a stroke or diabetic distress.
“I was like, ‘I guess we’ll see,” Martin recalled.
After the little boy’s labs and CT scan came back normal, Martin ordered a urine drug screen.
Lo and behold, the test came back positive for THC, the chemical in a cannabis plant that produces a high. At this point, Martin asked the family to tell her more about the chocolate bar that the little boy had eaten earlier that day. The older brother replied that he found the treat under a bed in the Airbnb they were renting.
“It was like a cookies and cream chocolate bar that was 500 milligrams of THC, and the kid had eaten about three-fourths of it," Martin said. (For reference, a standard unit of THC is 5mg, according to the National Institutes of Health.)
“So sufficiently wasted. Totally stoned,” she added.
A study published earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics found that calls to poison control centers for kids younger than 6 consuming cannabis-infused goodies rose from 207 in 2017 to 3,054 in 2021. Roughly 97% of the children discovered the edibles at home, per the report.
While chatting with TODAY.com Martin said the most common symptoms of accidental marijuana poisonings in children, include balance issues, vomiting and excessive sleepiness. She notes that the effects of an edible can last up to 12 hours.
“There have also been deaths reported from too much THC exposure,” Martin warns, noting that infants and toddlers are at risk for developing breathing disorder called respiratory depression, which can cause brain injury and even death.
The Poison Control website states that some patients may require admission to the Intensive Care Unit.
“But generally, we wouldn’t anticipate any long-term consequences after the effects of the medication have worn off,” Martin says.
If you suspect your child has consumed an edible, Martin says to first call Poison Control.
“There are some situations where you may be able to ride it out at home,” she says. “But if your child is symptomatic, come to the emergency department immediately so we can monitor their breathing.”
Martin recommends treating edibles like you would prescription medications. They should be kept out of reach of children and stored in a lockbox.
"Unfortunately, edibles resemble regular candy and the packaging is very poorly labeled," she says.
In 2021, a Florida mom wrote a Facebook post urging for changes in how marijuana products are packaged after her 6-year-old daughter was hospitalized overnight after accidentally consuming a marijuana-infused gummy that she mistook for candy.