The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a report penned by three emergency room physicians at the University of Colorado hospital in Aurora about the health-related fallout from marijuana legalization in the state. And while there are some positives to be found in the material, most of the focus is on negative impacts, including an increase in a condition referred to as cyclic vomiting syndrome. More details below.
Given the background of report authors Andrew A. Monte, Richard D. Zane and Kennon J. Heard, it's no surprise that much of the material shared by JAMA focuses on emergency-room data. Here's one excerpt:
The frequent use of high THC concentration products can lead to a cyclic vomiting syndrome. Patients present with severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diaphoresis; they often report relief with hot showers. A small study at 2 Denver-area hospitals revealed an increase in cyclic vomiting presentations from 41 per 113 262 ED visits to 87 per 125 095 ED visits (prevalence ratio, 1.92) after medical marijuana liberalization.
Also cited is a "substantial increase in the number of marijuana-related burns" at the University of Colorado burn center. But the "most concerning health effects" in the wake of marijuana legalization relates to kids, the authors maintain. Another excerpt:
The number of children evaluated in the ED for unintentional marijuana ingestion at the Children's Hospital of Colorado increased from 0 in the 5 years preceding liberalization to 14 in the 2 years after medical liberalization.3 This number has increased further since legalization; as of September 2014, 14 children had been admitted to the hospital this year, and 7 of these were admitted to the intensive care unit. The vast majority of intensive care admissions were related to ingestion of edible THC products.
The authors also cite what they describe as the "challenges" of marijuana edibles and the efforts being made to prevent them from being ingested by youths. For instance, they note that childproof packaging is in place for recreational products -- something that wasn't required for medical marijuana -- but "once the package is opened, the product is readily accessible to children."
As for possible positives regarding marijuana use, the doctors offer some acknowledgment, albeit of the grudging variety. One passage points out that "patients with some seizure disorders may benefit from the cannabidiol component in marijuana, and several clinical trials will soon enroll patients." They add: "Marijuana likely has anti-inflammatory effects and may benefit some patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Marijuana may have a safer therapeutic window than opioids for pain control, and an observational study found fewer opioid-related deaths in states with liberal marijuana laws." Nonetheless, they believe "it is unlikely that marijuana is effective for the wide range of health problems approved under Colorado law."
Look below to see a 7News piece on the findings, followed by the article.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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