Most poisonings occurred as a result of the co-ingestion of cannabis with other substances, like alcohol.

BCIRPU’s study on cannabis poisonings in BC children was published today in Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada: Research, Policy and Practice

The study looks at the three-year period before recreational cannabis legalization in Canada in order to set a baseline for future comparisons. Researchers extracted data from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting & Prevention Program (CHIRPP) database between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2018.

The study looked at children aged 16 years or younger who visited the BC Children’s Hospital emergency department for cannabis poisoning due to intentional or unintentional ingestion.

“We need to know how the legalization of recreational cannabis impacts children’s health,” said senior author Dr. Shelina Babul, associate director of the BCIRPU and director of CHIRPP.

“This research will identify areas where we need to target future safety campaigns and help inform guidelines to keep kids safe.”

Researchers found that of the 911 poisonings treated at BC Children’s, 12.5% were a result of cannabis consumed intentionally, with a median patient age of 15 years old. Most of these poisonings occurred as a result of the co-ingestion of cannabis with other substances, like alcohol.

While fewer than 10 poisonings resulted from inadvertent ingestion by children, all inadvertent cases occurred at home, and the cannabis belonged to the patient’s family. The median patient age for unintentional cannabis use was 3 years old.

Despite the lower number of cases, researchers warn that these numbers should be taken seriously, as early research suggests that children in this age group are at risk of more serious side effects.

Common signs of cannabis poisoning include vomiting, dizziness, slurred speech, and decreased consciousness. Children are known to be especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis poisoning due to their low body weight and fast metabolism.

The authors of this study continue to examine cannabis poisonings in BC children after legalization.

Read the study in the HPCDP Journal

Factsheet on cannabis poisoning among BC children (PDF)

News Release – BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute