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Spike in ER visits as Marijuana is legalized in Illinois

Weeks after Marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in Illinois, doctors have reported an increasing number of emergency room visits related to cannabis consumption.

As per WGN-TV, medics have observed a spike in cannabis overdose following the legalization of the drug on January 1. They predict the trend would follow that of the states where it’s already legal.

Toxicology director at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Trevonne Thompson, said in a statement with WGN-TV that during his shift in the emergency rooms on New Year’s Eve, many patients showed up with the symptoms of overconsumption of marijuana.

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He shared, “You can overdose on cannabis. In social media there are a lot of memes out there you can’t overdose on pot. That is incorrect you certainly can overdose and have profound clinical effects that require medical intervention to get under control.”

As per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the symptoms can include “extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, increased blood pressure and heart rate, severe nausea and/or vomiting as well as episodes of delusion and hallucinations.”

Edible cannabis usually hits harder as compared to when it smoked. A research study in 2019, evaluated emergencies related to marijuana consumption over a 5 year period. 11% of ER visits in Colorado and Denver were a result of edible products of the drug – even though, only 0.32% of marijuana sales account for use in edible items.

The symptoms associated with edibles related ER visits generally include “severe intoxication, cardiovascular symptoms and acute psychiatric symptoms”. On the other hand, ER visits due to smoking marijuana include symptoms of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

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Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that leads to repeated episodes of vomiting and cramping abdominal pain due to the regular use of cannabis. The symptoms may improve temporarily by taking a hot shower or bath. Complications due to the disease may cause kidney failure, electrolyte problems and sometimes skin burns from hot water.

Regular use of marijuana is generally required for the symptoms to occur. Cyclic vomiting syndrome is another disease that might present similarly and is sometimes mistaken for CHS.

Cannabis overdose is rarely fatal as per the CDC. However, THC oil, used in vaping products, has been proven life-threatening and has also caused a few deaths in the past. CDC says that the FDA’s sampling points towards THC oil as a major cause of ER visits.

Rosie Mccall, a news reporter, wrote that CNN reports show “Illinois is one of eleven states that have legalized recreational cannabis. A further 22 allow for medical use. According to the state’s regulations adults in Illinois who are 21 and older have been allowed to purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis since the start of 2020. The first week of the new year brought in almost $11 million in sales from cannabis.”

About Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

CDC is the leading national public health institute of the United States that operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The main goal of the CDC is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of diseases, injury or any other disability. It particularly focuses on ” infectious disease, foodborne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, injury prevention and educational activities designed to improve the health of United States citizens”


Mariyam Tanveer

Recently graduated from LUMS, I now work as Researcher and a Freelance Writer on Ask Health News

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