The news last week reported the first fatal cannabis overdose on record: an 11-month old baby who died after exposure to cannabis. Papers and outlets ran with it, especially those who report for demographics against cannabis. But, after the story spread like wildfire, the authors behind the report backtracked, stating, per the Washington Post, that “We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child.” So, what actually happened?
According to 9News, the fatal overdose occurred in Colorado two years ago. The case report was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine sparking the interest. It was authored by Dr. Thomas Nappe and Dr. Christopher Hoyte, physicians who worked at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.
The report listed damage to the child’s heart muscle as the cause of death, damage that was brought on by cannabis.
Hoyte went on record to say
“The only thing we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found.”
The report also stated, “As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure.” But, as expected, their findings were met with plenty of skepticism.
Part of the reason for this is that marijuana is well known as a drug that isn’t fatal. Even the DEA, an organization that puts marijuana in a scheduled class that labels It more dangerous than cocaine, admits to this.
However, the doctors didn’t directly blame an overdose on the child’s death. Instead, they stated that the child died of myocarditis, essentially inflammation of the heart muscle. And they blamed the myocarditis on cannabis.
Cannabis Overdose: The Controversy
Myocarditis does occur in children, but it’s not common. When it does happen, it comes with a risk of fatality. It’s also usually linked to a virus, most notably the Coxsackievirus. In this case, doctors ruled that out.
Of course, this virus isn’t the only cause: other viruses, infections from bacteria, fungi, and parasites can also lead to myocarditis.
Per the Mayo Clinic, the cause of myocarditis is often something that can’t be identified. Even the doctors who wrote the above report admit that it can be caused by things they can’t test for. Exposure to chemicals or antibiotics can also cause it. Other doctors argue that it can be caused by allergies.
This is why the controversy is so acute: the child had THC in his system, but doctors can’t say that that’s what caused his heart to fail. It could have played a role or it could have been something else entirely.
It benefits them to blame marijuana for his fatal overdose: that makes it certainly newsworthy. But it’s not conclusive. What really happened will likely remain a mystery. And, for their part, the doctors who authored the report acknowledged this. They clarified their case after the media ran it up a flagpole, screaming that cannabis had killed a child.
Did the Doctors Create the Overdose Controversy?
Still, the doctors did tie marijuana to myocarditis. They cited other reports of THC-induced myocarditis to back up their claim. These reports do exist, but they don’t exactly do their argument any favors. Other reports of myocarditis where THC was in the system involved other drugs as well. Drugs, like cocaine, are well-known for causing heart damage. No other cases were fatal, either.
If cannabis did cause this tragic outcome, it would certainly be a rare occurrence. Kids began accidentally ingesting marijuana long before it became legal anywhere and did so with zero fatalities. This makes it possible that this child was more sensitive to THC, but, again, it’s also possible that the THC wasn’t related at all.
Nonetheless, cannabis is not appropriate for kids and no one should argue that giving a baby marijuana is smart or moral or safe. Thus, this case can act as a reminder for parents.
Clearly, most cases of young kids ingesting marijuana are by accident – gummies, which can and do look like regular candy – are among the biggest reasons for this mistake. Kids see candy; kids eat candy. This makes it important to keep anything with cannabis out of reach.
Kids who are high usually exhibit strange behaviors, like lack of balance and sleepiness. Some may have difficulty breathing too.
Many legal states, including Colorado, are well aware of the risks of accidental ingestion by those underage and they’ve passed new laws to address this issue. In Colorado, for instance, restrictions on marijuana candies recently came to fruition. This new law makes edibles shaped like animals or fruit illegal. The reason for this is that many children’s snacks are shaped the same way.
Everyday Household Dangers
While it’s always recommended to keep marijuana out of the mouths and hands of a baby, there are things in our houses far more likely to cause harm. Children’s vitamins, because they contain iron, are among the most dangerous. And, because they taste good, they’re something some kids will eat one after another. Prescription medicine, like narcotics, are also extremely dangerous.
Another big danger is laundry pods. These are bright and colorful and something that young a child wants to put in their mouths. They’re also a leading cause of calls to poison centers.
According to Today, these pods can do everything from make children slightly sick to extremely sick. In rare cases, ingestion has led to death.
Some of the more serious consequences of these pods include extreme vomiting, coma, respiratory arrest, pulmonary edema (which occurs when there is fluid in the lungs), and cardiac arrest.
The issue has grown so serious that lawmakers have toyed with the idea of passing a bill that changes how these pods are manufactured.
None of this minimizes the point that children should not have access to cannabis – they shouldn’t – but if you want to make your house as safe as possible, marijuana is among the least of your worries. Keep it, and the above dangers tucked safe away.