Alarming increase in cases of cannabis poisoning in children

Science and Health

An “alarming increase” in the reporting of cannabis poisoning in children in 2023 compared to 2022 has been noted by the Health Ministry’s National Center for Poisoning Information at Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus.

At the end of last December, a one-year-old girl was brought to the emergency room of Rambam’s Ruth Children’s Hospital. She was confused and in need of breathing assistance.

A quick investigation of the parents and tests carried out confirmed the assessment that the baby suffered from cannabis poisoning. The toddler was transferred to the intensive care unit for treatment and observation, and she showed signs of recovery after a day.

A major increase in cannabis poisoning 

The girl is one of 34 cases of cannabis poisoning in children aged 18 and under that were reported last year to the center. This is a 62% increase compared to 2022, when there were 21 cases in this age range.

According to the National Center, over half of the cases reported in 2023 involved children under the age of six who had been inadvertently exposed to cannabis in its various forms.

Cannabis [Illustrative] (credit: INIMAGE)

In seven cases, the children were exposed to edible cannabis products, including candies and cookies, and in four cases the children suffered from poisoning resulting from therapeutic errors in the use of medical cannabis. In 2022, for comparison, there were just 13 reports of exposure to cannabis in children six years old or younger.

The data were presented at a seminar recently for pediatricians in the community that had been organized by Dr. Idit Pasternak, director of the emergency medicine department at Rambam’s pediatric hospital. Her lecture was aimed at raising awareness of various situations that put children at risk and the methods of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.


What is the reason for the increase in cannabis poisoning?

According to Dr. Yael Luria, director of the National Poisoning Information Center, despite the increase that has been registered over the years, it is still too early to point to a clear trend here. “There are now more consumers of medical cannabis, and therefore there is also a greater danger of exposure and poisoning of children and teenagers to cannabis products.

“The reaction of children to cannabis is very different from the effect on adults and can cause significant complications. Therefore, similar to our recommendations on the careful storage and use of chemicals, drugs, and foreign bodies in the home environment, so too should caution be taken regarding cannabis in all its forms, including medicinal cannabis. It must be kept out of the reach of those who are not supposed to use it.”

Already in October, the national center warned of an increase in the dangers lurking for children due to exposure to medicines and household cleaning agents because the Hamas war was responsible for the fact that many children are either at home, without educational frameworks, or staying in other people’s homes after being evacuated from their own.

“The events of October 7 caused a significant change in the lifestyles of many families who were evacuated,” Luria asserted. “In many cases, the temporary home is not designed for children to stay and is therefore less safe. These days, there is greater importance in focusing on this warning to parents. These cases can be prevented with simple measures.”

Detergents, disinfectants, and cosmetics are dangerous and can cause burns. Put cleaning agents and medications safely out of the reach of children – particularly cannabis-infused “candies.”