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Post legalization, marijuana users from other states land up in Colorado emergency rooms

Post legalization, marijuana users from other states land up in Colorado emergency rooms

04-11 | CDAH Team

The legalization initiative in favor of Colorado saw the use of recreational marijuana being decriminalized across the state in 2012. The possible harms associated with marijuana use are unknown because of which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the use of marijuana to treat any medical condition.

Now, a surge in the number of patients being admitted to emergency department (ED) in various hospitals in Colorado following legalization of recreational marijuana is a big concern for policymakers of the state.

A recent study by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine revealed that emergency room visits have increased for out-of-town people using marijuana in Colorado.

For the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2016, the researchers collected data from an urban academic hospital in Aurora, Colorado, during 2012-2014.

The data collected during the first year of retail sales of marijuana in the state focused on the number and rates of ED visits for individuals coming from states other than Colorado. The transversal study compared the estimated 100,000 visits per year in the urban academic hospital with the rates of ED visits with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9). The ICD is a statistical tool planned and prepared to promote international comparability to collect, process, classify and present the mortality statistics apart from laying out a format to provide an account of causes of death on the death certificate.

Point-of-sale education for visitors required

The research findings revealed that more out-of-state individuals had got themselves enrolled in the ED from 2013 to 2014. The rate of out-of-state individuals was 85 (per 10,000 visits) in 2013 which increased to 168 (per 10,000 visits) in 2014. Among Colorado residents, the rate of marijuana-associated visits was 106 (per 10,000 visits) in 2013 and 112 (per 10,000 visits) in 2014.

Based on the inference drawn from the statistics, the authors wrote, “Emergency department visits related to cannabis use appear to be increasing more rapidly among out-of-state residents than among Colorado residents. These data underscore the importance of point-of-sale education for visitors regarding the safe and appropriate use of marijuana products.”

Need to inform about marijuana overdose risks

Looking at the increasing number of people being affected by marijuana use disorders, the researchers stress on the need to educate people about risks associated with marijuana overdose. Many pot smokers are unaware of its adverse effects which may include psychological signals like anxiety, delusion and change in mental health apart from problems related to the heart such as fast heart pace, increased blood pressure and gastrointestinal symptoms involving pain in the abdomen and vomiting.

The limitations of the study lie in the fact that the researchers failed to explore if the patients admitted to the emergency ward had consumed primarily edible or smoked cannabis products. This is because edible products like cookies or brownies often exhibited a delayed effect, leading to chance of overdosing. In addition, the potency of marijuana as content in the edible products was not known to the scientists during the study.

Road to recovery

Tourists availing of the relaxation allowed in the sale and use of recreational marijuana in Colorado has lent a more drastic impact than expected. If you or your loved one wants to know about the medicinal use of marijuana or has become addicted to it or any other substance, contact the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline to get an effective treatment plan. Our experts can guide you through the entire recovery process. Chat online or call at 866-218-7546 for more information.


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