Marijuana Exposure Among Young Children Rises By 148%

By McCarton Ackerman 06/10/15

More than three-quarters of the kids exposed to weed were under three years old.

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Marijuana use may be on the decline among teenagers, but a new study has found that more young children are being exposed to it than ever before.

The findings from researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital were published in the latest issue of the journal Clinical Pediatrics. Between 2006-2013, marijuana exposure among children under the age of six increased by 148%. More than 75% of these cases involved children under the age of three. In states where medical marijuana was legal before 2010, cases of exposure during this same time period jumped by 610%.

Cases involving very young children often being exposed to marijuana came when they ingested it in the form of brownies and cookies. However, the exposure was not deliberate and came from the children exploring their environments by putting items in their mouths. Although the total number of cases isn’t large, just 1,969 between 2000 and 2013, the researchers still view it as a cause for concern.

“Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protection in its laws from the very beginning,” said Gary Smith, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, to Science Daily.

Almost all of the 2,000 cases of marijuana exposure in young children were reported to Poison Control Centers across the country. More than 18% of these children were hospitalized with symptoms including breathing problems, seizures and even comas.

Perhaps because of this early exposure, a separate study published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that parents’ marijuana use could spur addiction in their children. Using lab rats injected with THC, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York found the rats displayed lower motivation and weight gain, as well as withdrawal symptoms when not given the drug.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.