According to the Israel Poison Information Center (IPIC), there has been an alarming rise in unintentional cannabis poisoning or intoxication among children.
With a population of under 10 million, over 100,000 Israeli adults hold Health Ministry licenses to buy and consume medical marijuana (MMJ). In addition to the high number of MMJ users and growing recreational marijuana usage, accidental cannabis consumption and subsequent illness among children is cause for alarm. There have been no cannabis-related deaths among children or adults, however.
“We are seeing between 15 and 20 cases of cannabis poisoning in young children and toddlers every year, with the youngest so far an eight-month-old baby,” according to IPIC director Dr. Yael Luria at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, reported The Jerusalem Post. “At this stage, doctors and scientists don’t know the long-term effect of acute marijuana exposure on children.”
Marijuana affects children differently than adults for a number of reasons, with the major one being their weight. Dr. Luria noted that a small amount of marijuana can have a significant effect on the nervous system of a child, which also differs from that of an adult.
The culprits are usually edibles like gummy bears, brownies, cookies, lollipops and other sweets that look like candy or regular food.
“Just as parents must keep cleaning materials, alcohol, batteries and cigarettes out of their children’s reach, they must do the same with cannabis,” Luria cautioned.
When asked about children with Autism Spectrum Disorder being treated with cannabis, Luria said: “That’s a completely different situation; their treatment and dosage is fine-tuned to their specific needs and they are monitored constantly.”
A number of studies have confirmed that medical cannabis helps alleviate behavioral problems in children with autism, including an Israeli study published in Nature in 2019.
Israel, the first country in the world to regularize medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes, continues to conduct wide-reaching research on the role of cannabinoids in treating various diseases and conditions.
Rambam’s Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center brings together clinicians and scientific researchers on a variety of clinical cannabis applications, including cancer, hematology, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, skin diseases, neurology, gastroenterology and diseases that primarily affect women.
Rambam’s physicians are now treating more than 3,000 patients with cannabis in multiple indications and are leading approximately 30 clinical trials in this field – all of which contribute to its extensive database for medicinal cannabis.
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