In Colorado, there's a different kind of spike: ER visits due to the ingestion of cannabis edibles.
The Centennial State is one of the few that made marijuana available for recreational use. It also became accessible even among adolescents.
It also partly explains the increased usage rate, although many people in Colorado are already taking weed before legalization.
In spite of the legalization, many still question the harms from taking weed. Some researchers take it a step further by comparing methods of consumption and acute illness associated with cannabis.
ER Visits Due To Cannabis Cookies
Dispensaries in Colorado sell marijuana in different forms, but two of the most popular are inhaled pot and cannabis edibles, such as cookies.
A team from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora then compared these two consumption routes.
They looked into the ER admissions of a large academic hospital in the state and analyzed nearly 10,000 visits.
Among these, 25 percent may be attributable to cannabis. Only about 10 percent were due to eating cannabis edibles.
Most weed-related ER visits then were associated with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. It is a condition characterized by vomiting, abdominal pain, and nausea, which usually goes away after a hot bath or shower.
The Effects Of Cannabis Edibles
The researchers, however, pointed out most weed users buy pot for inhalation. Less than half a percent is sales from edibles. It then means ER admissions due to these types of food are 33 times higher than what the researchers thought.
Patients who ingested weed edibles often complained of acute mental disorders. These include severe panic attacks and acute psychosis. The others were in the hospital due to cardiovascular symptoms and intoxication.
The reason may be an active ingredient present in cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol. It has psychoactive effects since it can latch on to brain receptors linked to memory, pleasure, coordination, and thinking.
The team initially believed these acute symptoms occurred due to overconsumption of marijuana. It can take up to three hours before a person feels the full effects, so they may try to eat more to speed up the process.
"But after analyzing these data, I actually think it is that adverse symptoms from edible consumption last longer than when people smoke. This leads to more opportunity to say, 'I need to go the ER,'" said Andrew Monte, lead author.
The study didn't establish causation between weed use and these symptoms. It's possible they are already susceptible to these risks to begin with.
There are also limitations to the study. One, the researchers observed only one Colorado hospital. Some marijuana symptoms are also prone to misdiagnosis.
It may highlight, though, the state's need to further regulate the consumption of weed, especially edibles. Previously, the government learned some are mislabeling the THC content of their products.
It also needs to strengthen its research on the connection between adverse psychological effects and marijuana use.
The study is now available in the Annals of Internal Medicine.