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Edibles: Who Only Eats One?

Raise your hand if you can scarf an entire pack of cookies down. I know I can! And we all know that teenagers with their famous sweet tooth can. But what happens when that bag of cookies is infused with THC from marijuana? What if one serving is only ONE cookie? Or one half a cookie? ...What if overeating came with other dangerous side effects other than a tummy ache?


In today’s blog we will go over the diversity and forms of today’s marijuana edibles and why it’s particularly dangerous for teens to indulge in these. I’m not here to scare you, take a rigid position against marijuana, or judge. Instead, I am here to empower you with new information to help you guide your teen to make informed, safe decisions for the sake of their health and future.


What are Edibles?


Edibles are any food or beverage products infused with THC which is the chemical in the marijuana plant that gives the user a high. Some examples of edibles are cookies, brownies, gummies, chocolates, popcorn, drinks, and even cannabis butter where a person can cook with and infuse their entire meal with THC. Edibles have been around for a while, but they are nothing like they were in the past. (See our blog “Not Your Mamas Weed” to learn how marijuana has increased its potency and why its dangerous for a teen’s growing brain)


Why its Dangerous


Edibles are responsible for most marijuana overdose cases in youth. There are 2 reasons for this. 1. Teens can be impatient, and 2. There is no way to know how much THC is in each edible from just looking, smelling, or tasting it. Let me explain…


1. The thing with edibles is that they take hours for the user to feel any effect. Unlike smoking or vaping where they will feel a high instantly, edibles are processed through the liver, which takes the body 1-3 hours to feel the effects. So, what may happen is that a teen will become impatient when they don’t feel a high right away and start to eat more…and more… and more. Then, when an hour or 3 hours go by they have overdosed.

There were a couple of instances in my younger years where I saw someone overdose on edibles. They became impatient with not feeling high immediately and automatically thought they did not take enough. So, they continued to indulge on more of the dangerous sweets. The aftermath was them “melting” into the sofa, not being able to move, passing out, and only waking up to vomit. It was a scary situation to see and I hope you never have to experience that.

2. Edibles can be very tricky and dangerous because there is no way to tell how much THC is in an edible. Currently there is insufficient regulation which results in wide variation of THC doses even in identical appearing products. (See chart below.) For instance, the same size cookie or single gummy bear can have widely different dosages. It’s also important to note that ANY food can be turned into a marijuana edible with the now easily accessible spray THC which is tasteless, odorless and colorless. It’s a sad future, but that’s one of the main reasons that schools are not hosting bake sales any more. (Just Think Twice, 2018)

“While they look the same, marijuana-infused caramels can be very different. One may contain 10mg of active THC and another may contain 100mg of active THC. A single serving of a marijuana edible is 10 mg. meaning at some stores, one caramel can equal 10 servings. Currently, there is no standard number of servings in one edible.”



Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

Yes, you can overdose on marijuana. Consuming edibles is the most common cause of marijuana overdoses. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020). So far the death rate is much lower than other drugs but there is a large increase in permanent brain, lung and liver damage from marijuana, including among previously healthy teens. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020)


How can you tell someone is overdosing?


· A fast heart rate, chest pain, or heart attack

· Uncontrollable shaking or seizures

· Unresponsiveness

· Extreme anxiety or panic attacks

· Psychotic reactions (hallucinations, delusions, loss of personal identity)

· Decreased judgment, perception, and coordination resulting in injuries or even death (CDC, 2018)

Additionally, a whole new, and extremely strange syndrome has developed from marijuana overdose called Cannabinoid Hypermesis Syndrome. This is due to toxic levels of marijuana in the system from long term daily marijuana use. The symptoms include:

· Cycles of severe nausea and vomiting

· Screaming

· Extreme abdominal pain

· Unease/shaking

· Anxiety

· Paranoia and/or hallucinations

It was nicknamed “scromiting” by nurses because people came into the ER and couldn’t stop screaming and vomiting. And the syndrome’s severe abdominal pain seemed to be relieved only by heat, usually extremely hot water which sometimes resulted in 2nd degree burns. The only way to stop these symptoms is to immediately stop using marijuana and detox it out of the body, which in most cases can take 2-4 weeks before symptoms abate. (Denny, 2019)


Conclusion:

We all know that binge eating a full tray of brownies isn’t the best for us, but who knew that it could be this dangerous? Edibles are one of the most common ways teens are overdosing on marijuana now. And because most people don’t know or believe it can be dangerous or possible to overdose on marijuana, they continue to use too much, too soon and too often without any fear of the outcomes. Please share what you’re learning about how marijuana can harm teens, to help them make an informed decision. Talk to your teen. And give them the chance to talk to you.

Look for future articles where we will share more details and tips on how to talk to your youth about marijuana in a way that they will hear and be receptive to. Check out Omni Youth Programs YouTube videos "Let’s Talk Pot Part 1: How Much Does Marijuana Help or Hurt?" and "How To Tell If My Child Is Using Drugs Part 1: Personality and Attitude Changes"




Follow us on social media where we share youth marijuana and alcohol prevention tips and data!


Cited Resources:

“Just Think Twice.” Drug Alert: Marijuana Edibles | Just Think Twice, 2018, www.justthinktwice.gov/article/drug-alert-marijuana-edibles.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana Drug Facts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24 July 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Are Marijuana's Long-Term Effects on the Brain?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 8 Apr. 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain.


“Is It Possible to ‘Overdose’ or Have a ‘Bad Reaction’ to Marijuana?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Mar. 2018, www.cdc.gov/marijuana/faqs/overdose-bad-reaction.html.


Denny, Regina. “My Experience of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS).” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 19 Sept. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326357.

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