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Marijuana in the ER Part 2: Emerging Youth Trends

The Emergency Room is known to see many extreme cases, and some may be surprised to find some of those cases are caused by marijuana. My cousin is an ER Nurse and she told me she has seen many cases of people in the ER who overdosed on marijuana and arrived in critical condition. I asked her to tell me more so I can let others know about this danger that most are not aware of.

Today’s blog, is Part 2 from my interview with 3 ER nurse/triage nurses and head Doctor about trends they are seeing with marijuana overdose and other dangerous youth drug trends. Please check out Part 1 if you haven’t. “Marijuana in the ER: Overdose” focuses more about the marijuana overdose symptoms that the ER has seen.


1. In the ER, what is the average age of a person who has overdosed on marijuana?

- ER Nurse: “15-30 years old. It’s usually younger people because they can easily get their hands on it and its easier to access.”


- Triage Nurse: “The cases I see is usually a young person who has never tried weed before and overdosed the first time.


2. What kind of variable of marijuana did they overdose on? (Vapes, edibles, dabs)

- ER Nurse: “Most common is most definitely edibles. Teens or youth will say that they were at a party that had cookies or edible treats. Sometimes, the patient will say that they didn’t know it was an edible when they ate it. But, later on they confess that they did know.”


- Head Doctor: “I see all of the above. I see people overdosing on marijuana on edibles, dabs, smoking etc.”


3. Are there any mental health/psychotic episodes that patients have while overdosing on marijuana?

- ER Nurse: “Yes, there are psychotic breaks and it goes hand in hand with paranoia. Some patients don’t want to talk, some see things or hallucinate. But once they come down from their high they start to act normal.”


Some people who use marijuana say that they are using it to help with their mental health, specifically to help them with dealing with depression or anxiety. But studies are showing that using marijuana is doing the exact opposite. Marijuana puts THC in your brain & confuses it. The brain thinks THC is the same chemical it naturally makes to deal with anxiety so your brain stops making that chemical. Then, your brain can’t handle any stress or anxiety on a regular basis because it has stopped making that natural chemical we all need. The video below will explain the scientific reasoning why marijuana can do this.



4. Are there any new marijuana youth trends that you have noticed?

- ER Nurse: “No new trends that I have noticed, but there was an era where vaping cannabis products was high/common. There were street vapes that looked like normal vapes, the ones that cannabis stores sold, but it had vitamin E oil. Vitamin E oil would get stuck in the lungs which makes it harder to breathe, and it destroys your lungs. The people who sold these vapes didn’t care; they only care about the money. It was such a big deal that the ER and the CDC was alerted.”


Some drug trends that I have noticed personally and professionally is people driving while high. They think that driving high is safer than drinking and driving. But being impaired by this drug when you’re driving is still considered driving under the influence. When a person has used marijuana, it affects their motor skills, alters reaction time, impairs concentration, and reduces the ability to make quick decisions, all of which are very important to drive safely. (December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, please drive safely this month and every month after that.)


5. Have there ever been times where the patient was misdiagnosed and then later realized it was from marijuana?

- Head Dr: “Yes. Some patients will look like a “normal” person and don’t disclose that they smoke marijuana every day, but we later find out that their symptoms are from marijuana from the toxicity screening. But usually 90% of the time, its obvious to know if the patient is overdosing on marijuana. 90% correct diagnosis, 10% misdiagnosed”


6. How common are other drug overdoses? Like alcohol overdose?

- ER Nurse: “Very common we see alcohol overdose almost every night.”


7. What are the other most concerning drug trends in the ER with youth?

- Head Dr: “With the younger crowd, mixing alcohol and marijuana.”


- ER Nurse: “Meth is very common in the area. Always shows up on toxic screen.”


- Triage Nurse: “Narcotics. Its so easy for youth to get their hands on it. And to overdose on pills if the child is suicidal”


- ER Nurse: “The pharmacy bucket challenge” is something I see. Its when youth will take random pills they find around the house, mix them all in a bucket and then ingest a handful of pills. This is so dangerous because it can suppress the respiratory system making it hard to breathe, or cause heart dysrhythmia if there is heart medication mixed in there. It’s also very easy to overdose because a child is taking an adult dose.”


- Triage Nurse: “Overdosing on drugs laced with fentanyl”


Conclusion:

Marijuana and other drug trends among youth and young adults that the ER sees are devastating and are becoming a common thing. We can help prevent these cases by educating people about the dangers of marijuana, how it is possible to overdose on marijuana and safely securing medication from youth.


A huge thank you to the nurses and Doctor that answered my interview question. It was very insightful to hear from health care workers who see these kinds of cases daily.


To learn more about marijuana trends, see our other blog article “It's Not Your Mama's Weed” and “Edibles: Who Only Eats One?

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