As some states have moved to legalize marijuana in varying degrees, researchers are learning more and more about the drug and its negative effects–specifically, that it is increasingly tied to emergency room visits and death.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse writes,

“The amount of THC in marijuana samples confiscated by police has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. In 2012, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 15 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s. For a new user, this may mean exposure to higher concentrations of THC, with a greater chance of an adverse or unpredictable reaction. Increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use.”

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

These findings by the NIDA about marijuana-related emergency room visits track with a study published by the University of Colorado School of Medicine last May which found that, “the proportion of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in Colorado has increased dramatically since the commercialization of medical marijuana in the middle of 2009.”

Research published by the JAMA Pediatrics medical journal last summer found, “Driving and riding after marijuana use is common among underage, marijuana-using college students. This is concerning given recent legislation that may increase marijuana availability.”

Accidental Ingestion of Marijuana by Children

Driving under the influence of marijuana appears–at the very least–to be sending people to the emergency room, however, marijuana-related trips to the ER are coming in other forms as well. For instance, last year, researchers found a sharp increase in emergency treatment of children who accidentally ingested marijuana-laced candy and similar food.

Researchers, again writing in JAMA Pediatrics, determined there was “a new appearance of unintentional marijuana ingestions by young children after modification of drug enforcement laws for marijuana possession in Colorado. The consequences of unintentional marijuana exposure in children should be part of the ongoing debate on legalizing marijuana.”

Lead researcher Dr. George Sam Wang, a medical toxicology fellow at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, issued a statement at the time, saying, “We are seeing increases in exposure to marijuana in young pediatric patients, and they have more severe symptoms than we typically associate with marijuana…We hadn’t seen these exposures before the big boom of the medical marijuana industry.”

Marijuana Sends Teacher, Students to the Hospital

Earlier this month a high school teacher in Maryland was hospitalized after a student gave her a brownie containing marijuana.

Last November a Connecticut teen was taken to the hospital from school after she started having difficulty breathing following ingestion of a marijuana-laced gummy bear.

And last Tuesday two middle school students in Oklahoma were rushed to the hospital after one of them reportedly passed out following marijuana-use at school.

Concluding Thoughts

Whether it’s an increase in marijuana’s potency or the fact that edible marijuana may make it possible to ingest larger quantities of the drug more quickly than a person might by smoking it, reports from around the country seem pretty clear: People are being sent to the emergency room as a result of “recreational” marijuana-use as well as marijuana-related accidents.

Earlier this week we posted a video from Kevin Sabet busting the myth marijuana doesn’t kill. In the video he points out–once again–the link between marijuana-use and fatal car crashes, and the high levels of tar and other carcinogens found in the marijuana plant itself.

All of this research goes to show, once again, that marijuana may be many things, but “harmless” simply is not one of them.

Photo Credit: “Cannabis Plant” by Cannabis Training University – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.