Health

Legalized Weed is Landing More Seniors in the E.R.

The study included 2,322 emergency room visits for cannabis poisoning among people aged 65 and older in Ontario. The visits took place from 2015 to 2022, allowing researchers to see what happened before and after October 2018, when Canada legalized the sale of dried cannabis, and January 2020, when the sale of edibles was legalized.

In 2015, there were 55 emergency room visits caused by cannabis intoxication. This figure increased steadily to 462 in 2021, then declined slightly to 404 in 2022.

Dr. Stall said he was motivated to undertake the study after being called to the emergency room to consult with an octogenarian who was suffering from severe confusion. The patient was barely conscious and had stroke-like symptoms. Multiple tests revealed no clear cause, until Dr. Stall ordered a toxicology test and found cannabis in the patient’s urine.

When Dr. Stall disclosed the discovery, he said, a family member of the patient who was present at the bedside “turned beet red and realized that the senior had gotten into his edible at cannabis base and mistook it for food..”

Dr. Stall said the patient was hospitalized and received supportive care, and there was no specific treatment or antidote for such poisonings.

The study did not examine the reasons for overdoses in older adults, but Dr. Stall said he and other doctors were seeing poisonings caused by accidental ingestion as well as intentional use of edibles. recreational or medical purposes.

There are several reasons why older adults might be prone to overdoses, Dr. Stall said. Many cannabis strains are much more potent than in previous decades, and older adults who used the drug earlier in life may underestimate the THC concentrations they inhale or ingest. Particularly with edibles, Dr. Stall said, the effect can take about three hours to occur, which could tempt users into ingesting too much.

Older people also metabolize cannabis differently than younger people, Dr. Stall said, and their bodies eliminate the drug more slowly. Older adults are also more likely than younger people to take other medications, including psychoactive sleep medications, which can have problematic interactions with cannabis. And, Dr. Stall said, some older adults may already be prone to confusion or falls, which cannabis use could make worse.

“The question is: What do we do about it? » said Dr. Stall.

Dr Stall stressed the importance of ensuring edible products are kept in locked locations and in clearly marked packaging, to avoid unintended exposure.

Additionally, he said, policymakers should encourage information on cannabis dosing specific to older adults, as well as public education campaigns about the types of conditions and circumstances that put older adults in danger when they use drugs. He added that older adults experimenting with cannabis for the first time might want to take inspiration from a mantra used in geriatric medicine: “Start small and go slow.”

“That would mean starting lower and working your way down lower than a younger population trying cannabis for the first time,” Dr. Stall said.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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