Oklahoma sees increase in overdoses of edible THC in children

TULSA, Okla. – Oklahoma is seeing a sharp increase in the number of children under five overdosing on THC.

2 News first learned of this when a social worker at a local hospital told us he saw three children in the past month who had overdosed.

The Oklahoma Center for Poison Control confirms that it is seeing an increase in THC overdoses.

Scott Schaeffer is the director of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information. He says that since 2018 it has become all too common for their specialists to receive a call about a child who has overdosed on THC.

“Before that, we averaged about 10 or 15 calls a year from kids five and under. Last year, in 2021, we got calls to 211,” says Schaeffer.

Schaeffer says those numbers continue to climb.

“Almost one call a day right now, where the kids got into generally edible stuff, gummies, chips, candies.”

Schaeffer also says kids often mistake edibles for candy or other treats.

“Kids don’t know that a candy, for example, is a dose,” says Schaeffer. “They’ll eat whatever is available to them, so they get very high doses, sometimes 300, 500, we had one exposure where a kid exceeded 1000mg of THC not too long ago.

He says large amounts of THC in products can cause dramatic changes in the central nervous system, with children becoming very groggy and their blood pressure dropping to dangerous levels.

“It can get to the point where they actually suffer from respiratory depression. They do not breathe enough to oxygenate their body tissues.

Joseph Galeano makes THC edibles.

“The main reason the industry has created so many different edibles is the same reason there are so many different restaurants, there are so many different forms of chips and sodas,” says Galeano.

Galeano says he’s no stranger to the serious risks these products pose if they end up in the hands of children.

He also says the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has strict labeling guidelines.

“The industry is so strict about packaging and labeling and making sure it’s visible,” says Galeano. “Big bold letters, you know, it’s THC infused. There are labels all over the place.”

But if the child is too young to read, experts also say parents should put these products in a safe.

Experts say that if a child steps into a marijuana product, call the Oklahoma Poisons and Drugs Information Center at 800-222-1222 to see if medical intervention is needed.

They say parents shouldn’t be afraid to call because they’re not an information agency.

Currently, a bill is pending in the Oklahoma legislature that seeks to make medical marijuana packaging less appealing to children.

Housebill 3019 would require medical marijuana packaging to be transparent and childproof.

The bill would also require a warning label that reads “For use only by patients with medical marijuana” and keep out of reach of children.” Representative Kevin McDugle said he was the author of the bill because it is important to ensure the safety of children.

REPRESENTING. KEVIN MCDUGLE/OKLAHOMA (R): “We want to make sure our kids don’t get THC products, the adults have the cards, they should be the only ones going into the package,” Oklahoma Rep. (R) – Kevin McDugle said.

The bill is still in the House.

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