The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute is turning their focus towards cannabis for the upcoming National Poison Prevention Week. Whether marijuana is being used for recreational or medical purposes, the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute (SPI) is encouraging parents and caregivers to be diligent about the use and storage of cannabis around children.

In 2018, the Saskatchewan Poison Control Centre reported 28 cannabis-related calls for children and youth under the age of 19. The SPI clarified further that these were initial calls, not necessarily calls that required medical attention by a practitioner. The nature of the calls is not reported, nor the instances that were directed to seek medical attention.

Since legalization, there have been reports of marijuana poisoning and overdosing with some saying toxicity is a more appropriate definition. However, the SPI proclaimed that cannabis can have more severe effects in younger children due to their size and weight and said could cause respiratory distress, organ failure and even death.

In a medical study published on, Unintentional Cannabis Ingestion in Children: A Systematic Review, it stated that the most common ingestion was cannabis resin, followed by cookies and joints, with other sources including passive smoke, medical cannabis, candies, beverages and hemp oil.

Of the side effects reported, 71 per cent reported lethargy which was the most prominent side effect, followed by ataxia (lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements, speech changes and eye movements) at 14 per cent. Additionally, all cases were cared for in the emergency department with the length of stay at approximately 27 hours with 18% admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit and 6 per cent were intubated.

The SPI states these instances can be easily avoided by following the following suggestions:
• Store all cannabis products, along with other poisons and medications, in a locked space out of the sight and reach of children. If possible, store them in the original packaging or in child-resistant containers that are clearly labelled.
• Keep all cannabis products, including homemade edibles (e.g., gummy bears, brownies), out of the sight and reach of children. If they can see it and reach it, they could eat it. Children will not be able to see or taste the difference between a cannabis edible and a regular treat. An edible may taste really good, and a child may eat a large amount quickly.
• Never consume cannabis in any form in front of children, either for medical or recreational purposes. Children like to imitate the actions of adults.
• Talk with family members, friends, and others who care for your children. Ask anyone whose home your children spend time in to store any cannabis products safely and to not use them in front of your children.
• Keep the Saskatchewan Poison Control Centre number near your phone and save the number in your contacts. If you think that your child has eaten a cannabis product, contact the Saskatchewan’s Poison Control Centre at 1-866-454-1212 immediately. If your child is not conscious, dial 911.

Cara Zukewich, Child Injury Prevention Program Coordinator with SPI, shared that conversations with your children about cannabis will likely be determined on a child to child basis, but she said sooner rather than later is always best to ensure your child knows the dangers. Many times, edibles whether cookies, brownies or candies, can look identical to those with no cannabis in them and therefore, labelling and proper storage is always a must to prevent accidental ingestion.

In Saskatchewan, between 2004 and 2013, drugs and medication accounted for approximately 78 per cent of all unintentional poisoning, age 20 and under. National Poison Prevention week is March 17-23, 2019.

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