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Parents, beware of THC-laced edibles that look like candy

Leonard Pollack, M.D.,
for Henry Ford Health System
With a lot of edible candies, unless you look fairly closely, you can’t tell that they’re not real candy.

As more states have legalized marijuana, the rates of children accidentally overdosing on THC-laced edibles has increased. Marijuana edibles are easy to buy online and their colorful, candy-like packaging looks enticing to children. While the packaging may say “medicated” or “magic,” it’s not always clear what that alludes to.

With a lot of edible candies, unless you look fairly closely, you can’t tell that they’re not real candy. It’s troublesome: if you buy something like Tylenol, it comes in child-resistant packaging. But these aren’t child resistant, they’re child enticing. Some look like major candy brands that everyone knows about.

In fact, Mars Wrigley, the company that makes Skittles, recently filed a lawsuit against a dealer that’s using the Skittles name and branding against their will.

It’s important for parents to be aware of this, especially if they’re keeping chocolate edibles in the kitchen cabinet or gummy bear edibles on their bedside table as a sleep aid. These are easy for children to grab—and they’re likely going to think they’ve hit the candy jackpot. I can just imagine a child taking them to school and sharing them with their classmates—it’s such a dangerous situation.

Dr. Leonard Pollack is a pediatrician who sees patients at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

The dangers of marijuana in children

One THC-laced edible contains a fairly strong dose of marijuana. And if a child gets their hands on them, chances are they’re not going to eat just one.

While under the influence of marijuana, children can experience a racing heart, a drop in blood pressure, and less commonly, seizures. But I’m also worried about what decisions they could make while under the influence.

If a child gets high, their judgement will be impaired. They could get hit crossing the street. A marijuana overdose is unlikely to be fatal, but poor judgement could be fatal. We also don’t know whether there are any long-term effects of marijuana on a child’s brain.

I also worry that if parents don’t know their child overdosed, their child would receive many tests and treatments in the ER to discern the cause of their hysteria and symptoms. Until we realize that they overdosed on edibles, we would worry that these symptoms were being caused by meningitis or another serious issue.   

If a child does ingest edibles, they’re given an IV with fluids to help flush out the marijuana—there isn’t really any other antidote. 

How parents can keep their children safe

Whether you have edibles in your household or your children get them from friends at school, I recommend taking the following precautions to prevent accidental overdoses from occurring:

  • Keep them out of reach from children. Know that they’re dangerous medications. Treat them like you would any other medication.
  • Take them out of packaging that’s made to look like candy. Put them in something that’s not going to be enticing to children—preferably a child-proof container.
  • If your child is old enough, teach them how to read the packaging. If there’s a leaf or vocabulary that insinuates it’s not just candy, explain this to them, so they’ll know if they see it at school.

It’s important for parents to know that this is happening, whether they’re intentionally buying it for themselves or their kids are getting it elsewhere. And if parents are buying edibles for themselves, it’s something that needs to be treated appropriately and seriously.

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To make an appointment with a Henry Ford pediatrician or family medicine provider, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Leonard Pollack is a pediatrician who sees patients at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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