Local doctor sees increase in toddler pot overdoses

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan pediatric emergency department doctor is calling the increasing rate of accidental marijuana ingestion by toddlers a public health emergency.

Dr. Erica Michiels, associate medical director pediatric emergency department at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, says though it’s legal, the marijuana of today is not the pot of past decades. Michiels says she’s seeing more and more kids getting a hold of more THC than their growing bodies can handle.

“I would classify this as a public health crisis. I recently worked several shifts in a row, and I admitted six toddlers to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for marijuana ingestion. Five of those kids had to go to an intensive care unit,” Michiels said.

It’s impacting kids from toddlers to teens who are overdosing on pot, coming into the hospital with confusion and agitation and in some cases, unconscious.

“When you’re thinking about the super concentrated forms of marijuana that are now available and you’re thinking about kids who have never used it before or toddlers who are tiny, they absolutely can overdose on pot, they can even die,” Michiels said.

Super concentrated THC like marijuana wax has been more accessible to children.

And too often the culprit is edibles sold in colorful packaging that look like fruit snacks or gummy bears to a toddler.

“When a toddler gets a hold of that, they don’t eat one like someone who’s wanting to get high, they eat the whole package because it tastes like gummy bears,” Michiels said.

Michiels is asking parents to talk to their teens about marijuana and to keep it not only out of reach but locked up. She’s also asking for honesty when their child does get into marijuana.

“If your child ingests marijuana, come to the emergency department. Don’t wait at home to see what’s going to happen. In these young toddlers who ingest this, the drug affect can last for over a day, so please bring them straight in. The sooner we can help your child, the better off they’ll be,” Michiels said.

The Marijuana Regulatory Agency calls for “child resistant packages or containers.”

Michiels hopes her warning will catch the attention of lawmakers to call for child-proof packaging on marijuana edibles.

“I think that we will see deaths soon in our community if we don’t act quickly to change how we’re dispensing this drug,” Michiels said.

Packing requirements from the Marijuana Regulatory Agency can be found online.

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