Mommy's Modern Guide to Cannabis and Minors-The Real Deal on Cannabis Overdose and What to do?
By Celenise Mahmood, NASM-CWC, Founder & CEO Moodwell
We’ve all been hearing the news lately about the record number of emergency room cases involving minors that have consumed cannabis. As more states begin to legalize recreational marijuana you have illegal cannabis dispensaries popping up that make cannabis products too easily accessible to minors. While cannabis overdose is non lethal because cannabis consumption does not affect the area of the brain that controls lung and heart function, it can be scary facing a situation you and the medical professionals in the emergency room have little to no experience with. With back to school season in full swing, this guide provides insight on cannabis overconsumption, tips on treating it, and how to have a conversation with your child about cannabis.
Cannabis is an ancient herb that has been used for a multitude of purposes (medicinal, textiles, etc.) dating as far back as 2700 BC. Throughout the 1930's until the 2000's the War on Drugs destroyed the lives of countless families. In 1970 marijuana was classified as schedule 1. While marijuana continues to be classified as schedule 1 in the USA it has become decriminalized in most states. Hemp (CBD) is federally legally. Marijuana (THC) is recreationally legal in 19 states in the USA. Medically legal in 39 states. 27 countries have decriminalized the plant.
CBD products are federally legal, are easily accessible in most health food markets, vitamin shops, and can be shipped right to your doorstep. CBD associated with the hemp plant is non intoxicating. Consuming high amounts of some CBD products may cause a psychoactive effect for new users or minors.
THC products are still federally illegal as it is derived from the marijuana plant which remains a Schedule 1 drug. Due to this Schedule 1 classification there is limited research on the effects of marijuana. Currently in states where medical use is legal only, patients can only purchase marijuana from medical marijuana dispensaries with a medical marijuana card. In states where marijuana is legal recreationally adults 21 and over can purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries. The gray area here is that in states like New York where marijuana is recreational there are smoke shops illegally selling marijuana. It is important that if you are consuming cannabis you are sourcing from a reputable retailer. This gray area poses a danger to our children as they can get their hands on products that have filler, packaged in unsanitary conditions or are not lab tested and safe to consume.
What should you do if you suspect your child has overconsumed cannabis?
Don’t panic and remain calm. Ask your child to be honest about how much cannabis they have consumed and how they consumed it whether they ingested it or smoked it. Cannabis interacts with the body through CB1 and CB2 receptors that are spread throughout the body. They are most abundant in the brain and along the nervous system. However the only part of the body that CB1 and CB2 receptors are not present is in the medulla oblungata. The area responsible for the functionality of the respiratory system.
Access their vitals. Over consuming cannabis may cause increased sweat, paranoia, anxiety, fatigue or disorientation, giddiness, red or dry eyes, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and increased appetite. All of these symptoms will subside within 2-3 hours if consumed via combustion, 5-8 hours if consumed via an edible.
Rest it off. Unlike alcohol poisoning requiring getting your stomach pumped and causing days of illness or hospitalization, overconsumption of marijuana will not be as extreme but it may be uncomfortable. If your minor is experiencing vomiting make sure that they do not become dehydrated by having them drink fluids with electrolytes like Pedialyte or Gatorade. Avoid caffeinated beverages as this can increase anxiety. If they are experiencing increased appetite (munchies) let them eat. If they are experiencing paranoia, encourage them to relax and try to sleep it off. The effects will go away, depending on the amount of THC consumed and the method it can take 2-8 hours. Patience, rest and hydration is the key.
Tips for talking to your child about cannabis:
Do encourage the conversation and have an open mind. Find out what your child's questions and concerns are. Are they curious about its recreational or medicinal qualities?
Do not shut down the topic. Your child will get their answer from another source. Whether it be the internet or their peers, they will get the answers they are looking for. These answers may not be accurate. Take control of the narrative.
Do lead by example. By normalizing the plant at home we break the stigma. Just act normal and consume responsibly. We don't see others explaining their glass of wine or beer.
Do not feel guilty or ashamed for choosing cannabis. A lot of moms carry enormous guilt over their cannabis use. There is no shame in medicating with cannabis or using it to unwind. Period.
Child: My classmates have been talking about weed, I am curious about what it is.
Parent: Cannabis is a plant that has many different uses. Typically you might see someone smoking it or eating it in an edible like a brownie. It is a powerful plant that should not be misused.
Child: It looks really cool and I really want to try it. My friends are doing it and you do it.
Parent: I cannot speak for your friends or their parents. Regardless of my relationship with cannabis, like alcohol, it is not legal for minors. As your parent I cannot allow you to do anything illegal. I'm always here to answer your questions and revisit cannabis use when it is legal for you.