Why Are Marijuana-Related ER Visits Rising Dramatically?

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Why Are Marijuana-Related ER Visits Rising Dramatically?

Why Are Marijuana-Related ER Visits Rising Dramatically?

Marijuana-related ER visits are rising dramatically, and edibles are sparking concern as one of the main culprits. Here's everything you need to know.


Marijuana-related emergency room visits spiked in Colorado after the legalization of recreational use.  

From 2012 to 2016, emergency room visits caused by marijuana use tripled.  

That's according to a study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine published in March 2019. 

The increase is, in a way, expected, Colorado was one of only two states to legalize recreational use. This drew people from all over the nation to partake. 

The study also revealed for the first time what adverse effects drive ER visits. 

The study reviewed 9,973 visits to UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital related to marijuana. It found that edibles had a disproportionate impact on adverse events compared to combusted marijuana. 

By the Numbers on ER Visits

A summary of the study breaks down the numbers looks like this: 

  • 9,973 ER visits to the hospital from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2016, were related to marijuana combustibles or edibles.
  • For 25.7 percent — or 2,567 — marijuana was the primary cause of the symptoms people were seeking help with.
  • Inhaled marijuana was more likely to lead to cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition in daily weed smokers that cause massive bouts of vomiting
  • Visits for psychiatric symptoms, cardiovascular problems and intoxication were all much more frequent in edibles. Edibles caused more than twice as many cases for each of these issues than combustible weed. 
  • Here's the kicker stat: edibles were only 0.3 percent of all weed sales in Colorado but accounted for about 11 percent of all marijuana visits. 

What's the Takeaway Here? 

There are a few big ones. 

First, the researchers, led by Dr. Andrew Monte, concluded that ER visits are largely driven by smoke while edibles lead to more medically significant conditions. 

Second, there is still a great deal of education needed around how to use cannabis responsibly. On that note, click here for our beginner's guide to edibles. 

A minor note highlighted by the UC Health public relations team in a blog is that deaths from marijuana are rare and only highlights incidents where people had psychotic episodes that caused them to act violently toward themselves or others. 

But, all of those episodes involved overdose on edibles. 

Monte was also keen to point out that marijuana consumption does not mix well with other pharmaceuticals and that other depressants like alcohol and sedatives amplify the effects of marijuana. 

There's More to Know

Even though ER visits increased in Colorado, there's no good reason to suppose that the plant itself is dangerous. The reality is that cannabis' uses as medicine are many. 

The increases are simply driven by more people using a plant and drug that was already widely in use without the fear of violence from the government. More people using something naturally equates to more people making a mistake. 

The problem now is people are adjusting to a new lifestyle with cannabis. And that's a lifestyle we embrace. Help us rep the life with sweet apparel

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