During the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency rooms saw a spike in cannabis-related events in adolescents, according to new data released on Thursday.
Findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the number of adolescents visiting the ER was higher during the pandemic years than in 2019.
The CDC also revealed that the number of visits involving children under the age of 14 increased compared to 2019 data.
In groups aged 11 to 14, the CDC saw a 111% average increase in ER visits from young girls from 2019 to 2022.
Incidence for boys, on the other hand, only increased 24%.
But the most shocking data from the CDC’s recent batch of findings showed an uptick in cannabis-related hospital visits made by children 10 years old or younger, which “far exceeded” pre-pandemic rates.
In 2019, ER visits in that age group averaged at 20.9 per every 10,000.
In 2022, the average was 65.6 — a startling 214% difference.
For those 10 and under, ingestion of potentially toxic amounts of cannabis was likely not intentional, but rather accidental due to packaging that looks appealing to them.
“Our middle school girls are struggling and are using more cannabis than males,” Dr. Willough Jenkins, the medical director of emergency and consultation liaison psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, told NBC News.
At the time, the agency reported that a majority of teen girls felt hopeless or sad in 2021, and nearly one in three considered attempting suicide.
Last year, the World Health Organization reported a startling increase in overall rates of depression and anxiety during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The CDC’s latest findings coincide with reports that cannabis-related Poison Control Center calls regarding adolescents were up 245%, according to a study released last year.
Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration teamed up to demand a crackdown on pot companies whose THC-infused products might be easily confused for a grocery aisle snack.
“Marketing edible THC products that can be easily mistaken by children for regular foods is reckless and illegal,” Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement at the time.
“Companies must ensure that their products are marketed safely and responsibly, especially when it comes to protecting the well-being of children,” he added.
The CDC hypothesized that the stark increase in ER incidents regarding cannabis use could also be “a result of expanding state-level policies legalizing cannabis use.”
In New York City, the first legal dispensary opened its doors in December, but the legalization of weed has been met with harsh criticism from local doobie downers, who fear fellow drivers will operate under the influence and lament the “zombie-fication” of stoned workers.