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Rates of poison center calls for marijuana, kratom soar :

February 19, 2020

Rates of poison control center calls for exposure to marijuana and kratom have spiked in recent years, according to a new study.

The findings come from an analysis of 2000-’17 data from the National Poison Data System on calls for exposure to natural psychoactive substances. Researchers found 67,369 such calls, an average of 3,743 each year.

About 41% of those exposed were adults, 35% were teens, 20% were under 6 years and 3.5% were ages 6-12 years. Teens and children under 6 years had the highest rates per million people at 79 and 32.5, respectively.

Exposure to natural psychoactive substances for children 12 years and under typically was accidental, while teens and adults were more often misusing the substances, according to the study.

Over the study period, the rate of exposure to natural psychoactive substances per million people increased 74% from 17.6 to 30.7. Researchers attributed this to a nearly 5,000% increase in exposure rates to kratom (2011-’17), a 150% increase in the rate of exposure to marijuana and a 64% increase for nutmeg. Rates of exposure to other such substances declined.

Marijuana was involved in just under half of the calls across all ages. It also was the most common substance for children ages 6-19, while anticholinergic plants were most common for children under 6.

"As more states continue to legalize marijuana in various forms, parents and health care providers should treat it like any other medication: locked up, away, and out of sight of children," co-author Henry Spiller, M.S., D.ABAT, said in a news release. “With edibles and infused products especially, curious children are mistaking them for kid-friendly candy or food, and that poses a very real risk for harm."

Serious outcomes like seizures and coma were most likely when people used kratom, khat, anticholinergic plants and hallucinogenic mushrooms. Nearly 43% of cases with a serious outcome occurred among teens, according to the study. Seven children and teens died.

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