Young Children’s Exposure to Marijuana Is Skyrocketing

Researchers from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital have recently discovered that the number of children younger than 6 years old exposed to marijuana is rising. Results from their study, published online in the journal Clinical Pediatrics in June 2015, showed a 147.5% increase in marijuana exposure among those under the age of 6 between 2006 and 2013. That rate soared almost 610% during the same time period in states that have legalized the drug for medical purposes. Additionally, researchers found that the exposure rate in the states that legalized marijuana between 2000 and 2013 rose nearly 16% per year after the legalization. They also spotted a significant jump the year legalization took place. Even the states in which marijuana remained illegal by 2013 showed an increase of 63% among the rate of exposed children 2000 to 2013. “The high percentage of ingestion in children may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods,” Henry Spiller, MS, DABAT, a co-author of the study and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital said in a news release. “Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive.”   

The Harmful Effects of Marijuana

Regular use of marijuana could lead to a psychological dependence and might cause numerous health issues. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Frequent chest colds
  • Damage to the lungs and airway
  • Increased risk of lung infections
  • Emphysema
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Lower sperm counts and testosterone levels in men
  • Irregular menstrual cycles and hormonal problems in women
  • Decrease in or loss of sexual pleasure

While much of the marijuana legalization debate centers on the effects legalization would have on the economy, on crime rates and on the health of older individuals, it’s essential to take into account everyone the drug could affect. For instance, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital study findings showed that some of the children exposed to marijuana experienced comas and decreased breathing or seizures. Furthermore, more than 18% of children exposed had to be hospitalized. Like any other drug, marijuana could have negative consequences for those who use it, regardless of their age and whether they knowingly expose themselves to it. Understanding the harmful effects that might occur with use of the drug could be the first step in combating potential addiction. By Jenna Mitchell

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