ER visits linked to marijuana rose at Colorado hospital after legalization, study finds

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By Shamard Charles, M.D.

After marijuana use was legalized in Colorado in 2012, ER visits linked to cannabis use tripled over the next five years at one of the state’s largest hospitals, according to a new analysis. Psychiatric ER visits were more common after people consumed marijuana edibles, compared to smoking or inhaling cannabis products.

The researchers examined nearly 10,000 patients at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital from 2012 to 2016, finding that while sales of edibles are lower than inhaled pot products, people eating marijuana candies or food were more likely to show up at the ER with severe panic attacks or other sudden mental disorders. Inhaled marijuana caused a higher rate of hospitalizations, mostly due to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a severe vomiting condition associated with heavy cannabis use.