St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver is expecting an increase in visits to the emergency department now that cannabis has been legalized.
The prediction, according to emergency physician Dr. Joseph Finkler, comes after reviewing statistics out of U.S. hospitals in states where the sale of the drug has been legal for several years.
Emergency departments in Colorado, the first American state to legalize the sale of cannabis four years ago, found that those most at risk of needing emergency services were those new to the recreational use of the drug.
Those who ingested edible cannabis products, which are slower to kick-in than cannabis when inhaled, were also particularly at risk, they found.
“They take an edible, maybe the appropriate dose, but they wait and don’t wait long enough and they say, ‘I don’t feel anything from this pot brownie or gummy bear. I’ll just take another,'” said Dr. Finkler.
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“And maybe 60 to 90 minutes later they get a rush and experience a huge rush of the psychoactive ingredient THC, and it’s not very pleasant for them.”
Another concern involves children who mistake edible products for candies and other treats.
When too much cannabis is ingested, panic attack-like symptoms can ensue, including a racing heart, palpitations, sweating, tremors and nausea.
Edible cannabis won’t be legally available for sale in Canada until next year.
Even so, Dr. Finkler offered advice for the would-be edible user.
“They recommend starting at as low a dose as you can,” he said. “And waiting 60 or 90 maybe 120 minutes before another dose if you are a naïve or neophyte user.