‘A disturbing trend’: Massachusetts doctors report uptick in kids getting sick from THC-laced edibles

Officials are urging parents to check the fine print as the candies are often packaged to look like major-brand sweets.

A glimpse of the packaging that disguises THC-laced edibles as popular candy brands.
A glimpse of the packaging that disguises THC-laced edibles as popular candy brands. –Courtesy of South Shore Health

South Shore Health reported Friday that doctors are continuing to see “a disturbing trend” of kids getting sick from eating THC-laced edibles that are packaged to look like major-brand candies and snacks. 

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main mind-altering chemical found in marijuana. The Weymouth-based health care system said its pediatric emergency department has seen an uptick in children becoming ill after ingesting candies, chocolates, sours, and gummies containing the ingredient.

In one case, officials said THC-infused gummies were even packaged to look nearly identical to a leading brand of children’s vitamins.

Most recently, a local teenager had to be treated and stabilized after consuming five fruit-flavored candies that each contained 600 mg of THC, according to South Shore Health.

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“Children often can’t tell the difference between a food product laced with THC and one without,” South Shore Hospital’s Chair of Pediatrics Mark Waltzman said in a statement. “Edibles laced with THC, and intended for adult consumption and dosages, have a greater clinical impact on children based on their smaller size due to the child’s ‘volume of distribution.’” 

For older children who may weigh more, the health care system reported that excessive doses of THC could still cause a racing pulse, drop in blood pressure, and potential seizures. 

The Massachusetts Poison Control Center also reportedly cited an emerging trend in its recent data concerning calls for kids consuming marijuana edibles, according to South Shore Health.  

Over the first three quarters of 2020, the Poison Control Center said 66% of exposure calls were related to pediatric exposure to marijuana products. During the same period, 80% of calls related to marijuana edibles were for pediatric exposure, according to the data.

With Halloween just around the corner, Waltzman reminded families that what appears to be candy may actually be a cannabis product. 

He asked families to be conscious of the candy their kids may have, and any other easily accessible treats that are lying around the house.

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“Be sure to check the fine print,” Waltzman added, “and look for indications of THC.” 

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