Vancouver Sun

TOUGH NUM­BERS TO CHEW ON

Pot ed­i­bles cause for con­cern

- PAMELA FAYERMAN pfay­er­man@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/medicin­e­mat­ters Marijuana · Health · Canada News · Narcotic Drugs · Society · British Columbia · Vancouver · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · Saint Paul · Sunset Beach, California · Emergency Health Services

Calls to the B.C. Drug and Poi­son In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre have surged on the an­nual 4/20 cannabis event in Van­cou­ver in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by pro­vin­cial health of­fi­cials.

“The 4/20 cannabis calls rep­re­sent a real spike, way over what we see on or­di­nary days,” said Dr. Tom Kosatsky, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of en­vi­ron­men­tal health ser­vices for the B.C. Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol.

He ac­knowl­edged that the to­tal num­ber of calls re­mains small, but is nev­er­the­less grow­ing. His re­port is pub­lished in the cur­rent B.C. Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

“Peo­ple call be­cause they may be des­per­ate if they feel they’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing com­pli­ca­tions from ex­po­sures,” he said in an in­ter­view. “They are sur­prised to have such un­ex­pected symp­toms, they are wor­ried about feel­ing high and want to know if this is nor­mal and what will hap­pen. Some­times it’s par­ents call­ing about their chil­dren or their dogs that have in­gested some­thing.”

The cen­tre re­ceives a to­tal of 70 calls a day, on av­er­age, re­lated to all kinds of poi­son­ings.

It re­ceives only one or two calls a day, on av­er­age, from an anx­ious per­son wor­ry­ing about their symp­toms or call­ing on be­half of a cannabis-in­tox­i­cated in­di­vid­ual, Kosatsky said.

But the to­tal num­ber of calls on 4/20 days for the four years was 19, in­clud­ing one call about a 14-year old. And the num­ber has been ris­ing, hit­ting eight calls in 2016.

While the num­ber of poi­son con­trol call­ers is a small num­ber, the re­port does not in­clude the dozens of peo­ple who were treated by paramedics, charged or sus­pended be­cause of im­paired driv­ing or taken to hos­pi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to Van­cou­ver Coastal Health, 66 peo­ple at the event last year were taken to Van­cou­ver emer­gency de­part­ments (mostly St. Paul’s) for med­i­cal is­sues re­lated to the 4/20 event, in­clud­ing 10 who were un­der age 20 and one who was 14. None were se­ri­ous enough to re­quire ad­mis­sion.

The study does pro­vide pub­lic health of­fi­cials with in­for­ma­tion about who is more likely to en­counter prob­lems that cause them to call poi­son con­trol cen­tres: Women and those who in­gest ed­i­ble cannabis prod­ucts like gummy bears. Psy­choac­tive ef­fects of ed­i­bles — un­like smoked cannabis prod­ucts — of­ten creep up on users.

“In­gest­ing cannabis pro­duces de­layed symp­toms, of­ten more se­vere than those ex­pe­ri­enced from in­hala­tion. De­layed ef­fects and lack of dosage reg­u­la­tions con­trib­ute to a phe­nom­e­non ob­served in poi­son con­trol calls in which novice users con­sume suc­ces­sive serv­ings ... while wait­ing for the drug ’s psy­choac­tive ef­fects to be­gin,” the med­i­cal jour­nal for B.C. doc­tors says.

The 4/20 event last year drew crowds es­ti­mated up to 100,000 peo­ple who gath­ered at Sun­set Beach and through­out down­town. It will again take place in a few months, so Kosatsky said the re­port pro­vides some guid­ance for civic and health pro­fes­sion­als about the need for stronger cau­tion­ary mes­sages.

“When it comes to all the peo­ple sell­ing and buy­ing cannabis prod­ucts dur­ing the event, it’s like a farmer’s mar­ket, but it’s not even quasi-reg­u­lated. Peo­ple buy­ing from home­made pro­duc­ers don’t know what they are get­ting and dos­ing in­struc­tions are in­ad­e­quate. It’s not like buy­ing from a li­censed ven­dor who main­tains qual­ity con­trols,” he said.

Since some doc­tors and natur­opaths are pre­scrib­ing medic­i­nal cannabis, the take-away mes­sage is that they should re­mind their pa­tients that ed­i­bles are more slowly me­tab­o­lized and users should not eat too much.

At the event, Kosatsky wants more warn­ings on sig­nage and leaflets at sales points and he plans to talk to or­ga­niz­ers about that. Dana Larsen, a found­ing di­rec­tor of the Van­cou­ver Dis­pen­sary So­ci­ety and an or­ga­nizer of the an­nual 4/20 event, said an­nounce­ments are made over loud­speak­ers about cau­tions to take with ed­i­ble prod­ucts “be­cause we don’t want any­one to have a bad ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Larsen said the num­bers in the re­port are small, but he’s will­ing to en­ter a di­a­logue with health of­fi­cials be­cause “we would pre­fer if not one per­son has a prob­lem.”

B.C. Emer­gency Health Ser­vices is hold­ing meet­ings with the City of Van­cou­ver next week to start the plan­ning for the next 4/20. Last year, 21 paramedics were as­signed to the event.

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 ?? THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES ?? Ven­dors sell mar­i­juana-in­fused ed­i­ble prod­ucts dur­ing the 4/20 event in Van­cou­ver in 2015. Or­ga­niz­ers say they em­ploy loud­speaker warn­ings about the dan­ger of over-con­sum­ing ed­i­bles.
THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES Ven­dors sell mar­i­juana-in­fused ed­i­ble prod­ucts dur­ing the 4/20 event in Van­cou­ver in 2015. Or­ga­niz­ers say they em­ploy loud­speaker warn­ings about the dan­ger of over-con­sum­ing ed­i­bles.

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