Poison control doctors in Colorado claim to have identified the first known case of a person dying from a marijuana overdose — an 11-month-old boy who went into cardiac arrest after likely ingesting a high-potency dose of pot.
Drs. Thomas Nappe and Christopher Hoyte of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center at Denver Health said they believe cannabis intoxication caused the death of the unnamed infant, albeit not without receiving criticism from fellow medical professionals.
The doctors examined the child and determined that marijuana caused a fatal case of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, they wrote for the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine.
“Of all the previously reported cases of cannabis-induced myocarditis, patients were previously healthy and no evidence was found for other etiologies,” or causes of deaths, the doctors’ report reads. “All of the prior reported cases were associated with full recovery. In this reported case, however, the patient died after myocarditis-associated cardiac arrest.”
“Given two rare occurrences with a clear temporal relationship — the recent exposure to cannabis and the myocarditis-associated cardiac arrest — we believe there exists a plausible relationship that justifies further research into cannabis-associated cardiotoxicity and related practice adjustments,” the medical journal report states.
The incident marks “the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure,” according to the report’s authors, but other physicians aren’t convinced.
“I’m going to have to call ‘BS’ on this one,” Colorado emergency medicine specialist Dr. Noah Kaufman told Denver’s 9News. “I’m not saying that it’s not. But I think it’s a pretty big leap to say that it is.”
Absent any other explanation, the report’s authors said cannabis intoxication seems to be the only culprit.
“The only thing that we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found,” Dr. Hoyte told 9News. “The kid never really got better. And just one thing led to another and the kid ended up with a heart stopped. And the kid stopped breathing and died.
“We extensively ruled out almost every other cause that we can think of,” the doctor added. “Myself, our team, plus the primary team taking care of the patient, plus the coroner who did the post-mortem on the child. And we found no other reason why this young kid ended up having inflammation on his heart.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that “no death from overdose of marijuana has been reported,” and the National Institutes of Health claim there is “insufficient evidence” to link overdoses to deaths.
Roughly one in five Americans use marijuana, according to a study from Marist College published in April, and nearly two-thirds of adults want the plant legalized, the results of a Gallup poll revealed last month.
Marijuana is outlawed by the federal government, though 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the plant for medical or recreational purposes.
“In states where cannabis is legalized, it is important that physicians not only counsel parents on preventing exposure to cannabis, but to also consider cannabis toxicity in unexplained pediatric myocarditis and cardiac deaths as a basis for urine drug screening in this setting,” the Colorado doctors said in their report.
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