Now that more than 22 million people report using marijuana in any given month, the potential health benefits (and risks) of the plant are coming under more scrutiny than ever.
A frequently cited note in marijuana advocates’ fight to reschedule marijuana on the Controlled Substances List is the big “zero” next to the plant in the “overdose fatalities” field. Weed has never killed anyone — at least until this week, claimed two doctors in Colorado.
But now, they may be walking those claims back a bit.
A case report published in the August issue of the medical journal Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine reported the first death attributed solely to cannabis toxicity in world history. There has been tremendous backlash against the report from doctors, researchers, and cannabis advocates due to doubts that cannabis could be the main contributing factor, as previous research states that an absurdly large amount of marijuana (1,500 pounds) would have to be consumed in a relatively short amount of time (15 minutes) to overdose on the plant. Unfortunately, it was an 11-month-old male whose death is at the center of the controversy.
The doctors in the case report claimed reckless neglect on the parents part led to cannabis exposure by the child, which resulted in a depression of the central nervous system and ultimately cardiac arrest. In an autopsy performed on the child, myocarditis was diagnosed, which is a rare condition that causes inflammation of the heart and is sometimes drug-induced.
Once the report’s claims hit the newswire, virality ensued and people were generally shocked that cannabis was being credited with its first cause of death attribution. The doctors who co-authored the report were seemingly caught off guard by the reaction and quickly issued a clarification.
“We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child,” said Thomas Nappe, one of the authors and the director of medical toxicology at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, P.A.
Nappe explained that he and his co-author Christopher Hoyte were merely stating what they observed in the child’s autopsy and relayed the information to the medical community via the case report. The report was simply meant to be a jumping-off point for more research, as the co-authors felt the relationship between the cannabis and myocarditis warranted further investigation.
One important note Nappe added was that while the case report stated, “this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure,” the term “associated” certainly doesn’t imply a cause and effect relationship.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett