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Study: Emergency visits go up in Colorado after marijuana is legalized

April 18, 2019—Since use of marijuana became legal in Colorado, emergency department visits related to the drug have gone up significantly, with the most severe problems coming from edible pot products, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers looked at the records of almost 10,000 patients. All the patients were treated in the emergency department (ED) of a large urban Colorado hospital for a marijuana-related medical problem.

The researchers found that visits to the hospital's ED by marijuana users, for things like heart and psychiatric problems, tripled between 2012 and 2016.

The researchers also compared ED visits for inhalable marijuana versus those for edible products. (Marijuana can be mixed into foods—called edibles—such as brownies, cookies and candy.)

They found that even though more people overall were treated in the ED for problems related to inhalable marijuana, people who used edible pot products were more likely to experience acute psychiatric problems and cardiovascular symptoms.

ED visits due to edibles were 33 times higher than expected, the researchers reported. Although edible products accounted for less than 1 percent of marijuana sales in Colorado, they were tied to more than 10 percent of marijuana-related emergency visits.

Many states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana use. But the drug is still illegal federally.

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