Humans have been using marijuana for thousands of years, but often not very well. Whether it's greening out or getting burned by butone, weed can go wrong to the point people end up needing treatment in hospital. Now, research published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHSP) has categorised the top five most common reasons these hospital visits happen. Taking a test sample from Colorado, where weed has been legal since 2012, the study is a close-up look at the experience of stoners in the ER. Here is what they discovered:
"Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome": AKA stomach sickness accrued from long-term use
Weed can increase appetite and abate nausea, but prolonged consumption can cause episodes of severe vomiting and stomach pain. In the medical community, this is known as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). It usually affects users ten-years deep into heavy marijuana use, and can involve cyclical bouts of severe spewing and intense abdominal cramps. The paper cites multiple cases of young men who describe the aforementioned symptoms, as well as constipation, and "craving hot showers to aid the pain".
"Synthetic cannabinoids": AKA tweaking out from spice/K2/black mamba/Scooby Snax
Scary reactions to synthetic weed are well-known. The side effects of the carefully crafted drug, colloquially called spice or K2, can include psychotic episodes, agitation, uncontrollable body motions, vomiting, hallucinations, and so on. But the main reason that synthetic cannabinoids are so frightening is because the THC chemical in the drug has been scientifically engineered to be 100 times stronger than usual.
According to the AJHSP report, a man was admitted to a Colorado hospital after experiencing seizures on K2. Similar cases were noted in Europe and America around 2004-2008. "Aggressive supportive care is required for patients with any of these symptoms," the study recommends.
"Butane hash oil burns": AKA I've burned myself
The least-known cause of a marijuana-induced hospital visits is probably the butane hash oil burn. Dabs are a highly concentrated THC product that come as a smokable crystalline product. With 97 percent THC, the user should expect a wild ride, so long at you don't burn yourself with the butane torch while trying to smoke it. "The patient had partial-thickness burns to his face, hands, and trunk," the report stated of a 20-year old Macgyver who'd somehow roasted himself.
"Pediatric ingestion": AKA kids eating edibles
According to the paper, there were over 950 cases of children unintentionally eating marijuana-infused foods from 2005 to 2011. As children are physically smaller than adults, the THC is proportionally stronger. The study notes, "Children are at particular risk of cannabis toxicity because cannabis-containing food products, known as edibles, look extremely similar to regular candy."
This point is backed by the one of the paper's case studies: a 17-month old boy who visited a San Juan emergency department because he ate his dads "special" chocolate candy. Luckily, other than being physically stoned, he exhibited no debilitating side effects. A urine sample tested positive for marijuana, and after further questioning his dad confirmed the toddler ate some of his weed-laced treats three hours before the symptoms started.
"Acute intoxication": AKA greening out
While THC on its own isn't harmful, consuming too much can be. The typical hallmarks of acute weed intoxication or greening out are throwing up and falling in and out of consciousness, embodied by the paper's description of a 22-year-old man found passed out at an airport bar. Despite being high, sleepy and vomiting, his vitals were normal. He later told doctors he ate three weed brownies in succession—their side effects kicked in much later and much stronger than he expected.
Experts attribute one of the biggest causes of acute intoxication to users being unfamiliar with peak symptoms and peak times. This is specifically prevalent with edibles, and basically means that while it may take only a few minutes to feel the buzz of a joint, it can take up to an hour or more to feel the effect of edibles. "Therefore, users who are unfamiliar with these products may assume that their dose was insufficient for the desired effect," the report explains, "and they consume more of the edible until the peak effect is reached."