Letter of the Day | Ganja edibles pose great risk to children
THE EDITOR, Sir:
There is much public debate regarding the decriminalisation of ganja and its benefits versus public health dangers. While there is research supporting the benefits of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the information available on its impact on the brain of a healthy child and teenager is neither sufficient nor cogent. Furthermore, the number of children who accidentally ingest ganja worldwide is growing. Severe symptoms include suppression of breathing, seizures and comas.
Edible forms of ganja are not regulated, and varying concentrations increase the likelihood of more severe symptoms. Three years ago, a 19-year-old teenager in Colorado, USA, jumped to his death from a four-storey building three and a half hours after ingesting ganja cookies. The cause of death, after post-mortem, was reported as ganja intoxication.
Ganja that in ingested in the edible form is broken down and absorbed by the body differently from the inhaled substance. In the inhaled form, the active components travel from the lungs to the brain within 10 minutes. The ingested form has a slower onset of two hours with a longer duration of action. The medicinal purpose of the ingested form helps people with cancer and other medical conditions.
Research shows that in adolescents, the effects of marijuana on parts of the brain (the hippocampus and cerebellum) impair neurodevelopment. This increases the risk of schizophrenia onset in genetically predisposed persons.
REGULATION OF USE
The laws have already been amended. What now needs to be done is to have clear regulations regarding recreational use. Enforcing the ban of smoking in public places was an excellent move. Ganja use should not be permitted for minors, and any person found distributing it to a minor should be prosecuted. Culturally, ganja and other bush teas should not be offered to children. In addition, ganja should not be smoked in the presence of children as they are exposed, over a long period, to small doses which can affect their lungs and developing brains .
There is an inherent danger in introducing a more potent and child-friendly formulation in the form of edible cookies and candy because of the risk of overdosing in adults and the increased risk of severe symptoms from overdosing in children.
Public health messages need to be clear, and awareness increased, on the severe symptoms that can ensue from accidental ingestion in children and recreational use by teenagers.
TRACY EVANS GILBERT
Paediatric Association of Jamaica