Legalizing Marijuana NOT Associated With Increased Emergency Department Visits, Finds Study

Legalizing Marijuana NOT Associated With Increased Emergency Department Visits, Finds Study

The legalization of marijuana for everyone 18 and older in Canada has not been associated with an increase in the number of people being sent to the emergency room for acute cannabis intoxication/dysphoria. The study was published in the journal BMC Emergency Medicine and is titled Acute cannabis intoxication in the emergency department: the effect of legalization.

 

For the study researchers examined emergency department admission that were related to marijuana rates a Hamilton, Ontario facility. The study examined these visitors during the six-months before and after the nation legalized marijuana.

 

“On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis in Canada”, states the study. “This study seeks to determine how legalization of cannabis has impacted emergency department (ED) visits for acute cannabis intoxication.”

 

Researchers “conducted a retrospective chart review at an academic ED in Hamilton, Ontario.”. They “assessed all visits with a cannabis-related ICD-10 discharge code 6 months before and after legalization (October 17, 2018) to determine cases of acute cannabis intoxication.”

 

According to researchers, the primary outcome was the rate of ED visits. “Secondary outcomes included number of visits distributed by age, length of stay, co-ingestions, and clinical course in the emergency department (investigations and treatment).”

 

“There was no difference in the overall rate of ED visits following legalization (2.44 vs. 2.94 visits/1000, p = 0.27)”, the study found. “However, we noted a 56% increase in visits among adults aged 18–29 (p = 0.03). Following legalization, a larger portion of patients required observation without interventions (25% vs 48%, p < 0.05).” They note that :Bloodwork and imaging studies decreased (53% vs. 12%, p < 0.05; 29% vs. 2%, p < 0.05); however, treatment with benzodiazepines increased (24% vs. 51%, p < 0.05).”

 

The study concludes by stating that legalization “was not associated with a change in the rate of cannabis-related ED visits in our study. More research is needed regarding changing methods of cannabis ingestion and trends among specific age groups.”

 

Below is the study’s full abstract:

 

Background

 

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis in Canada. This study seeks to determine how legalization of cannabis has impacted emergency department (ED) visits for acute cannabis intoxication.

 

Methods

 

We conducted a retrospective chart review at an academic ED in Hamilton, Ontario. We assessed all visits with a cannabis-related ICD-10 discharge code 6 months before and after legalization (October 17, 2018) to determine cases of acute cannabis intoxication. The primary outcome was the rate of ED visits. Secondary outcomes included number of visits distributed by age, length of stay, co-ingestions, and clinical course in the emergency department (investigations and treatment).

 

Results

 

There was no difference in the overall rate of ED visits following legalization (2.44 vs. 2.94 visits/1000, p = 0.27). However, we noted a 56% increase in visits among adults aged 18–29 (p = 0.03). Following legalization, a larger portion of patients required observation without interventions (25% vs 48%, p < 0.05). Bloodwork and imaging studies decreased (53% vs. 12%, p < 0.05; 29% vs. 2%, p < 0.05); however, treatment with benzodiazepines increased (24% vs. 51%, p < 0.05).

 

Conclusions

 

Legalization was not associated with a change in the rate of cannabis-related ED visits in our study. More research is needed regarding changing methods of cannabis ingestion and trends among specific age groups.

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