TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma is seeing a big increase in children under five overdosing on THC.
2 News first learned about it when a social worker at a local hospital told us they’d seen three children in the last month who’d overdosed.
The Oklahoma Center for Poison Control confirms they are seeing an increase in overdoses on THC.
Scott Schaeffer is the director of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information. He says since 2018, it's become all too common for their specialists to receive a call about a child who has overdosed on THC.
“Prior to that, we were averaging about 10 or 15 calls a year in children five years of age and younger. Last year, 2021, we saw 211 calls to us," says Schaeffer.
Schaeffer says those numbers continue to climb.
“Nearly a call a day currently, where children have gotten into usually edible products, gummies, chips, candy.”
Schaeffer also says that children often mistake the edibles for candy or other treats.
“Children don’t know that one gummy for example is one dose," Schaeffer explains. "They will eat everything that’s available to them, so they get very large doses, sometimes 300, 500, we had an exposure where a child got over 1000 mg of THC, not too long ago.”
He says large quantities of THC in the products can cause dramatic changes in the central nervous system with children becoming very groggy, and their blood pressure dropping to dangerous levels.
“It can get to the point where they actually have respiratory depression. They don’t breathe enough to oxygenate the tissues in their body.”
Joseph Galeano makes THC edible products.
“The biggest reason why the industry has created so many different edibles is the same reason why there’s so many different restaurants, there’s so many different forms of chips, and sodas," says Galeano.
Galeano says he's no stranger to the serious risks these products pose if they end up in the hands of children.
He also says the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has strict guidelines for labeling.
“The industry is so stringent on packaging and labeling and making sure that it’s prominent," Galeano says. "Big bold letters you know, this is THC infused. It has labels all over the place.”
But if the child is too young to read, experts also say parents should put these products in a lockbox.
Experts say if a child gets into a marijuana product, call the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information at 800-222-1222 to see if medical intervention is needed.
They say parents shouldn’t be afraid to call because they are not a reporting agency.
Right now, there's a bill moving through the Oklahoma legislature that aims to make medical marijuana packaging less appealing to kids.
Housebill 3019 would require medical marijuana packaging to be clear and child resistant.
The bill would also require a warning label that reads "For Use By Medical Marijuana Patients Only" and Keep Out Of Reach of Children." Representative Kevin McDugle said he authored the bill because it's important to keep children safe.
REP. KEVIN MCDUGLE/OKLAHOMA (R): "We want to make sure that our kids are not getting a hold of THC products, the adults have the cards, they should be the only ones getting into the package," Oklahoma Rep. (R) - Kevin McDugle said.
The bill is still in the House.
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