For years, there has been an ongoing debate among medical professionals about whether a person can overdose on marijuana. As more states legalize recreational use of the drug, the dialogue has only intensified. Unfortunately, the debate took an especially tragic turn on Thursday after reports surfaced that an 11-month-old baby in Colorado died from a marijuana overdose, according to Newsweek. If the diagnosis holds up, this would mark the first marijuana overdose on record.
In a case study titled, Pediatric Death Due To Myocarditis After Exposure to Cannabis, Colorado doctors Thomas M. Nappe and Christopher O. Hoyte argued that marijuana led to the death of an 11-month-old baby boy in 2015. The official cause of death is myocarditis, according to The Miami Herald, which is a condition that can lead to heart failure in severe cases. Nappe and Hoyte believe that the myocarditis, which causes an inflammation of the heart muscle, occurred after the baby ingested marijuana, likely in the form of edibles.
It's important to note that Hoyte and Nappe were on the medical team that worked to save the baby, and that they have extensive knowledge of his case. Hoyte and Nappe ultimately determined that the baby's myocarditis wasn't caused by other factors like a viral infection, for example. Hoyte and Nappe came to their conclusion after extensively reviewing the boy's medical history and conducting a battery of tests. By all accounts, the baby was perfectly healthy before he arrived at the emergency room with symptoms of vomiting, lethargy, and irritability, according to Newsweek.
Hoyte said of the findings, according to NBC4i:
The only thing that we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found. The kid never really got better. And just one thing led to another and the kid ended up with a heart stopped. And the kid stopped breathing and died.
As for how the baby reportedly got his hands on marijuana, Hoyte and Nappe concluded that he had allegedly been living in “an unstable motel-living situation" and that the parents had admitted to being in possession of marijuana, according to the Miami Herald. Of course, it's worth nothing that recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado.
Following Hoyte and Nappe's report, some doctors, like Dr. Noah Kaufman, an emergency medicine specialist, shared skepticism. Kaufman believes the boy's death could be related to allergies or another un-diagnosed condition. Kaufman explained, according to 9News:
There’s so many things that cause the problem that this poor baby had, that we’re not even close to saying it was definitively a marijuana overdose. Allergies can cause this. What if the kiddo was allergic to the carnauba wax, or whatever is in the gummy that’s not the marijuana?
At this time, it's unclear how Hoyte and Nappe's findings will affect marijuana legislation and drug education. However, even if you're not a scientist or medical professional, it's not hard to see why a baby shouldn't eat marijuana edibles. Although this is debatably the first reported case of a marijuana-related death on record, it has long been known that young children can become seriously ill if they ingest edibles, especially if they're under the age of 12. This is "because edible products have very high amounts of marijuana," which means the "symptoms are more severe on a small child," according to Children's Hospital Colorado. Most children that ingest edibles require hospitalization.
Translation: parents need to keep their edibles in a secure and safe place away from children. As research continues, it's best to err on the side of safety.