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3 Health Risks Caused by Marijuana Edibles

Emergency room visits skyrocket with legalization.

But before you embrace your inner stoner, there’s increasing evidence that the abuse of weed edibles could land you in the hospital. A recent report in the New York Times outlines the startling health risks caused by the abuse of edibles. In fact, in states in which marijuana has been legalized, hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to edible abuse have skyrocketed. (See "Signs Your Teenager Is Abusing Drugs.")

A study of thousands of emergency room visits in Denver reveals that overconsuming edibles can result in three serious health risks:

1. Acute Psychiatric Symptoms. Overindulgence of edibles may trigger psychotic symptoms such as auditory or visual hallucinations or extreme paranoia. Individuals abusing edibles are at high risk of triggering psychotic episodes, particularly if there is a family history of mental illness.

2. Severe Intoxication. When you inhale marijuana, the effect is felt almost immediately, which allows you to regulate your intake. With edibles, the effect may not hit you completely for up to two hours or more, and absorption varies depending on the person and the fat content of the food. As a result, people tend to consume beyond the recommended amount, which puts teenagers and college students at an especially high risk of edible abuse as they are prone to impulsivity, peer pressure, and poor judgment. What's more, the effects of ingested marijuana last far longer than when marijuana is inhaled.

3. Cardiovascular Problems. Overuse of edibles can cause spikes in anxiety, panic attacks, and racing or irregular heartbeats. Cardiovascular problems are nearly three times more likely with edibles users than with smokers or vapers. In addition to potential health risks, state officials who oppose legalization cite concerns about impaired driving and accidents, increased addiction, and the negative impact marijuana has on brain development in youth.

If you're thinking of giving edibles a try, remember that although those pot brownies and gummy bears may look harmless, when overconsumed, the side effects are far more serious than the munches or the giggles.