Poison center sees jump in calls about marijuana edibles

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At the Georgia Poison Center in Atlanta calls come in around the clock from people who have accidentally, sometimes intentionally, swallowed something dangerous.

Five years ago, Director Gaylord Lopez says calls about marijuana edibles were rare. 

But that's changing.

Last year, he says, the center received about 40 calls about edibles.

A couple of years ago, they were averaging less than a handful of calls about them.

"In many cases, you've got a drug that doesn't cause a lot of problems," Lopez says. "But once you start looking at edibles, it's a completely different animal."

A recent Colorado study found THC-laced edibles may be much riskier than inhaled marijuana.

One problem researchers found is our bodies process inhaled and ingested marijuana very differently. 

When marijuana is inhaled, they say, you feel the effects immediately.

When it is ingested, there is a delayed reaction.

It takes about 30 minutes to feel the effects of the THC, and another two or three hours for the high to peak.

So, Lopez says, people may ingest an edible treat, feel nothing, and eat more.

When the side effects do set in, Lopez says, they can hit edible users hard.

"They range from mild symptoms, maybe nausea of vomiting," he says. "But, they can rise up to paranoia, hallucinations, dizziness, drowsiness, and some of these, in the right situation, can be very dangerous."

The Colorado researchers also found edibles are more likely to cause heart rhythm problems and even heart attacks. 

Of three marijuana-related deaths in Colorado, all involved edibles. 

Lopez says they are often homemade, which can make them even more dangerous.

"You're talking about people who are probably concocting it in their own kitchens, their own homes," he saysa. "So, there is no regulation of doses, no standardization of doses. So, it's it's almost like playing edible roulette. You don't know what you're getting."

Lopez says edibles aren't just problematic for teens and adults. If you look at the calls coming to his poison center, a large number involve young children, who get into things adults leave around.

Because edibles often look like candy, he says, kids are drawn to them.

"There are brownies, there are gummy bears, there are lollypops," Lopez says. "So, how is a child going to know the different between a spiked product and one you'd find in the stores?"