Last week, the words of two poison control doctors were taken out of context and highly sensationalized. As a result, media outlets began reporting on the first-ever marijuana overdose despite the lack of truth. Now, the same doctors whose words sparked the controversy are stepping up to clarify exactly what they meant.
How did the controversy begin?
Thomas M. Nappe, DO and Christopher O. Hoyte, MD authored case report on the death of an infant in Colorado. The first two lines of the case report read as follows:
“Since marijuana legalization, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased. To date, pediatric deaths from cannabis exposure have not been reported.”
Take a close look at that second line as it’s very important. Although it seems the two doctors explicitly state in the second line of their report that cannabis exposure has not been responsible for the death, (as in, no one had suffered a marijuana overdose), the language used later in the report served to confuse many people.
“As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure.”
This is where things got confusing and many media outlets took this to mean that cannabis exposure caused the death. However, ‘associated’ does not mean ‘caused’.
The doctors reported that the child had tragically died of pediatric myocarditis. They also noticed that there appeared to be a high concentration of cannabis in the child’s blood. However, the doctors did not link the two and therefore did not attribute the cause of death to cannabis exposure.
“We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed the child,” said Dr. Nappe, the director of medical toxicology at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Nappe claims that he and Dr. Hoyte were not trying to claim the child died of a cannabis overdose, but instead just attempted to consider a possible connection between the cause of death and cannabis.
Why did the child have weed in his system?
The child’s parents admitted to possessing illicit substances, including weed, in the motel room in which they were living.
Dr. Nappe took the opportunity to remind people of the importance of keeping marijuana away from children which may have also cemented the notion that he was linking the cause of death to cannabis.
There have been no reported cases of someone dying from a marijuana overdose. You would have to have a lot of weed in your system to physically overdose and getting that much into your system in the first place would be near impossible. There is no doubt that increased research into the effects of marijuana will continue, especially as more states make moves to legalize cannabis within their boundaries.