Five things you should know about marijuana edibles

December 6th, 2018

The Rocky Mountains beckon. So, too, do the pot shops.

Many visitors to Colorado come for the state’s natural beauty, but also are curious about marijuana dispensaries.

a shelf full of marijuana candy
Marijuana edibles can send people to the ER if they take too much or have a bad reaction.

Before indulging in edibles, take some advice from Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency medicine and toxicology specialist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Monte cares for patients in the ER and has done extensive studies on marijuana use.

His advice: be very cautious about edibles. While Monte says some edibles may help patients for medical problems like pain, they’re not a good choice for recreational users, especially for novices who haven’t used weed or tried edibles in the past. For some people, edibles can cause scary symptoms like a racing heart, anxiety, and hallucinations.

If you are planning to try marijuana edibles, here are five things you should know:

  • Start small. Go slow. Edibles affect individuals in different ways. It can take up to four hours for the high from an edible to take effect. The biggest mistake new users make is continuing to ingest edibles if they don’t feel high right away. Then, the high hits hard and can last for several hours, leading some people to feel sick or anxious and seek help in ERs.
  • Edibles are much more likely to cause people to seek medical help compared with inhaled marijuana. In a new study to be released in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Monte found that edibles are 268 times more likely than inhaled marijuana to cause users in Colorado to seek help at an ER. That’s true even though inhaled forms of marijuana are much more common.
  • The state-recommended dose for edibles is 10 mg, but even that dose can make some people feel sick or anxious. Monte has had patients who have consumed the recommended dosage and still suffered negative side effects. He does not recommend recreational use of edibles. But, if people are trying them, they should start with no more than 2.5 to 5 mg. and see how they respond before eating or drinking more. Never mix edibles with alcohol or other drugs.
  • The negative side effects from edibles can be scary. For those who have a negative reaction to edibles, the symptoms can include a racing heart, excessive sweating, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. “They can cause people to freak out. Clearly edibles have a more severe toxicity than inhaled forms and the effects are psychiatric in nature,” Monte said. Sometimes people flying out of Colorado decide to finish all the edibles they’ve purchased before heading to the airport. Then, the high hits right when they’re going through security or trying to board a plane. Some end up in the ER instead of catching a flight home. In extreme cases, three deaths in Colorado have been linked to consumption of marijuana edibles. A l9-year-old college student from Wyoming jumped to his death after consuming six times the recommended dosage of edibles. A 23-year-old graduate student killed himself in Keystone and his family blamed the marijuana edibles he consumed. And a Denver man killed his wife after consuming as much as 50 mg. of edibles. He blames the edibles for his psychosis and violence.
  • Kids and dogs accidentally ingest edibles. Safe storage is essential. Both toddlers and canines are notorious for popping whatever they find into their mouths. And edibles are designed to taste and smell good. They come in a variety of forms from brownies, cookies and candies to drinks and popcorn. Both veterinarians and doctors in Colorado, like Monte’s colleague at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Dr. George “Sam” Wang, have seen an increase in accidental poisonings linked to edibles. Users should keep edibles locked up and out of reach from children and pets.