It’s not uncommon to hear pro-pot activists talk about how you can’t overdose on marijuana and die. But new research suggests that there might have been a fatal marijuana overdose all along, one that had happened to an 11-month-old baby in Colorado.
The possible overdose was documented in a case report published in the journal Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine, as Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center doctors Thomas Nappe and Christopher Hoyte wrote about the unusual case involving an 11-month-old boy. The authors believe that the infant died as a result of damage in his heart muscle, which was triggered by a series of health events that started when he ingested a large amount of marijuana.
Based on their findings, the doctors are confident that the case represents the first marijuana overdose death in pediatric history, and the first known human death directly related to pot consumption.
“The only thing that we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found,” Hoyte said in an interview with Denver NBC affiliate KUSA.
“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.”
According to New York Daily News, the child was taken to the hospital after feeling irritable and lethargic in previous days, and rushed to the emergency room following a seizure. Authors Hoyte and Nappe were part of a team of doctors that examined the boy, who was soon given a breathing cube as his condition became progressively worse. The child then died after his heart stopped and doctors were not able to resuscitate him. Officially, his cause of death was myocarditis, a condition where the heart muscles get inflamed and stop functioning.
With the doctors recognizing that myocarditis is a rare condition in children, yet unable to find any underlying cause that led to the boy having heart problems, it was soon found that the 11-month-old baby’s blood and urine had traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient in marijuana.
At the moment, there is very little information on what Nappe and Hoyte have hinted as possibly being the first pediatric marijuana overdose death in history. The child’s name and the name of the hospital where he died were not released by the researchers, and it wasn’t also mentioned how the infant may have ingested the pot that purportedly killed him. It isn’t sure either whether the case resulted in a criminal investigation or not. But KUSA pointed out that the death took place in 2015, and was previously covered in a 2016 study where the lead author was not able to single out marijuana as the cause of the child’s myocarditis.
Hoyte and Nappe’s claim that they might have recorded the first official marijuana overdose death didn’t come without any skeptical comments from other medical professionals. Northern Colorado-based emergency medicine specialist Dr. Noah Kaufman spoke to KUSA, casting doubt on the claims and commenting on the “strong language” the doctors used in their report being “too much.” He theorized that there may have been many other causes, such as allergies, that could have caused the baby’s death.
Existing government literature contains no references to marijuana overdoses potentially causing death like other drug overdoses could. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s pot fact sheet stresses that there has yet to be a marijuana overdose death to be reported. And while drug abuse education portal ProjectKnow.com acknowledges that overdosing on pot can happen, albeit rarely, the site did not make any mention of the substance directly causing death, instead noting that hallucinations and other symptoms of such overdoses could increase the risk of dangerous and potentially fatal accidents.
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