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Cannabis concern 'Significant increase' in kids being hospitalised after eating cannabis jellies, doctor says

"The children who we have seen that required medical attention have mostly been under 10 years of age"

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Gardai have consistently warned of the dangers of cannabis “jellies” and other similar products.

Gardai have consistently warned of the dangers of cannabis “jellies” and other similar products.

Gardai have consistently warned of the dangers of cannabis “jellies” and other similar products.

A doctor has warned of a "significant increase" in the number of kids being hospitalised after accidentally consuming "edibles". 

A Paediatric Emergency Medicine Consultant said there was “big concern” as the products which contain levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are packaged and marketed in a very similar way to normal jellies or sweets.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Paddy Fitzpatrick told how most of the children they have treated after they accidentally ingested cannabis in the form of jellies or sweets were under 10 years of age.

"We have seen a significant increase this year in the amount of children presenting with poisoning from edible cannabis, mainly in the form of cannabis jellies,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.

"This is a big concern for us in paediatric medicine as these products are packaged and marketed in a copycat branded way, very similar to normal jellies or sweets."

"Young children can easily consume large toxic amounts accidentally," explained Dr Fitzpatrick.

"Thankfully the children we have seen have all made full recoveries but the concern is that long-term harmful effects are a possibility."

Dr Fitzpatrick added: "The children who we have seen that required medical attention have mostly been under 10 years of age who have accidentally ingested cannabis in the form of jellies or sweets.

"The symptoms are mild euphoria, some sedation. In more toxic amounts, children can become quite uncoordinated and start getting very sleepy and difficult to arouse and potentially go into a coma or take seizures.

"Anybody who is concerned about their children should phone an ambulance."

According to Revenue the "vast majority" of detections of such products were made by anti-smuggling teams in postal depots.

It also confirmed that, while a breakdown for edibles was not available, seizures of cannabis products (herbal and resin) more than doubled between 2019 and 2020, from 515kg (€10 million) to 1.439kg (€28.6 million).

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The Food Safety Authority of Ireland recently warned consumers over what it called a "sinister attempt to sell narcotics in the form of sweets".

Just last month a leading addiction worker described cannabis jellies as the alcopops of the 21st century.

It followed the hospitalisation of two boys aged three and four who consumed cannabis jellies which they believed were just normal sweets in a hostel in in north Dublin.

The jellies did not belong to the children’s parents but to another resident of the hostel.

The incident came days after gardai issued warning about the prevalence of cannabis jellies in Ireland while last month the Food Safety Authority of Ireland also issued warning about the illicit products.

Michael Guerin, a senior clinical psychologist at Cuan Mhuire addiction treatment, told the Sunday World that the jellies which are packaged to look like well-known brands have been on the rise particularly over the last year.

“It’s no surprise to us that cannabis-infused jellies would end up in the news. Sadly, it’s because two children were taken ill which obviously we’re very sorry to hear.

“Service users have been telling us for some time about the existence of jellies infused with THC which is the psychoactive component of grown cannabis plants but also infused with synthetic cannabis which is also known as K2 or Spice.”

He said as well the obvious concerns about children taking them he also has concerns people will take what they think are cannabis jellies but will contain other substances.

“Our concern in that regard is that there is no illicit substance that can be considered safe because you have no guarantee what’s in it.

“I suppose our concern is that at some point in the future something that looks as innocent as a jelly baby will be imported into this country and consumed by somebody who thinks it has THC but contains something far more sinister.”

He said he had no doubt the technology was there to put all manner of illicit substances in jellies and sweets.

“There have been plenty of documented cases of hospitalisations and deaths in Ireland where people took something believing it to be one thing and it ending up being something else entirely,” he added.

“That situation sadly and unfortunately will repeat itself in future.

“The takeaway message for people is there is no such thing as a safe, quality assured, illicit substance.”

He said the design of cannabis jellies reminds him of alcopops which became extremely popular with young people in the 1990s.

“When alcopops were introduced in Ireland and there was a furore. There must be a reason people are making alcoholic drinks that taste like lemonade. The presentation of the entire product was very conducive to young people partaking in it.

“You can only assume the cannabis jelly sweets are of a similar thing. Those children that became ill because of the cannabis jellies were attracted to them obviously because they thought they were normal jellies.

“It’s the same way as alcopops are seen as being appealing to a young audience you couldn’t (help) but think cannabis jellies are being made to appeal to a younger audience.”

Gardai do not collate specific figures for cannabis jelly seizures as they are included in the overall THC figures but seizures are on the rise in Ireland recently with gardai across the country issuing warnings about them.

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