Canna b too careful | 

Warning letter sent to parents after child hospitalised upon ingesting cannabis 'jellies'

Many of the children presenting in hospital after eating sweets have been under the age of 10

Suspected cannabis jellies (stock)

Jamie McDowell

A letter has gone out to parents in Northern Ireland warning them about so-called 'cannabis gummies/jellies' also known as "cannabis consumables/edibles."

The letter was sent from the Department of Education (DE) after a young child had to be taken to hospital after consuming sweets containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, believing they were eating from a normal bag of sweets.

The DE said they had taken the decision to write to parents following a warning from the Public Health Agency (PHA).

In the letter, the DE advised parents of the PHA’s warning, saying: "They are aware of products that look like familiar sweet products with colourful packets, familiar cartoon images and which are appealing to children, but that in fact contain cannabis extract, or THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).

"A young child assessed in hospital had inadvertently consumed cannabis after finding what they believed to be a packet of sweets on the ground.

"While on closer inspection the sweet packet is labelled as containing THC, to all other purposes they look like a common brand of sweets which are marketed for children.

"The effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) involves the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.

"In adults the effects are generally mild and short-lived but ingestion rather than inhalation is associated with longer lasting effects."

Many of the bags of sweets have names which are strikingly similar to popular brands seen on the high street.

The Sunday World recently reported on how there has been a "significant increase" in the number of children being hospitalised after consuming the sweets.

Speaking on RTE, a paediatric emergency medicine consultant, Dr Paddy Fitzpatrick, said most of the kids who were treated after accidentally ingesting the cannabis sweets were under the age of 10.

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

"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."

He added: "Young children can easily consume large toxic amounts accidentally.

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

He also spoke of the symptoms that he had witnessed with children who had accidentally eaten the sweets laced with THC.

"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."

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 as 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.”

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