Cannabis-Related ER Visits in Colorado by Tourists Have Doubled

Cannabis-Related ER Visits in Colorado by Tourists Have Doubled

Here's a little message for anyone contemplating a special visit to Colorado to sample the recently-legalized local weed. Don't go. Just say no. Or you might just wind up in the hospital. The state's legalized recreational marijuana has sparked flocks of visitors from out of state. But they're not coming to enjoy Colorado's magnificent mountain scenery. They're pouring into the state to get legally stoned on the locally grown legal marijuana. Nicknamed "weed tourists," plenty of these day-trippers aren't dealing at all well with the powerful local varieties of weed they've been encountering. They're ending their trips as guests of Colorado's many emergency wards. In fact, since Colorado legalized marijuana last year, the number of out-of-towners arriving at hospital emergency rooms for marijuana-related crises has doubled. Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine counted up all the marijuana-related visits at a busy University of Colorado ER in Aurora, CO, over the past three years. They then compared patients with Colorado addresses to those with out-of-state zip codes. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reveal that from 2012 to 2013 (before recreational cannabis was legal) emergency visits for locals and out-of-towners at that hospital were roughly the same. But in 2014, the year it was legalized, cannabis-related visits doubled for people from out of state, from 850 to 1,680 cases. The researchers then compared these results with 100 hospitals across the state. They found that out-of-state patients seeking treatment for weed-related problems more than doubled in 2014 from the previous year, fully consistent with the results in Aurora. The report said that the "loosening" of marijuana policy in Colorado was incremental. It began way back in 2000 when the state approved medical use of marijuana. The culmination was the full legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014, with "open-to-the-public" marijuana retail stores leading the way.

Today's pot is increasingly more powerful

During that time, Dr. Monte said, efforts to educate the public about marijuana consumption have been focused primarily on Colorado residents. This could explain some of the problems now being experienced by visitors from states where it's not legally available, or among people who lack experience, especially with today's more potent strains. If you're a middle-aged person who fondly remembers toking up back in the '60s or '70s, be warned: Today's marijuana is nothing like it was then. Marijuana back then averaged 1 percent to 3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient. The potency of most of today's specially bred varieties can range as high as 15 percent and higher. That's not even in the same universe as the weed from the flower-power Age of Aquarius. And according to a report by CNN, some tests have found strains of marijuana to be even higher than that. Lab tests performed at the University of Mississippi on marijuana seized by federal law enforcement officers found some weed as high as 37 percent THC content. Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, the director of the Marijuana Potency Project, voiced a clear warning to a CNN reporter. "You really have to be careful," ElSohly said. "The danger of this high-potency material is not with the experienced marijuana smokers, but young people who really don't know what they're smoking. They don't know what to expect, and before they know it, they've inhaled too much." This might explain why so many people are heading for the ER. Apparently, some people in this great country aren't regular potheads. Maybe it's still illegal where they're from. Maybe they hear about legal pot in Colorado, or they already knew about it, and over they come. And then like kids in a candy store, they over-indulge, get sick, next stop the ER.

Potency makes it tougher to kick a habit

Dr. Christian Thurstone, who runs an addiction treatment center in Denver, told CNN that steadily higher levels of THC metabolites are being found in his patients' urine tests. "It's more difficult to get kids clean," Thurstone says, "because they come in less motivated for treatment, and more addicted." And evidence is mounting that high-THC weed is causing more and more cases of psychosis. People can get so disoriented on pot that they become a danger to themselves or others, especially if they climb behind the wheel of a car or attempt some other dangerous action. ERs and clinics across the country confirm that marijuana has become a serious problem. Not enough is being done to warn the public and counter the falsehoods about how harmless marijuana is - especially the new potent strains.

Here at Novus, we know that no drugs are completely harmless. Even helpful medicine, when used long enough, in too high a quantity or incorrectly, can cause harm. Our advice is to just say no, avoid all drugs wherever you can. And if you or someone you care about needs help with a drug problem, don't hesitate to call us. We're always here to help.

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