Cannabis Legalization and the ER

Cannabis Legalization and the ER - Calgary Emergency Education - Healthcare Certification Courses

The ER is known to house stressful situations, as patients are often in pain and in need of immediate attention. People have likely heard of alcohol poisoning or drug overdose ER stories, but a changing national attitude regarding the use and legalization of cannabis throws a new wrench into the story. How will the legalization of marijuana impact ER workers?

Marijuana Intoxication

So far, there have been no reported fatal overdoses due to cannabis. The primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is THC, though it has been seen to have a high LD50 ratio in rats. One would need to consume far more THC than normally required to feel its effects before fatal levels are reached. That being said, there are still plenty of effects that take hold before that kind of extreme. Short term effects of marijuana use are experienced very soon after consumption. The “high” is a result of changes in the levels of a variety of neurotransmitters that provide the user with feelings of euphoria and altered perception. Exact experiences depend on many factors, including dosage, method of consumption, and the user’s metabolism rates. From a more quantitative perspective, cannabis use also results in increased heart rate, a dry mouth, and changes in intraocular pressure.

Cannabis in the ER

Compared to alcohol and drug use, cannabis rarely makes an appearance in the ER. However, one may expect there to be changes to this after the legalization of marijuana. The number of teenagers who were sent to emergency rooms has increased fourfold since cannabis was legalized in Colorado in 2014. In general, patients are treated for the symptoms resulting from cannabis use and are usually able to leave shortly after arrival. Patients may often feel confused or fearful over what they are experiencing and come to the ER for support, when in reality the best treatment is to simply wait for the effects to wear off.

The legalization of marijuana will likely result in an increase in the number of users, which in turn will result in more frequent visits to the emergency room. However, aside from the odd anomaly, most marijuana cases don’t end up manifesting into anything severe. Moreover, the best treatment for cannabis intoxication is time, which is something that ER workers don’t often have a lot of.

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