The words of two poison control doctors seem to have been taken out of context. As a result, people thought that a doctor had declared the first marijuana overdose of all time. In fact, media outlets began reporting on the first marijuana overdose as if it were true. After already sparking the controversy, the doctors are stepping up to clarify that they did not say a child overdosed on marijuana. Here’s what actually went down.
The Original Report
Thomas M. Nappe, DO and Christopher O. Hoyte, MD are the co-authors of the case report. Both doctors work at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, based in Denver, Colorado.
The first two lines of the case report state “since marijuana legalization, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased. To date, pediatric deaths from cannabis exposure have not been reported.”
The second line should have made it clear that no one overdosed on cannabis. However, the words they chose to use later on in the report might lead you to believe otherwise.
“As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure.
This line is where the misleading headlines came from. The key word in the quoted sentence is “associated.” However, the only association observed is that the child died due to myocarditis while having cannabis in his system. There’s no evidence that one had anything to do with the other.
What the doctors reported was that they were not able to find anything else that would point to the reason for death. The only facts they had was that the child died of unexplained pediatric myocarditis and there was cannabis in his system.
“The only thing that we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found (out of the ordinary),” Hoyte said.
Where Did The Weed Come From?
Why was there weed in this kids system? Apparently, the authors discovered that he had been in an “unstable motel-living situation,” and his parents admitted to possessing illicit substances, including weed. Nappe then emphasized the importance of keeping cannabis away from children, which implied to some that the child died from weed.
“In states where cannabis is legalized, it is important that physicians not only counsel parents on preventing exposure to cannabis but to also consider cannabis toxicity in unexplained pediatric myocarditis and cardiac deaths as a basis for urine drug screening in this setting,” the doctor said.
First Marijuana Overdose Claim Update
The official cause of death was declared to be due to damage to the child’s heart muscle.
Now, the doctors are claiming they never said the child died of a weed overdose and because of their original choice of words, they’re technically right.
“We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child,” said Dr. Nappe, the director of medical toxicology at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Due to the report’s poor choice of words, people took things out of context.
“You just can’t make those statements because then what happens is lay people say, ‘Oh my God, did you hear a kid died from marijuana poisoning?’ and it can be sensationalized,” criticized Noah Kaufman, a Northern Colorado emergency room physician.
However, he commended Nappe for being responsible enough to step up and elaborate that the child did not die because of marijuana.
Instead, Nappe claims that he and Dr. Hoyte were observing and trying to make sense of the sequence of events. He says that they were not trying to claim there was an overdose. They were just trying to look into a “possible” connection between the child’s cause of death and cannabis.
The doctors claim their goal was to alert the medical community, so that studies on a possible relationship between cannabis and the inflammation of heart muscles could be conducted in case it played a role in the death.