It’s a statistic commonly found on the lips of marijuana legalization advocates: No death from a pot overdose has ever been reported, according to the FDA.
But now, doctors in Colorado think they may have uncovered the first-ever fatality from a marijuana overdose—in an 11-month-old baby. But their conclusions are controversial.
In a case report titled Pediatric Death Due to Myocarditis After Exposure to Cannabis, Thomas M. Nappe and Christopher O. Hoyte detail the case of an unidentified child who died of an inflamed heart muscle, or “myocarditis.”
The two men, based at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Colorado, which legalized cannabis in January 2014, say that THC, the main psychoactive chemical found in pot, was discovered in the baby’s blood and urine.
They go on to describe this chemical as “the only uncovered risk factor… for his myocarditis,” and add that it is likely there because the boy ingested cannabis. The chemical’s presence “is highly unlikely attributable to passive exposure,” the pair write.
Cannabis has been linked to myocarditis before, the authors point out, naming three cases in teenagers and young adults where cannabis use was suspected to cause the condition. None of these cases ended in death, however.
And, Hoyte told Colorado’s 9News, “We extensively ruled out almost every other cause that we can think of,” apart from exposure to cannabis. Other causes of the condition include infections by viruses, bacteria and other germs.
“Myself, our team, plus the primary team taking care of the patient, plus the coroner who did the post-mortem on the child,” Hoyte said, “And we found no other reason why this young kid ended up having inflammation on his heart.”
Hoyte and Nappe’s paper does not provide conclusive proof that a baby was killed by cannabis exposure.
But, they argue in their conclusion: “Given two rare occurrences with a clear temporal relationship—the recent exposure to cannabis and the myocarditis-associated cardiac arrest—we believe there exists a plausible relationship that justifies further research into cannabis-associated cardiotoxicity and related practice adjustments.”
Others aren’t so sure.
“There’s so many things that cause the problem that this poor baby had, that we’re not even close to saying it was definitively a marijuana overdose,” Dr. Noah Kaufman, an emergency medicine specialist in Colorado, told 9News.
“Allergies can cause this. What if the kiddo was allergic to the carnauba wax, or whatever is in the gummy that’s not the marijuana?”
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