Your child has gotten into some cannabis edibles—what now? Dr. Ian Mitchell is an ER physician in Kamloops, BC. Here’s his advice:
Dr. Mitchell confirms no child has ever died from cannabis overdose. “The first thing is not to panic,” he says.
Calmly approach your child and help make them comfortable, such as laying them on the couch with a cozy blanket.
Grab a pen and paper
If you can, figure out how much THC they ingested, and when. Write it down. Remember it can take up to four hours to feel the full effects of cannabis edibles, and up to 12 hours to wear off.
Observe symptoms and take note of the time. Write it all down. Watch for difficulty balancing (ataxia), drowsiness, and breathing issues. You know your kid—also write down anything that might be weird for them.
Collect the product and any packaging.
Call poison control
Grab your notes and a pen. Poison control will walk you through risk assessment and initial treatment. Write down anything you need to remember.
If your child falls asleep, Mitchell says that’s okay as long as you can rouse them. Keep them comfy and keep yourself calm. Continue writing down symptoms and the time.
If you can’t rouse them, or if you’re concerned about anything at all, it’s time to go to the ER. Bring your notes. Bring any product and packaging. Stay calm.
At the hospital
In the ER, be upfront and honest. Give the medical team all your notes and any packaging so they can help. In Canada, at least, no one is calling family services and taking your kid away over cannabis edibles, assures Mitchell. So put away any shame—they need to know your child ingested cannabis and doesn’t have something like meningitis, which can present with similar symptoms (and involves very invasive testing).
Doctors will ask for a thorough health history of your child. They will take his blood pressure, monitor breathing, and perform other tests as needed. Be prepared to stay a long time—Mitchell says usually they’ll monitor your child and provide supportive care, such as oxygen, until the cannabis wears off.
“There’s no antidote,” he says. But there will be a long wait.
No, you’re not a bad parent
Yes, it should never have happened in the first place. But hospitals and poison control centres are used to worse—the most common calls for kids involve household cleaners, painkillers, and grandparents’ medications. Just be open and honest with healthcare professionals about what happened, and how much your child consumed.
Mitchell argues the safest edibles to have around the house are the legal kind, which already come in child-safe packaging and are dosed much lower than illicit products.
“The maximum in a legal package [in Canada] is 10mg, which can still be quite intoxicating for a child. But that’s not as concerning as some of the illegal edibles out there which can be 100mg,” he says. While legally-crafted, homemade edibles could still be very potent, having kids in the house means keeping track of ingredients and writing down how much cannabis was used. Simple as that.
A reminder about preventive storage measures: keep all edibles up and out of reach in a locked container or cabinet, and further protected with child-resistant packaging.
And if the number for poison control isn’t already in your phone, or somewhere visible like on your fridge, put it there now.