How much is too much edibles? Cannabis-linked ER visits rising among seniors

Doctors are sounding the alarm when it comes to marijuana edibles as too many people are ending up in the hospital because they underestimated the potency of pot. 

Dr. Michael Levine, a Medical Toxicologist at UCLA Medical Center, says the number of people rushing to the emergency room because of a bad experience with marijuana use is growing – and surprisingly – the people most affected are senior citizens. 

"They're becoming unsteady and they're falling and they're breaking a hip, or they're hitting their head or they're having some other injury that is a result of their being unsteady as a result of eating the cannabinoid," said Dr. Levine. 

A new study by the University of California San Diego also revealed cannabis-related ER visits between 2005 and 2019 increased by a whopping 1800% among Californians over the age of 65.

"The potency of marijuana that is being consumed now is very different than the potency of marijuana that was consumed in the 60s or 70s," said Dr. Levine.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently reported that marijuana currently cultivated and sold contains three times more THC compared to levels 25 years ago.

"A big issue is a lot of people don't know dosing, so they tend to over-consume and then they have a very bad experience," said Danelle Bancroft, a manager at Exotix on Highland, a dispensary that sells a large variety of edibles.

"If you've never experienced edibles before, I always tell everybody to do a little bit of research before you come in. A big thing is asking questions. Sometimes the older generations, they can be a little uncomfortable or almost embarrassed to ask questions, but that's really what we're here for," she said.

Bancroft recommends people contact their doctors before ingesting marijuana edibles and she says first-time users should start with small doses. 

Based on the patients Dr. Levine has seen in the emergency room, he says everyone – especially the elderly – needs to be cautious when ingesting these edibles.

"If you're doing it recreationally, I think you really need to assess, if this is something that's worth the risks and people need to understand that it really does have risks," he said.