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Mother works to draw awareness about ‘pot poisoning’ in children

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 7:10 PM EDT
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NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. (WDBJ) - A mother in the New River Valley is taking action, after her toddler was hospitalized after accidentally eating a gummy containing Delta-8 THC.

She’s doing everything she can to keep this from happening to someone else.

“He continued to fade away, no response to cold touch, no response to our voices. And we called 911,” said Kelli Bowman.

Bowman’s toddler became unresponsive after accidentally eating one 50-milligram Delta-8 THC gummy earlier this month.

“I would have never guessed that that would have been anything other than candy,” said Bowman.

She says her 20-month-old found a sugar-coated gummy in a relative’s car that had been driven recently by someone else who left the gummy there. The toddler apparently thought it was candy. Bowman tells us she tried to take it out of his hand, but he quickly ate it before she could.

“About an hour later, I started realizing that something was not right,” said Bowman.

They took him to a hospital, ran many tests and wondered what could’ve caused the child to become unresponsive.

“Once they got the report back to there was THC in his system, we were shocked. We had wracked our brains with what could have happened, what went wrong throughout the day, and we could not figure it out. The only thing that I had not personally given him was that gummy,” said Bowman.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center at UVA Health reports getting more calls over the past six months for adverse reactions to Delta-8 THC, a substance extracted from hemp and marijuana plants.

“It’s just where the bonding is. So it’s a very subtle difference of the chemical structure. And that subtle difference can have differences in clinical effects. We noticed with many things, including pharmaceuticals, just simple changes where the methyl group is or carbon atoms are bound, can cause changes on a patch of our brain,” said Dr. Christopher Holstege, director of the Blue Ridge Poison Center.

Causing young kids who accidentally eat it to be rushed to a hospital for ‘pot poisoning’.

Dr. Paul Stromberg is an emergency medicine physician at Carilion Clinic and says states like Colorado and Washington have already seen more of this.

“In a couple years after legalization, they’ve seen an increase in certainly pediatric exposures. Usually unintentional edible exposures that have increased hospitalizations. And interestingly also more than doubled calls to regional poison centers for exposures to marijuana.”

Licensed practical and cannabis nurse Heather Whitlock says many people are simply misinformed about the effects of THC products and hope to work with legislators, and parents like Kelli, to make edibles less appealing to kids.

“I know cannabis comes in all different forms. You know, alcohol comes in all pretty different bottles and you know, different pictures on the bottles. Same thing with cannabis. We need to be ... keep it up,” said Whitlock.

“We want to meet with the main thing in mind. And that is safety and education for cannabis users.”

Medical professionals anticipate seeing more ‘pot poisoning cases’ as Virginia’s marijuana laws change on July 1.

Kelli created a Facebook group called ‘Pot Poisoning Prevention in Children’ to share her story, draw awareness and educate parents.

“I really hope to prevent any other families going through the situation that we went through. I also hope as the legalization or cannabis rolls out that manufacturers are aware of the safety that surrounds their products,” said Bowman.

Bowman says she is not against the legalization of marijuana products; she just wants to see some change.

If someone has an adverse reaction to Delta-8 THC, experts at the Blue Ridge Poison Center are available to help around the clock. Call 800.222.1222 any time for assistance. The Blue Ridge Poison Center can also be reached at 800.451.1428. Trained healthcare providers will tell you exactly what to do.

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