'Pot Tourists' Tied to Surge in Colorado ER Visits
Many out-of-state users overindulge with marijuana, particularly the edible version, researcher says
By Dennis Thompson
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Some tourists who have visited Colorado to sample the state's legal marijuana haven't been able to handle their high, prompting a steep increase in pot-related trips to the emergency room, new research indicates.
The number of out-of-state visitors suffering marijuana-related medical problems who landed in the emergency room of the University of Colorado Hospital doubled between 2013 and 2014.
That's according to a research letter published Feb. 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Retail sales of marijuana first began in 2014, the researchers noted.
During that same 2013-14 period, pot-related ER visits by state residents stayed steady. This suggests that local residents have become better educated when it comes to using marijuana, said study co-author Dr. Andrew Monte, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
"People in Colorado are becoming more experienced with use of these products," Monte said. "Sometimes visitors to the state, it's more difficult to get the educational information in their hands. They may be less experienced with the particular products in the state. They haven't been exposed to the deluge of public health messaging."
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, with voters first approving the measure in November 2012.
For the new report, Monte and his colleagues reviewed billing codes for the emergency department at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. The ER sees about 100,000 patients per year, the study said.
Tourist visits to the ER possibly related to marijuana jumped from 85 per 10,000 in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 in 2014, the researchers found.
At the same time, visits by state residents did not change much -- 106 per 10,000 in 2013, compared with 112 per 10,000 in 2014, the research showed.
These numbers mirror statistics gathered by the Colorado Hospital Association, which saw pot-related ER visits by tourists rise statewide from 78 per 10,000 visits in 2012 to 163 per 10,000 visits in 2014, the researchers noted.