A recent study shows that Colorado’s marijuana tourists are unable to handle the intensity of the local strains, resulting in an increase in hospital visits.
Spike in ER Visits
Physicians at a hospital located near the Denver International Airport reviewed emergency room visitors in 2014, when Colorado legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. They found that the incidence of ER visits that may have been linked to marijuana use in non-residents almost doubled from 2013 to 2014. Out-of-state visitors who went to the hospital complaining of cannabis-related concerns was at 85 in 2013 while it rose to 168 in 2014. On the other hand, the rate of Colorado residents who were admitted to the emergency room due to ailments possibly linked to cannabis use did not grow significantly; the rate plateaued at 106 in 2013 and was at 112 in 2014.
Colorado’s tourism saw record numbers as visitors reached 71.3 million in 2014 while tourist spending reached $18.3 million in the same year. The state tourism also saw dramatic increases in previous years even when marijuana sales were limited to residents with underlying ailments.
Doctors studied the emergency room admissions in hospitals statewide, which reflected the same patterns.
Common Complaints: Hallucinations and Aggressive Behavior
It was also observed that Coloradans and tourists expressed varying complaints when it came to marijuana use.The most common complaint reported by tourists included hallucinations and aggressive behavior, while residents complained about gastrointestinal illnesses.
The results of the study showed a stark difference between Coloradans and tourists, as doctors said that the contrast in complaints even surprised them.
Among both groups, men were more prone to complain of pot-related conditions in the emergency room, as compared to women. Colorado residents had a median age of 34, younger than tourists whose median age was 35.5.
Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency room physician and toxicologist at the University of Colorado Hospital, said that it was typical for patients to complain that cannabis use may have aggravated an existing medical condition such as psychosis or schizophrenia. He said that patients who admitted themselves because they felt that they had overdose on cannabis were only a minority.
Monte also added that the increase in patients who complained of cannabis use may be attributed to a high incidence of pot use as well as the assumption that smokers are more open to discussing marijuana use with doctors since its legalization.
“There’s more communication between patients and providers, and of course there’s just more marijuana out in the community,” Monte states, adding: “People can come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got chest pains and I used marijuana a week ago.’ Now, that’s got nothing to do with the marijuana.”
No Deaths Reported
The study took into consideration all cases wherein patients mentioned marijuana use; however, none of the cases resulted in death.
"Good to Know," Colorado's Cannabis Education Campaign
According to the Colorado Tourism Office report, nearly half of the visitors surveyed in 2015 stated that relaxed cannabis laws influenced their decision to travel to the state. Colorado’s health officials are undertaking efforts to educate visitors on responsible cannabis use through literature posted on legal weed shops which is part of the “Good To Know” campaign. Health authorities also added that it will be challenging for Colorado to discuss how cannabis should be used because residents use the drug differently at home than tourists who come to visit.
Mike Van Dyke, the branch chief of environmental epidemiology for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggested that individuals are more likely to take too much weed while on vacation. He added, “You have that vacation mentality. You’re there to have a good time.”
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