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Cannabis-related hospitalizations surge among older adults


Recent research reveals a significant increase in cannabis-related hospitalizations among older adults following the legalization of marijuana in Canada. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine highlights that emergency room visits for cannabis poisoning among Ontario residents aged 65 and older surged between October 2018 and December 2022.

Key findings

During the eight-year study period, there were 2,322 emergency room visits among older adults. Notably, 17% of these individuals had also consumed alcohol, 38.5% had cancer, and 6.5% had dementia. The data shows that ER visits doubled after the legalization of cannabis flower in October 2018 and tripled following the legalization of edibles in January 2020.

Understanding cannabis poisoning

Cannabis poisoning, also known as cannabis toxicity, occurs when an individual consumes too much THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Symptoms can vary but often include:

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Depressive thoughts
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures (in rare cases)

Some older adults may experience stroke-like symptoms, such as difficulty speaking.

Why the increase?

The study did not delve into the reasons behind the rise in hospitalizations, but experts suggest that legalization leads to increased usage. Edible products, in particular, may attract users who prefer not to smoke. Older adults might accidentally ingest cannabis or use it intentionally, often without proper dosing guidance. Many cannabis products lack age-specific dosing instructions, which can be problematic for older adults with underlying health conditions.

Precautions and recommendations

If you’re considering using cannabis, consult a health care provider for personalized advice. The Society of Cannabis Clinicians offers an online database to find cannabis doctors or nurses in your area. Always double-check your dosage, especially with edibles.

If you suspect cannabis poisoning, contact Poison Control. In severe cases, visit the emergency room or call 911.


The increase in cannabis-related hospitalizations among older adults is a wake-up call for both health care providers and patients. Proper education and guidance on cannabis use are essential to mitigate risks and ensure safe consumption.