Doctors Claim 1st Documented Fatal Marijuana Overdose

In an 11-month-old child who died in 2015
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2017 2:05 PM CST
Updated Nov 17, 2017 1:00 AM CST
Doctors Claim 1st Documented Fatal Marijuana Overdose
Doctors in Colorado say they've documented the first-ever marijuana overdose death.   (Getty Images/Israel_Patterson)

(The doctors involved in this study have since denied calling this case a definitive marijuana overdose; update here. Original report follows.) In news that could change what we thought we knew about marijuana, as well as alter the progress of marijuana legalization, two doctors in Colorado say they've documented the first-ever fatal marijuana overdose. The DEA says no deaths from marijuana overdoses have ever been reported, and the National Institutes of Health says there is "insufficient evidence" for fatal THC overdoses. But in a case study published in CPC Emergency Medicine last March, Dr. Thomas Nappe and Dr. Christopher Hoyte of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center concluded the 2015 death of an 11-month-old child was caused by marijuana. The doctors spoke publicly about the case for the first time this week in an interview with KUSA.

The child died of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. But Hoyte and Nappe say they didn't find any of that. "The only thing that we found was marijuana. High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found,” Hoyte says. It's unclear when or how the child ingested marijuana, though it's "highly unlikely" it entered his system through "passive" means like second-hand smoke, the Denver Channel reports. While Hoyte and Nappe are confident they've documented the first death by marijuana overdose, other doctors are skeptical. The case study provides no evidence that marijuana can cause myocarditis and admits it's possible it was caused by something doctors couldn't test for. One emergency medicine specialist says the case study's conclusion is "too much." (More marijuana stories.)

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