The Ohio Poison Center is seeing a “sharp rise” in children's accidental ingestions of adult products containing THC and marijuana. 

In the Mahoning Valley, there have been several instances where children were sent to the hospital for accidentally ingesting adult substances. Two incidents in Warren involved children allegedly eating THC and marijuana edibles resulting in a man and a woman being charged with child endangering. Another incident happened in Boardman where a couple was convicted of child endangering after their daughter ate a THC-laced brownie. 

“We’re definitely seeing more than we have historically,” Richard Tvaroch, the Executive Director of Mahoning County Children’s Services said about children accidentally eating medications and adult substances. 

When those reports are made, children’s services are typically called into investigate.

“{If} the parents acted inappropriately in storage or god forbid even actively encouraged the usage; it could result in criminal charges from misdemeanors to felonies depending upon the particulars of the situation,” Tvaroch said. 

If the agency finds the parents can’t ensure that the situation wouldn’t happen again, they could remove the child from the home. 

Tvaroch feels the biggest reason for the uptick in accidents is because companies are making these drugs look like common candies or snacks. 

“A child sees that on a counter they’re going to think that's a gummy bear they are going to think it's something that mom and dad normally gives to them,” he said. 

If a child does ingest too much of a THC substance the effects it has on adults is magnified in kids. According to Akron's Children Hospital symptoms include:

  • Intoxication, such as slurred speech and poor coordination
  • Intense anxiety or panic attacks
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Seizures, in rare cases

If a child is suspected to have taken a substance, parents should call poison control or take them directly to the Emergency Room. If parents do bring a substance into their home, children's services said they should ask their dispensary how to properly store it and keep it away from children's reach. 

Ohio Poison Centers said children 2 to 3 years old are most at risk but they’re seeing these accidents with children as old as 5.

In 2022, 306 cases of THC ingestion involving children under 5 years old were reported to the OPC. In 2023, that number went up by 67 reports with the numbers for 2024 expected to continue to trend upwards. 

“The challenge with marijuana edibles is that the total THC dose can be exceptionally high and the food-based products are attractive to children (e.g. cookie, gummy, etc.),” The OPC said in a statement to 21 News. 

Nearly 85% of accidental ingestions require emergency room care. Of the children who were admitted to the ER 25% required advanced care in an intensive care unit setting according to the OPC. 

If the sales of THC and cannabis pick up in Ohio after the laws around it are ironed out, children’s services fear these accidents could be more common. 

“If the availability of these substances increase, the likelihood for unfortunate incidents increase so intuitively one could say one could lead to another,” Tvaroch said.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Reports of child abuse or neglect can be made to Mahoning County Children’s Services at 330-941-8888 or to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.