A 21st Century Problem: Cannabis Toxicity in a 13-Month-Old Child

J Emerg Med. 2019 Jan;56(1):94-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.09.040. Epub 2018 Oct 16.


Background: Cannabis is one of the most abused drugs worldwide, with more than 20 million users in the United States (US). As access to cannabis products increases with expanding US legislation and decriminalization of marijuana, emergency physicians must be adept in recognizing unintentional cannabis toxicity in young children, which can range from altered mental status to encephalopathy and coma.

Case report: We report the case of a 13-month-old female presenting with self-limiting altered mental status and lethargy, with a subsequent diagnosis of tetrahydrocannabinol exposure on confirmatory urine gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: Considering caretakers rarely report possible cannabis exposure, history-taking must review caretakers' medicinal and recreational drug exposures to prevent inadvertently missing the diagnosis. In the young child with altered mental status, prompt urine screening for cannabinoid detection can prevent further invasive and costly diagnostic investigations, such as brain imaging and lumbar puncture.

Keywords: cannabis; ingestions; pediatric emergency medicine; pediatrics; toxicology.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / analysis
  • Cannabinoids / urine
  • Cannabis / drug effects
  • Cannabis / toxicity*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lethargy / etiology
  • Unconsciousness / etiology
  • United States


  • Cannabinoids