CDC Examines Increases in ED Visits Involving Cannabis Among Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted people’s lives in numerous ways and led to increased substance use among some youth. CDC scientists sought to better understand trends in cannabis-involved ED visits among youth during the pandemic. Consequently, a collaboration embarked between CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) and the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP). NCIPC monitors and addresses use of and exposure to cannabis and its associated health and social effects. NSSP collects and monitors ED data in near-real–time from all states nationwide.
The scientists studied trends in cannabis-involved emergency department visits. They found that more than 90% of cannabis-involved ED visits in persons aged <25 years were among persons aged 15–24 years. Among youths aged ≤10 years, cannabis-involved ED visit rates during the pandemic far exceeded those preceding the pandemic; these findings are consistent with recent National Poison Data System data demonstrating increases in unintentional ingestions in this age group. Another finding showed the rate of cannabis-involved ED visits among females aged 11–14 years surpassed those of males in this age group early in the pandemic. This suggests different coping strategies during the pandemic by sex. Although these findings are supported in the literature, this study was the first to show the acute increase in cannabis-involved ED visits during the COVID-19 pandemic among youth.
Why do CDC studies like this matter? These findings highlight the importance of raising clinicians’ awareness of increasing cannabis-involved ED visits to aid in early diagnosis of cannabis intoxication in young persons. Findings also highlight the importance of informing adults who use cannabis to store cannabis products safely and securely in places inaccessible to children. To decrease substance use, communities can implement evidence-based programs to improve coping and problem-solving skills among young people.
CDC’s continued monitoring of ED data enables quick and efficient response to emerging health threats. CDC follows trends before, during, and after intervention. Further, CDC’s monitoring helps to identify subgroups within the population at greatest risk of adverse events.
The NSSP team thanks our colleagues in CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control for the opportunity to collaborate on this study.
Roehler DR, Smith HIV, Radhakrishnan L, et al. Cannabis-involved Emergency Department Visits Among Persons Aged <25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic—United States, 2019–2022. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) 2023;72(28):758–765. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7228a1.
CDC website: Marijuana and Public Health (cdc.gov)
What CDC is Doing
CDC monitors the use of and exposure to cannabis and its associated health and social effects. Activities include:
- improving surveillance;
- advancing research;
- building state, local, and territorial capacity;
- supporting health systems and healthcare providers;
- partnering with public safety, schools, and community coalitions; and
- improving public knowledge and awareness.
CDC partners with other federal agencies to accomplish these goals.
Populations of focus include youth, older adults, infants and young children, pregnant and postpartum persons, workers, racial and ethnic minorities, and people whose health is poor or have chronic conditions.