The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a heightened risk of illicit substance consumption among children, according to a study from JAMA Network Open.
There was a 25% increase in the number of children aged six and younger ingesting substances such as cannabis, opioids, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and ethanol during the first month of the pandemic in 2020.
Moreover, the study found that opioid ingestion increased by 1.8% each month compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The analysis was conducted on data from 7,659 children treated at 46 children’s hospitals.
The study’s findings suggest the need for interventions to address factors that may be associated with the observed increase in illicit substance ingestion, including policies that “buffer family stress,” improve parent access to and affordability of mental health and substance treatment services.
Increasing availability of childcare, and providing education about safe storage of substances in the home can also prevent accidental ingestion, according to study author Brittany Raffa, a clinical instructor in pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Also, the increase in overall stress among adults led to increased parental substance use.
Meanwhile, the study didn’t identify any link between cannabis legalization for medicinal or recreational purposes and the rate of cannabis ingestion events.
According to a separate study, there is a growing number of children are accidentally consuming marijuana-infused foods.
Between 2017 and 2021, the number of incidents in which children under the age of six accidentally ate edible cannabis products rose 1,375%, according to an analysis of records from the National Poison Data System.
Furthermore, the results showed that of over 7000 confirmed cases, nearly a quarter of the children were hospitalized.