Pubdate: Tue, 24 Mar 2015
Source: Gazette, The (Colorado Springs, CO)
Copyright: 2015 The Gazette
Authors: Pula Davis, Wayne Laugesen, Christine Tatum
Series: Special report, 'Clearing the Haze:'


In January, a group of Colorado Springs pediatricians had an unusual 
topic on the agenda for one of their monthly meetings: Breastfeeding 
and babies who test positive for THC.

"When that hits the agenda, it's clearly important," said Dr. Darvi 
Rahaman, a pediatrician at Peak Vista. "There's so many, so many good 
things about breastfeeding and its positive effects. When a child is 
born, we and the nursing staff promote breastfeeding. The question is 
what happens when we know Mom was positive on a THC screen? Do you 
recommend you breastfeed or not? What do you do?"

Rahaman, a pediatrician of nearly 20 years, said the concentration of 
THC in breast milk is several times higher than in the mother's blood 
and "there are very few studies about end results of children who are 
breastfeeding to moms who are consistently using."

Rahaman said that although his colleagues report seeing more and more 
THC-positive infants, determining the number of babies born positive 
has been difficult because there is no specific code for a 
marijuana-exposed baby - only a general code for illicit drugs. 
"We're trying to figure out how to track this," he said.

"I think most people were a little frustrated that this was even a 
discussion. But then there's the realization that this is happening 
so we should have a consistent way to approach this. I think one 
thing for sure is that we haven't come up with a final approach in Colorado."

Guidance may be coming: The Colorado Department of Public Health and 
Environment plans to release a document this month for physicians to 
use in talking with pregnant or breastfeeding women.

But doctors and hospitals in Colorado report seeing more people of 
all ages testing positive for marijuana - from tots to teens to 
20-somethings and older.

In 2009, Children's Hospital Colorado reported two marijuana 
ingestions among children younger than 12. In the first six months of 
2014, there were 12, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain High 
Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

"Our children's hospital is seeing a significant number of 
admissions," said Dr. Richard Zane, professor and chairman of 
emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

"The problem that's really come into fruition is this issue of 
marijuana looking just like childhood candy," he said of edibles made 
to look like lollipops and gummies. "For the first time ever, we have 
enough concentrated marijuana in one edible product where it's 
sufficiently strong enough to cause a child to stop breathing. There 
have been children admitted to the ICU with respiratory support."

Dr. Kenneth Finn, a pain medicine specialist in Colorado Springs, is 
studying emergency room data locally from Penrose-St. Francis hospitals.

"The preliminary data is somewhat frightening," Finn said. "If you're 
looking at the unintended consequences of Amendment 64, you're 
looking at a much broader acceptance of use and safety. My 
perspective is a public health perspective."

The number of urine drug screens positive for marijuana only in 
patients younger than 18 more than tripled from 2009 to 2013, going 
from 30 to 101, he said. Among all ages at the time, the number of 
positives went from 355 to 1,090.



Protecting our children was a priority as the public headed to the 
polls to vote on Amendment 64. The most recent research on adolescent 
brain development and related addiction studies indicates this is 
more important than ever thought before. Adolescent exposure to 
marijuana is most troubling because young users are more vulnerable 
to addiction throughout their lives. Post-legalization trends in 
Colorado raise concerns because regulation has fallen short of the 
promises made by the state. The increasing rate of pot use also is a 
concern of employers.

About the series

The reporting team: editorial board members Pula Davis and Wayne 
Laugesen and local reporter Christine Tatum.

After the first year of recreational pot sales, The Gazette takes a 
comprehensive look at the unintended consequences of legalizing sales 
and use of recreational marijuana.

Day 1: Colorado has a fragile scheme for regulating legal marijuana 
and implementing a state drug prevention strategy.

Day 2: One of the suppositions about legalizing pot was that 
underground sales would be curtailed, but officials say there is 
evidence of a thriving black market.

Day 3: One teen's struggle to overcome his marijuana addiction shows 
how devastating the effects of the drug can be for younger, more 
vulnerable users.

Day 4: Amid the hoopla about recreational marijuana sales, the 
medical marijuana industry is flourishing and has its own set of 
complicated concerns.
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