Chicago hospitals ready for uptick in marijuana-related ER visits

Many Chicago hospitals are preparing for an increase in emergency room visits linked to marijuana after Illinois legalized recreational use of the drug Jan. 1, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Leaders at the University of Illinois Hospital said they've already seen an increase in marijuana-related ER visits, with the most common symptoms being restlessness, anxiety and elevated heart rate. More severe symptoms include hallucinations and psychosis, according to Trevonne Thompson, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

Other organizations, like Rush University Medical Center and Stroger Hospital, said they also expect marijuana-related ER visits to spike as access to the drug increases and the stigma around it falls.

From Jan. 1-11, the Illinois Poison Center received 11 calls involving marijuana, compared to just four during the same time last year. Three cases involved young children who accidentally ingested an edible.

Health experts told the Chicago Tribune it will take months of data collection and analysis to definitively tell whether marijuana legalization led to a statewide spike in ER visits.

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