Winnipeg’s cannabis-related emergency calls almost doubled in 2019

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The City of Winnipeg is reporting cannabis-related emergency calls almost doubled last year compared with those in 2018 — although it has yet to define the cause.

This year, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) has received and responded to two patients in distress who said they had consumed cannabis-infused edibles, according to city officials.

In 2019, the WFPS reported receiving a total of 42 calls in which the caller reported having consumed cannabis-infused edibles. That almost doubled the number in 2018, when the WFPS reported receiving 23 edibles-related calls.

City officials have yet to pinpoint the reason for the significant increase in cannabis-related emergency calls.

“One potential reason may be the patients’ willingness to disclose using the drug now that it is legal,” a city spokesperson told CTV News in a statement.

But it’s possible the number of cannabis-related calls received by emergency services is even greater, given that city numbers include only those cases where the caller has admitted to having consumed some kind of infused edible.

According to city officials, a significantly larger number of individuals have called and reported similar symptoms to those who have overconsumed cannabis-infused treats, including chest tightness, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. It should be noted, however, that these symptoms can also be related to a variety of health issues, such as panic attacks.

Although the number of edibles-related calls spiked in 2019, the products only became available on the shelves of Winnipeg’s licensed retailers this past December. This likely indicates a significant number of people who called had consumed illicit or homemade products.

Inexperienced users are advised to start with edibles containing a very low dose of THC (aka tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating compound in the cannabis plant) to gauge their reaction. Individuals with serious medical conditions or those who take certain medication should consult a trusted healthcare provider to help avoid complications or bad experiences.

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