Marijuana Mentions in ED Visits

"The number of emergency department mentions involving marijuana increased 15% from 96,426 mentions in 2000 to 110,512 in 2001. The rate of marijuana mentions for patients age 12 to 17 increased 23% between 1999 and 2001 (from 55 to 68 per 100,000 population) and 126% (from 30 to 68 per 100,000 population) since 1994." -- ONDCP Publication "Marijuana Drug Facts," January 27, 2003.

We're being told that marijuana is "dangerous" and needs to be illegal in part due to an "alarming" rise in hospital Emergency Department (ED) episodes in which marijuana is mentioned. But in order to determine what this really means, don't we need to know how many people go to the ED in the first place?

Overall, drug-related ED episodes account for approximately six-tenths of one percent of all ED episodes. Marijuana accounts for slightly less than 10 percent of all drug mentions. So, an incredibly small number of people go to the emergency room due to drugs, and a really incredibly small number of those going to the emergency room say the word "marijuana" while they are there.

Marijuana is "mentioned" in just over one-tenth of one percent of all ED episodes. To put that in perspective, if you have $1000, each single dollar is one-tenth of one percent of your total. Is that a sufficient "cost to society" to warrant a "war" against marijuana users? What is this "danger" the ONDCP is warning us about?

  1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Total ED Episodes 89,697,000 88,548,000 91,189,000 89,720,000 89,683,000 91,100,000 96,163,000 100,518,000
Total Drug Mentions 899,600 900,287 906,366 942,382 981,764 1,014,243 1,099,306 1,165,367
Total Marijuana Mentions 40,034 45,259 53,770 64,720 76,842 87,068 96,426 110,512
Marijuana as % of Drug Mentions 4.45 5.02 5.93 6.87 7.83 8.58 8.77 9.48
Marijuana as % of ED Episodes 0.045 0.051 0.059 0.072 0.086 0.096 0.100 0.109

Source: ED Trends from DAWN, SAMHSA (Mar 2002 Update)

The Whys and Whos of ED Marijuana Mentions

Source: ED Trends from DAWN, SAMHSA (Mar 2003 Update)

Bottom Lines:

Marijuana is mentioned in one-tenth of one percent of ED episodes.

85 percent of ED marijuana mentions involve those over 18 years of age.

Of all marijuana users, approximately one-half of one percent of them may end up in an emergency room this year and say the word "marijuana" while they are there. So who cares?

Why in the world are we arresting people
for smoking marijuana?

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