Over 3,000 people have been hospitalised in Ireland in the last five years for using cannabis jellies and other ‘cannabinoid’ products.
Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said the HSE needs an awareness and education campaign on the dangers of cannabinoids.
The HSE reported 3,277 hospitalisations between 2018 and 2022 for mental and behavioural disorders caused by cannabinoids, compared to 189 hospitalisations for cannabis use in the same timeframe.
“Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds which can be extracted from the cannabis plant and can be used in oil and edible form,” Deputy Higgins said.
The most common cannabinoid is THC which is responsible for the psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis use.
However, Deputy Higgins said there is a growing concern in Ireland and Europe for the use of man-made ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ found in some sweets and jellies.
“Synthetic cannabinoids can greatly increase the risks of a drug emergency because they produce more intense adverse effects," Deputy Higgins said.
Doctors report edible cannabinoid products present higher risks because the ‘psychotropic effects’ of cannabis are delayed, prompting people to consume more.
Deputy Higgins said cannabinoids are becoming increasingly accessible, increasing the risk of hospitalisation.
“Packaging on illegal edibles is often bright and colourful and can be mistaken for ordinary sweets,” she said. “In some cases, the packaging can almost replicate a well-known existing brand with slight variations.
“These illegal products are relatively new on the market and not much is known about what is contained in them.
“Therefore, it is essential that we have an ongoing HSE education and awareness campaign to alert people to the dangers of these drugs, through social media and also broadcasting channels.”