Should We Legalize Something That Causes 300,000 ER Visits Every Year, And Kills A Child Every Month?

woman carrying puppy

We often overlook things we don’t want to see, so when we debate public policies, we can be misled by not knowing the context. Consequently, when we hear about the harms associated with something, we may want to outlaw it.

For example, there is something that caused 6,323 hospital admissions in 2017 with mean age of 6.63 years.  Almost one third underwent a surgical procedure. Open wounds of the head, neck and trunk were the most common injury and decreased in prevalence with increasing age. Open wounds of the extremities were the second most common and the prevalence increased with increasing age. Children aged 1–4 and 5–10 years were both more than three times more likely to be admitted than those more than age 11. Think of the children!

Victims 50 years and older suffered the most, accounting for 75% (18) of all adult fatalities. Death by adult age groups show: 19-29 years, 13% (3) deaths; 30-49 years, 13% (3) deaths; 50-69 years, 38% (9) deaths and 70+ years, 38% (9) deaths. Think of us old folks!

What is this horrible thing? Dogs! Dog bites kill a child on average every month.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced the total number of people hospitalized because of dog bite-related injuries had increased from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008.

And dog bites resulted in 316,000 emergency department visits in 2008. These findings translate into an average of 866 emergency department visits and 26 hospitalizations for dog bite injuries every day during 2008, according to the HHS agency.

Of course, let me emphasize that I really do love dogs, so I would never ban them.

But also consider that every day, over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department for accidental poisonings. Children younger than 6 years comprise nearly half of poison exposures (44.2%), followed by adults (40.5%), then teens (8.2%).

Cosmetics and personal care products lead the list of the most common substances implicated in pediatric exposures (children younger than 6 years, NPDS, 2018). Cleaning substances and pain medications follow. Nothing exotic or illegal here.

Of course, I cannot resist pointing out that there are no deaths directly attributable to marijuana, because it has no effective lethal dose. The number of people in the U.S. who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2018: almost 68,000, but, again, none from marijuana.

And while it may be a factor in accidental deaths, there is no evidence that it is a significant factor when compared with other substances… or dog bites.

Nonetheless, the total arrests for marijuana possession (not dealing) was 608,775 in 2018.

And consider the context. That is greater than the total arrests for all violent crimes. Maybe we should end the Drug War and spend the money on dog catchers.

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