Increasing numbers of children admitted to hospital after eating sweets containing HHC
Over a dozen children so far this year, primarily in the Karlovy Vary region, have ended up in hospital after consuming jelly sweets containing the psychoactive substance HHC. The Ministry of Health now wants to push for an outright ban.
In January, National anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil warned in a press release of new sweets and confectionary products containing the new semi-synthetic cannabinoid substance HHC being marketed to children. This substance, which has effects comparable to THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is legally available to children in Czechia and can be bought from street vending machines in the form of candy.
A week later, a spokesperson for the Karlovy Vary Region police force revealed that they were investigating the case of five children – two middle-schoolers and three elementary school students – who had been admitted to hospital after eating sweets containing HHC.
Markéta Singerová from Ostrov Hospital in the Karlovy Vary region says that the number of cases has increased dramatically this year.
“The paediatrics wards in hospitals didn’t have many cases like this in 2023 – we started encountering it this year when large numbers of patients were brought to the emergency room with various reactions after consuming products containing HHC.”
These reactions can last from 24 to 48 hours and range from nausea and headaches to mood swings, aggression and more, says National anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil.
“In addition to having a headache and feeling nauseous, they may also experience anxiety, insomnia, and panic. You won’t die from overdosing on HHC, as you can from heroin or alcohol. But getting into such a state of anxiety where you can't concentrate or do anything except sleep is of course a problem."
The Ministry of Health now says it wants to ban the sale of sweets containing HHC. But Mr. Vobořil says that bans are not the answer.
“Unfortunately, endless bans have not proven to be effective. The moment we ban HHC, there will be - and already are - other, even stronger substances that we would then have to add to the list. This is not a coincidence, it is organised by large groups and is even supported by some totalitarian regimes. There are billions of dollars going into research and high-tech labs. The only solution is to get it under the control and regulation of the state, to control the flow of money.”
The new Psychomodulating Substances Act, which is currently in its second reading in the lower house of parliament, aims to do just this, for example by banning the sale of products containing HHC to children. Jindřich Vobořil says that had it not taken so long for the new legislation to get through parliament, the problem would not be so bad now.
“The Psychomodulating Substances Act has been in the Chamber of Deputies since the start of autumn, it’s just lingering there. If it had been approved by now, we would have it more under control, not 100 percent, it can never be 100 percent – but under far better control than it is now.”
In the meantime, Mr. Vobořil has called on manufacturers and sellers of sweets containing HHC to review their practices and withdraw products aimed at children from the market – but so far, to no avail. On Monday, Novinky.cz reported that the local rescue service in the Karlovy Vary region had responded to seven more cases of HHC poisoning over the weekend.