Source: USA Today.com
As more teens vape, schools have struggled to keep the practice in check.
Vaping devices burn liquid, or sometimes leaf, using a battery-powered igniter in a self-contained chamber that resembles a pen or USB flash drive. The aerosol inhaled and exhaled is not smoke but resembles water vapor. The liquid can be a tobacco product and now, some schools are seeing a worrisome twist: students vaping marijuana.
Just as with tobacco, there is no telltale odor, and the handheld devices used are small enough that a student can indulge in class. Compounding the trouble is the potency the devices can deliver, giving a student a much more intense high than expected. Several students were sent to the emergency room by the school nurse after vaping THC, the chemical compound in marijuana that produces a high.
In addition to marijuana being easier to obtain, it now comes in several different forms. Some common e-cigarettes also can be modified to vape THC instead of tobacco, and there are vaping devices made specifically for THC cartridges. There is dabbing — a concentrated dose of THC and other cannabinoids in a sticky oil that is often vaped using a long thin pen that looks more like an iPad stylus. Edibles now come in a variety of forms from the traditional brownies and candies like gummy bears to even energy drinks. And of course, there’s the traditional smoking.
About 18% of teen e-cigarette users said they filled their vaporizers with cannabis, a study says. The legalization of marijuana in many states has helped fuel the problem, experts say. Not only does legalization make products more readily available, it also sends a message that marijuana does not have the same risks as other drugs or even tobacco.
Experts debate the effects of marijuana use, but there is less controversy over its impact on minors. The consensus: not good. Just as with alcohol, the drug has a different impact on developing brains than on adult ones — their ritical thinking skills, memory, and ability to learn and make good decisions and that younger users are more likely to become addicts. Other studies have shown a correlation between psychosis and marijuana use.
“As we have normalized it, the perceived risk of marijuana use among 12- to 24-year-olds has consistently decreased, and as they have perceived the risk as being less and less, the use has gone up,” said Rachelle Gardner, chief operating officer of Hope Academy, an high school for students in recovery. “And with the opioid crisis, I have had parents say, ‘It’s just pot. At least they’re not doing heroin.’”
Experts agree that parents, teachers, and students all need to be aware of the risks of vaping — especially when it comes to vaping THC. “This came about so quickly that we didn’t really wrap our heads around prevention as quickly as it arose,” Gardner said.