Study Finds Teenagers Using E-Cigarettes to “Vape” Marijuana which Could be Dangerous
Vaporizing marijuana, or “vaping,” has been around for awhile, but until recently, vaping the drug required special devices or hand-made items to produce the inhalable marijuana vapor. Now, according to a new study published in Pediatrics magazine, teenagers in Connecticut have found a way to use e-cigarettes to create vaporizers, which could cause dangerous side effects.
E-cigarettes have created a lot of controversy since their debut, with opinions fluctuating from their beneficial uses to help smokers quit, to their dangers, which include smokers inhaling more tobacco than regular cigarettes.
A battery in an e-cigarette turns on a heating element that vaporizes a liquid or oil solution – at the commercial level, these containers should hold either tobacco oils, or flavored oils with no drugs present. However, a team of Yale University researchers found that nearly 1 in 5 Connecticut high school students were using the easily-acquired devices to “vape” marijuana oil.
The survey found that, in 2014, almost 28% of high schoolers in Connecticut used e-cigarettes; of those, 18.7% were “dual users,” meaning they used e-cigarettes for both marijuana and tobacco. Younger males surveyed were more likely to use e-cigarettes than other groups.
“This is a relatively novel way of using marijuana, and kids are using it at a fairly high rate,” said researcher Meghan E. Morean, an assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College, who conducted the Yale study.
E-cigarette use has increased 200% across all populations between 2011 and 2013.
“It’s so much easier to conceal e-cigarette pot use,” Morean continued. “Everybody knows that characteristic smell of marijuana, but this vapor is different. It’s possible that teenagers are using pot in a much less detectable way.”
The survey interviewed 4,000 Connecticut high school students.
“We now know it’s happening, but there are more questions about who is using and how damaging it is,” Morean said.
“Unfortunately, there is really no end for what can be vaporized in these devices,” said Erika Sward, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association. Not only can a user smoke more marijuana through an e-cigarette than a blunt or other form of vaping, according to researchers, but users can also get a more concentrated marijuana vapor from e-cigarettes, which could be dangerous.
“We have been evaluating the use of e-cigarettes among this young group of users for a couple of years now, and we know they are using it at a pretty high rate and we assumed it was for nicotine,” senior study author Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, said about the research. “We did not anticipate the marijuana use with e-cigarettes.”
“We need to understand a lot of things about the use of marijuana and e-cigarettes,” Krishnan-Sarin said. “What are the use patterns and are these kids who have just used it once or is this actually leading to continued use of marijuana?” she said.
“These findings raise concern about the lack of e-cigarette regulations,” the researchers wrote in the study. The lack of regulations includes teenagers’ access to e-cigarettes because there are no age restrictions on purchasing the devices, just the oils.