The study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics
, analyzed 17 studies conducted throughout Canada and the United States that involved nearly 200,000 adolescents. The study found that teens in their senior year of high school were most likely to be vaping marijuana compared to younger adolescents. In 2018, for example, one in three grade-12 students reported vaping weed.
In one of the studies, adolescents also reported a preference for vaping cannabis extracts over dried herbs to get the buzz they desired from THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, the one that produces the “high” users desire.
Today’s “high” is much more intense than in the past, even that of a mere decade ago, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,
or NIDA. Modern ultra-potent strains of weed can contain over 15% THC, compared to the 4% or so available in the 1990s.
Choosing vaping oils, extracts and resins over dried weed, called “dabbing,” is a disturbing and potentially dangerous trend because vape extracts contain “3 to 5 times more THC than the plant itself,” noted the NIDA.
“The use of cannabis products with high THC (that are) easily achievable through vaping raises several potential problems,” said study author Carmen Lim, a PhD candidate on Health and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Queensland in Australia via email.
“Not only it is linked to poorer cognitive development in adolescents, it could increase risk of dependence, other substance use and many other health, social, and behavioral problems later in life,” Lim wrote.
Impact on teen brain
The use of marijuana by teens — in any form — is concerning because weed affects the adolescent brain differently, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid 20s,” the CDC stated
, adding that use during that time “can have permanent effects” such as poor coordination and damage to learning, memory, problem solving skills, and the ability to pay attention.