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Can Teens Vape Marijuana?

Marijuana bud next to a vape pen with cannabis oil  

Vaping e-liquids infused with marijuana is popular among teens because marijuana can often be vaped openly without raising any suspicion. Vaping marijuana is generally not associated with telltale odors or obvious smoking paraphernalia. Consequently, teens can vape marijuana and it is quite easy for them to hide it from parents.

It is important to distinguish between marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids. Marijuana use among teenagers is associated with some risk but synthetic cannabinoids like “spice” or “K2” are incredibly dangerous drugs that are associated with serious addiction, erratic and violent behavior and can be lethal. Unfortunately, these and other incredibly dangerous synthetic drugs may be passed off as marijuana in unregulated marketplaces.

How Teens Vape Marijuana

Vaping is the process of heating a glycerin-based liquid carrying the nicotine and/or other chemicals, including marijuana, to create an aerosol that can be inhaled. Several marijuana vaping devices exist to vape marijuana in various forms:

  • Dry herb e-cigarettes: Dry herb vape pens do not have e-liquid cartridges. The heat dried marijuana (“flower”) to produce a vapor that is inhaled. This is the traditional form of marijuana.
  • Hash oil: Hash oil or THC oil is produced by purifying the THC-containing components of a marijuana plant. Hash oil essentially replaces an e-liquid cartridge, so concerns of vaping carrier oils, nicotine, and dangerous flavor additives are removed. Hash oil is often a thick, golden syrup.
  • Cannabis wax: Cannabis wax is a broad description of several types of wax or “dab” (shatter, crumble, budder) concentrates. The wax is heated to the point of vaporizing and inhaled. This is often referred to as “dabbing.” Cannabis wax comes in many forms and may look like a honeycomb, toffee, butter or wax.
  • Marijuana concentrates: “Marijuana concentrate” is an umbrella term that describes any form of marijuana that is extracted and purified from a plant. Concentrates include oils, wax, resin, hash, tinctures, and distillates. Most, but not all, concentrates can be vaped simply by heating them until they vaporize.
  • THC liquids and tinctures: THC tinctures are made by grinding marijuana flowers into a fine powder and letting it sit in high proof alcohol for several weeks. Tinctures are generally consumed either by putting a drop under your tongue or by adding it to a recipe and are rarely vaped. Tinctures look like a green liquid.

Can Vaping Marijuana Make You Sick?

The effects of marijuana on teens are variable: Chronic use is associated with negative outcomes including poorer academic performance and increased risk of future substance use disorders. Despite decades of hyperbole, however, infrequent marijuana use among teenagers has routinely been shown to be safer than alcohol or nicotine use.

Even legally available commercial marijuana vaping liquids are largely unregulated, which may have several consequences. At one end of the spectrum are studies showing that the active compounds in marijuana, notably THC and CBD, are found in significantly lower concentrations than the label indicates. At the other end of the spectrum are findings that marijuana vape liquids include dangerous chemicals that are unrelated to marijuana, including synthetic cannabinoids and, in one case, dextromethorphan, which is the active ingredient in cough syrup and is commonly abused by teenagers.

The question of whether vaping marijuana can make you sick can be further reduced: Can vaping make you sick? Mounting evidence shows that inhaling ultra-fine aerosolized particles from glycerin-based carrier liquid, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione from flavoring and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are linked to incurable and lifelong respiratory diseases, lung cancer and reduced immune function. Even vitamin E oil has been implicated as a potential cause of recent vaping-related illnesses: According to Dr. Thomas Eissenberg, who studies vaping, “Inhaling oil into your lungs is extremely dangerous behavior that could result in death.”

Teens and vaping is a dangerous combination, with or without marijuana. Vaping can lead to substance use disorders. If your teen struggles with a substance use disorder, contact Next Generation Village to speak with a representative about how evidence-based treatment can help.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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