Houston, Texas, USA : A smokeless method of vaporizing and then inhaling pot packs a much more powerful punch than simply smoking weed, researchers say.
That could raise safety concerns for users—driving, for example.
Marijuana vaporizers heat pot to a temperature just below combustion, allowing people to inhale the intoxicating chemical THC from the plant material without breathing in any smoke.
This method produced much more intoxication in a small group of test participants than smoking the same amount of marijuana through a typical pot pipe, according to the report published online Nov. 30 in JAMA Network Open.
The study participants also had more adverse effects associated with their pot use when they used vaporizers, and had more pronounced impairment of their ability to think and control their movements, the researchers said.
“It’s often a fine line between someone getting the drug effect they desire and having a drug effect that’s too strong, and maybe produces paranoia and adverse effects that are uncomfortable for the person,” said lead researcher Tory Spindle.
“That sort of thing might be more likely with vaporizers,” he added. Spindle is a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.
These vaporizers aren’t to be confused with “vaping”—a term used to describe electronic cigarettes.
Survey data has shown that vaporizing is becoming a more popular method of using pot, particularly in states that have legalized recreational use of the drug, Spindle said.
“It heats it to a temperature that doesn’t reach combustion,” Spindle said of the vaporizing devices. “If you look at the cannabis after it’s done vaporizing, it doesn’t turn into the black ash material it would when you smoke it. It looks exactly like it did when you put it in.”
To see if vaporizers deliver a different high than smoking pot, Spindle and his colleagues recruited 17 healthy adults who were not frequent marijuana users and asked them to both smoke pot from a pipe and inhale the fumes produced by a vaporizer.
The same 25-milligram dose of pot produced a significantly stronger high when vaporized than when smoked, the findings showed. Pre-rolled joints sold at dispensaries typically contain 1 gram of pot.
People on vaporized pot also showed greater impairment than when they smoked the drug, based on testing that gauges the ability to think, reason and perform fine motor skills.
Vaporized pot came with more side effects as well, including heart racing (24 percent versus 18 percent for smoked), paranoia (17 percent versus 10 percent), hunger (38 percent versus 33 percent), dry mouth (67 percent versus 43 percent), and red eyes (25 percent versus 16 percent).
Blood tests revealed that people had much higher levels of THC in their circulation after using a vaporizer, about 14.4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood compared with 10.2 ng/mL when they smoked pot.
The effects typically wore off between six to eight hours for both vaporized and smoked pot, the researchers said.
Heating but not burning pot appears to ensure that more of the weed’s high-producing chemicals are imbibed by the user, Spindle said.
“Our theory is that when you combust cannabis, more of the THC is lost due to the combustion process,” Spindle said. “The vaporizer is a more efficient delivery method than the smoked cannabis.”
People who don’t use marijuana regularly should approach vaporizers with caution, said Nadia Solowij, a professor at the University of Wollongong in Australia.
“There is a perception that it is a safer route given that it avoids burning the plant matter, thus reducing toxins formed by that process,” said Solowij, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study. “These findings raise concerns for inexperienced users, which include those using [pot] both recreationally but also trying cannabis for medical reasons,” she added.
“It may be wise to use a smaller amount of cannabis in a vaporizer to achieve the desired effect,” Solowij concluded.
More information: Tory Spindle, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Nadia Solowij, Ph.D., professor, University of Wollongong, Australia; Nov. 30, 2018, JAMA Network Open, online
A second study found that Teens who’ve tried marijuana have used it in more than one form.
Teens who’ve tried marijuana have used it in more than one form
Most teens who’ve tried marijuana have used the drug in more than one form, including cannabis products that are smoked, eaten or vaped, new USC research shows.
The study, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, raises concerns about adolescent health amid a booming cannabis market that touts sleekly packaged products claiming an array of health benefits.
“Cannabis use in adolescence increases risk for chronic use throughout adulthood, addiction and impaired cognitive development,” said the study’s senior author, Adam Leventhal, professor of preventive medicine and psychology and director of the USC Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“In recent years, there’s been a shift in teens’ perception. Legalization and commercialization of cannabis are fostering the perception that this drug is not harmful,” Leventhal said. “On my drive to work, I pass an advertising billboard for marijuana delivery right to your house. Marijuana has gone mainstream.”
In a survey of 3,177 10th-graders from the Los Angeles area, Leventhal and his colleagues collected data via questionnaires at 10 Los Angeles area high schools from January to October 2015—three years before California’s 2018 legalization of recreational marijuana.
Tenth-graders were asked, “Have you ever used the following substances in your life?” Combustible cannabis was worded as “smoking marijuana” (or weed, hash, reefer or bud); vaping was worded as liquid pot, dabbing or weed pen; edible marijuana included drinks infused with THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis), brownies, butter and oil.
Of the 33.9 percent of students who reported ever using cannabis, smoking it was the most popular, followed by cannabis products that were edible or vaporized. Most 10th-graders (61.7 percent) who had ever used cannabis used multiple products to administer the drug.
Notably, 7.8 percent of cannabis “ever users” had never smoked pot, but instead ingested cannabis via edibles or vaping.
“A key question is whether a new pool of teens who’ve traditionally been at lower risk for smoking marijuana have been drawn to using the drug in these alternative non-smoked forms,” said Leventhal, the study’s corresponding author. In other words, cannabis products such as bubblegum-flavored vaping liquid may appeal to teen users who would otherwise be turned off by the smell or harsh sensation of marijuana smoke.
This study, supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01-DA033296), is part of an ongoing project looking at patterns of substance use and mental health over time.
Leventhal’s previous survey studies have found digital media use is linked to behavioral and attention problems in kids, and that higher concentrations of nicotine in vaping liquid used by teens is associated with traditional cigarette use.
Citation for second study: JAMA Network Open. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2765
A survey found that two million U.S. teens are vaping marijuana.
Two million U.S. teens are vaping marijuana
A school-based survey shows nearly 1 in 11 U.S. students have used marijuana in electronic cigarettes, heightening health concerns about the new popularity of vaping among teens.
E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine, but many of the battery-powered devices can vaporize other substances, including marijuana. Results published Monday mean 2.1 million middle and high school students have used them to get high.
Vaping is generally considered less dangerous than smoking, because burning tobacco or marijuana generates chemicals that are harmful to lungs. But there is little research on e-cigarettes’ long-term effects, including whether they help smokers quit.
The rise in teenagers using e-cigarettes has alarmed health officials who worry kids will get addicted to nicotine, a stimulant, and be more likely to try cigarettes. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration gave the five largest e-cigarette makers 60 days to produce plans to stop underage use of their products.
Nearly 9 percent of students surveyed in 2016 said they used an e-cigarette device with marijuana, according to Monday’s report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. That included one-third of those who ever used e-cigarettes.
The number is worrying “because cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory and may impair later academic achievement and education,” said lead researcher Katrina Trivers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students who said they lived with a tobacco user were more likely than others to report vaping marijuana.
It’s unclear whether marijuana vaping is increasing among teens or holding steady. The devices have grown into a multi-billion industry, but they are relatively new.
In states where marijuana is legal, shoppers can buy cartridges of liquid containing THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high, that work with a number of devices. Juul, by far the most popular e-cigarette device, does not offer marijuana pods, but users can re-fill cartridges with cannabis oil.
It was the first time a question about marijuana vaping was asked on this particular survey, which uses a nationally representative sample of students in public and private schools. More than 20,000 students took the survey in 2016.
A different survey from the University of Michigan in December found similar results when it asked for the first time about marijuana vaping. In that study, 8 percent of 10th graders said they vaped marijuana in the past year.
“The health risks of vaping reside not only in the vaping devices, but in the social environment that comes with it,” said University of Michigan researcher Richard Miech. Kids who vape are more likely to become known as drug users and make friends with drug users, he said, adding that “hanging out with drug users is a substantial risk factor for future drug use.”