Extra teenagers are vaping hashish. Consultants say N.J. should ship a warning message now.

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The number of teenagers in America and Canada vaping weed has doubled in recent years, and there is evidence that they prefer to use infused oil that delivers a much stronger high, like one in the Journal of the American Medical Association published study found.

New Jersey medical and adolescent mental health experts who reviewed the study say this troubling trend needs to be countered with a clear message, taught in schools and written on packaging labels, that emphasizes how marijuana affects the developing brain harms.

Marijuana possession up to six ounces is legal in New Jersey for adults 21 and older. No retail dispensaries are yet open to anyone other than patients enrolled in the state medical marijuana program.

“I am concerned that this is already evidence that the horse is out of the stable with teenage cannabis use, and we adults have provided the teenagers with the methods, tools and message to ride horses into the sunset “Said John Calvin Chatlos, psychiatry professor at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.” Our zeal to legalize cannabis for adults for whatever reason has blinded us to the potential impact on vulnerable populations of adolescents and young adults . “

“I believe there is only one solution right now,” said Chatlos, who, as a trainer for employees who work with children in the state childcare system, will develop a curriculum on the subject. “Everyone, everywhere at the national level, needs to convey the same message with accurate information: ‘An adolescent brain is not the same as an adult brain’ and ‘Cannabis in an adolescent brain can be very dangerous’. “

Nicotine vaporizing increased 13-fold in middle and high school students between 2011 and 2018, as the authors noted in their October 25 article, “Prevalence of Cannabis Vaping Among Adolescents”.

The Australian researchers reviewed 17 surveys on tobacco and drug use in the United States and Canada, which were attended by nearly 200,000 teenagers and young adults over the past decade, and found that vaping cannabis oil and dried flower was also successful.

“Lifelong” marijuana use increased from 6.1% in 2013-2016 to 13.6% in 2019-2020 and use in the last 12 months from 7.2% in 2017-2018 to 13, 2% in 2019-2020, according to the article.

Three of the polls showed that the popularity of vaping cannabis concentrates has increased since 2017, the study says.

Vaping is seen as a safer form of transmission because the device was “originally designed to deliver nicotine as a tobacco-cigarette substitute (e.g. electronic cigarettes),” the study says.

But when it’s used as a cannabis delivery system by teenagers and young adults, safety falls, Lewis Nelson, a medical toxicologist and professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“No wonder – you just have to look at the mass media and look at the products available in stores. Vaping cannabis has become extremely popular, ”said Nelson.

“You don’t get any combustion products from vaporizing,” says Nelson, director of emergency medicine at Newark University Hospital. There could be some safety factors. “But we see problems. People will be able to use it more freely and in large quantities. “

There is undeniable research showing that routine marijuana use can impair brain function and cause psychiatric illness as the brain continues to develop by the age of 25.

Theodore Petti, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, urges state policymakers and lawmakers to limit the effectiveness of cannabis products sold in the future New Jersey market. These products are likely to fall into the hands of people under 21, and the dangers are real, he said.

“The higher the value, the greater the damage to the brain and other organs and the greater the likelihood the adolescent will develop a cannabis use disorder, including what is known as addiction,” Petti said.

He also wants to see explicit labels on cannabis products.

State regulators “must regulate THC levels in edible products to 10% when they are legalized and concentrated, unless they contain graphics and formulations that indicate the danger that THC levels pose to their developing brain,” said Petti. “You should be warned before driving a car or using heavy machinery, even hours after using any food.”

A JAMA Pediatrics study in March found that 11% of teenagers were addicted to marijuana one year after trying.

The health course curriculum should spend more time clarifying the truth about cannabis to students who may not understand how the drug is more harmful to them as states like New Jersey create a legal market.

“Messaging is very difficult in the public health world. They tell people that it is dangerous, it is interpreted as something they want to do. Some people feel that it is legitimate to talk about it, ”he said.

“Education and knowledge are a good thing … it’s better to teach these things than to learn them yourself,” said Nelson.

A version of this story first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider.

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Susan K. Livio can be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio.