American teenagers experimenting with weed aren’t just smoking it any more – they’re also eating and vaping the drug, a new study reveals.
Marijuana and vaping have surpassed cigarettes as the favorite way to ‘smoke’ for young people.
As cannabis has become legal in more states, it has become a bigger business, expanding into products like tasty edibles and flavorless e-liquids that make marijuana more appealing and easier to hide for teenagers.
These approachable forms may even draw young people to the drug at even earlier ages, endangering their brain development, experts worry.
University of Southern California researchers found that of the 34 percent of California (USC) teens that had used marijuana, two-thirds had tried it in multiple forms.
Two thirds of American teenagers that use marijuana are using candies (pictured), baked edibles, drinks and sweet vape flavors that experts worry encourage them to start younger
‘Marijuana has gone mainstream,’ says lead study author Dr Adam Leventhal, a preventive medicine and psychology professor at USC.
As it has been normalized, ‘there’s been a shift in teens’ perception. Legalization and commercialization of cannabis are fostering the perception that this drug is not harmful,’ he adds.
It’s easy to imagine a PSA about smoking marijuana: a high school student examines a joint before a friend helps him light it. He takes a first drag and is instantly thrown into a coughing fit, grasping his chest and squeezing his watering eyes shut.
It doesn’t look like the drug is doing him much good.
Now, imagine instead a chocolate brownie that looks like any other.
Experts worry that marijuana products like sweet edibles will make teenagers take up cannabis earlier, believing the drug as harmless as baked goods look.
Nationwide, about a quarter of high school seniors reported using marijuana in 2017, a slight increase from 2016-use.
About four million teenagers overall across the US say they have vaped cannabis.
The latest research, published in JAMA Network Open, examines how the wealth of ways to get a ‘high’ are changing teenage habits.
The USC researchers surveyed nearly 3,200 tenth grade students in and around Los Angeles about whether they had ever smoked, vaped, eaten or drunk cannabis.
Unsurprisingly rates of sophomore cannabis use were somewhat higher in California, where the drug has been legal for medical use since 1996 and for adults’ recreational use since the start of this year.
There, a third of tenth-graders said they had used cannabis, compared to a quarter of students two years ahead in school across the rest of the country.
Smoking cannabis remains the most popular way to use it, but 61.7 percent said they had tried multiple forms.
A small but not insignificant contingent of the students had never smoked weed – but had eaten it.
Nearly eight percent of the students said they had only ever had edibles.
‘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,’ says Dr Levanthal.
His research was based on surveys distributed to teens in 2015 – three years before the 2018 legalization of recreational cannabis in the state.
It remains to be seen if that edible marijuana contingent of teens has grown since – but the number of older friends, parents and relatives with access to the the drug in all its forms certainly has since Dr Leventhal’s survey went out.