High schoolers use e-cigarettes to vape marijuana: U.S. study
NEW YORK | BY LARRY HAND
(Reuters Health) – Nearly one in five high school students who said they used electronic cigarettes to vaporize nicotine also used them to vaporize pot, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 Connecticut teens.
The study, published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first evidence that teens are using electronic cigarettes to vaporize cannabis, the researchers said.
The paper by Meghan Morean of Oberlin College in Ohio and colleagues raises concerns that the rising popularity of e-cigarettes may encourage teens to use the devices to vaporize cannabis, potentially exposing them to higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“Forms of cannabis that can be vaporized, like hash oil, can be many times stronger than marijuana that is smoked,” Morean said in an email.
A study released last month suggested U.S. teens who try electronic cigarettes may be more than twice as likely to move on to smoking conventional cigarettes than those who have never tried the devices.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 million middle- and high-school students tried e-cigarettes in 2014, triple the number of teen users in 2013.
Morean and colleagues found that of students who had used e-cigarettes, 18 percent had used them to vaporize cannabis in some form, including hash oil and wax infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive cannabis ingredient.
High school students in the study were 27 times as likely to use e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis as adults who use e-cigarettes, the researchers said.
Male and younger students were more likely to use e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis than female and older students, but the socioeconomic status was not a factor. Use differed among the five schools involved, possibly because of different policies.
While the findings were limited to Connecticut schools and may not apply to states with varying cannabis laws, the pattern is worrisome, said Dustin Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, by email. Lee was not involved in the study.
“We know very little about the acute and long-term effects of high-potency THC on neurobiology and behavior,” Lee said in an email. “This is especially concerning for teens, who are in a critical time for the development of brain structures that are integral in executive functioning.”
(Reporting by Larry Hand; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Richard Chang)
Bennett Bill Would make Narcan Available in Schools
Rep. David A. Bennet has introduced legislation that would require public schools to be equipped with kits to treat opioid overdoses.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he plans to expand access to a prescription drug that can prevent overdose fatalities by having the state’s physician general in effect issue a statewide prescription that would allow any Pennsylvanian to obtain the antidote directly from pharmacies.
Wolf said he has directed state Physician General Dr. Rachel Levin to write a “standing order” that serves as a prescription for naloxone for any Pennsylvanian who wants it.
“In general, this would mean that individuals would not need to go to their healthcare provider for a prescription,” said the governor’s spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.
Wolf’s announcement in an op-ed piece published by PennLive.com drew praise from a national group working to reduce overdose deaths and other drug-related problems.
Daniel Raymond, the policy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition in New York, hailed the Pennsylvania plan as a model for the nearly 30 states that have naloxone programs.
“It’s a bold leadership move,” Raymond said. “Ultimately, it’s going to save lives.”
Naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan, is a non-narcotic, non-addictive drug that reverses the effect of heroin and other opioids like oxycodone. A bill passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law last fall by Gov.Tom Corbett allows police to legally administer the drug and lets physicians prescribe it to relatives and friends of drug users as a precaution against a possible overdose.
Raymond said Massachusetts uses statewide standing orders signed by a doctor to authorize naloxone distribution, but also requires that it be provided by an overdose prevention trainer authorized by the state.
“In Pennsylvania, I think they’re removing a lot of bureaucratic barriers,” he said.
Alice Bell of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, which provides a needle exchange program and other health services for injection drug users, said the plan would make it easier for friends and relatives, who are most likely to be with someone who overdoses, to obtain naloxone.
“I think it’s going to make a huge difference,” Bell said. “This can save a lot of lives.”
Wolf, who planned a Tuesday news conference in Lancaster County on his plan, also said the Pennsylvania State Police will begin carrying nasal spray kits of naloxone in their patrol cars. A spokesman says the policy will take effect in the coming weeks.
In Delaware County, whose district attorney helped lead lobbying for the law, the drug has been credited with saving about 30 lives since it took effect, Wolf said.