Marijuana, often called weed, grass, pot, dope or mary jane, is a mind-altering psychoactive drug. It is derived from the cannabis sativa plant, from which its flowers, stems, seeds and leaves are shredded to create the green/brown mix associated with marijuana. It is typically smoked in a similar fashion to a cigarette or through the use of a vape instrument, pipe or a water pipe, commonly referred to as a bong. It can also be used in edibles and brewed as a tea. THC ((delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main ingredient that produces the psychoactive effect.

Contrary to an often times stated opinion that marijuana is non-addictive, research has shown that is a very addictive drug. Marijuana use can lead to what is referred to as marijuana use disorder, which becomes addiction in its more extreme cases. Research has also shown that those who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana disorder than adults.

While marijuana use can lead to addiction, it is more often associated with dependence – a person will feel withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug. Those symptoms include irritability, mood swings, restlessness, and various forms of physical discomfort. These symptoms peak during the first week after eliminating the use of marijuana and can last up to several weeks.

A major concern over the past decade has been the potential of the legalization of recreational marijuana driving an increase in the illegal use of the drug among teenagers. However, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication, Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends report: 2011-2021, this has not been the case. These latest CDC findings are consistent with those of several other federally funded national surveys that indicate there has been a declining rate of marijuana use by teenagers during the same time that an increasing number of states have legalized adult-use recreational marijuana. Nonetheless, marijuana, along with alcohol, remains one of the most often abused drugs amongst teenagers and pre-teens.

Marijuana affects the body in the following ways:

  • Disinhibition
  • Inhibit/negatively impacts memory and learning
  • Causes difficulty in thinking and problem-solving
  • May cause hallucinations in rare cases
  • Impairs judgment and reduces coordination
  • Distorts perception
  • Decreases blood pressure, increases heart rate
  • Can cause dizziness, nausea, tachycardia
  • Can cause confusion, anxiety, paranoia, drowsiness
  • Can cause respiratory ailments

Vaping with Marijuana/THC

Vaping, or the use of e-cigarette devices by teenagers and pre-teens, is a major concern for health officials and parents. It is the most often used method of smoking marijuana/THC and nicotine related products among youth. Vapes are referred to by many names, including e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, and vapes. Using an e-cigarette is called vaping.

Vaping has become the method of choice for teenagers and others using marijuana for several reasons. Using a vape produces a much milder smell, it is easier to use than rolling paper, and provides a consistent dosage. There is also the mistaken notion that vaping marijuana is safer than smoking it. Research suggests that vaping THC oil – which is the common form among vapers, can damage lungs and increase risks of other negative side effects.

In 2019, there was an outbreak of severe lung disease from vaping – at the time, this was largely blamed on a chemical found in the vaping oil called vitamin E acetate. Based on the research done on those who fell victim to this lung disease, it was found that:

  • 82% had vaped products that contained THC, often along with other vape products
  • 33% exclusively vaped THC-containing products

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)3 and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend against all vaping, both organizations especially recommend not vaping THC oil. The risk is greater from illegally manufactured or modified vape products, which are more common in states where marijuana remains illegal. However, even with legal products, vaping THC oil just one time can significantly harm lungs.

Vaping And Cigarette Smoking

In terms of cigarette smoking, while many youth believe, mistakenly, that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes, research indicates the opposite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teenagers and young adults. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and has been shown to have the potential of harming adolescent brain development, which continues into the early 20s. Additionally, e-cigarettes often times contain other harmful substances besides nicotine, increasing their harmful effects. It has also been shown that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become regular cigarette smokers as they get older.

Most alarming is that data shows that if smoking by youth – in any form – continues at the current rate in the United States, over 5.5 million of today’s youth younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That amounts to about 1 in every 13 American youth aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.

What are vapes, or e-cigarettes?

  • E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol, or mix of small particles in the air.
  • E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid.
  • E-cigarettes can look like regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes, USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items.
  • E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).”
  • Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called “vaping.”