Clearing the smoke: vaping cannabis among adolescents. Recent trends and implications
Background/Objectives: Alternative methods for consuming cannabis (e.g., vaping and edibles) have become more popular in the wake of U.S. cannabis legalization. Specific provisions of legal cannabis laws (LCL) may impact the likelihood that youth will use alternative methods and the age at which they first try the method – potentially magnifying or mitigating the developmental harms of cannabis use.?It is critical to understand how these new vaping devices affect adolescents when it comes to cannabis use and also co-use with other substances. The purpose of this study is to examine recent trends of cannabis use among youth, how cannabis is complemented with other substances such as alcohol, and the role vaporizers play when consuming cannabis.
Methods: First, we reviewed several distinct literatures relevant to the study question including papers examining the relationship between cannabis and other substances, cannabis and vaping, and also how LCLs may affect youth cannabis use. Second, in order to explore trends of cannabis use, the association between cannabis and other substances, and also trends of vaping cannabis, we conducted a secondary analysis using data from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey. 35,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders were surveyed across 2015-2018.
Results: 50% of 12th graders, and 34% of 8th and 10th graders who reported using cannabis, also reported using vaporizers regularly. Results were also high for cannabis and alcohol co-use: 47% of 12th graders, and 29% of 8th and 10th graders reported using cannabis and alcohol regularly. Finally, cannabis use was positively associated with the following factors: Friends that use cannabis, drug use at a party, and drug use at a friend’s home, results which confirm that youth are greatly influenced by their social environment.
Conclusion: This study is one of a very few that provide insight concerning the use of cannabis in vaping devices among adolescents. As the popularity of these devices continue to grow, and as cannabis is becoming legalized across the United States, vaping cannabis could become a real public health concern. Especially since there is very little empirical evidence concerning this matter, and also there is no clinical research examining the effects of higher potency levels delivered through these vaping devices. This study adds to the extant literature specific to the adolescent population and stresses the need for continued research with an emphasis consuming cannabis via vaping devices. Future studies can examine in further depth alternatives methods of consuming cannabis such as edibles. The present study provides a small sampling of the types of data that are needed to help guide policy decisions to effectively monitor adolescent cannabis use.