Parents Ask: Is Vaping Marijuana Bad for You?

marijuana vaporizing

Vaping is growing in popularity, as more teenagers today use vape pens than conventional cigarettes. In fact, high school students are using vape pens – also called e-cigarettes – at a greater rate than adults. Approximately 2 in 5 high school seniors have vaped in the past year – a 34 percent increase from 2017. More than 13 percent of these students have vaped marijuana or hash oil in recent months, as well, according to the latest Monitoring the Future Survey.

Vaping is considered an alternative to smoking. It involves inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. This vapor usually contains nicotine, flavoring, and a combination of other (often unknown) chemicals. Some people use these devices to vape THC (or marijuana), considering it “safer” than smoking a typical joint.

It’s important to note that e-cigarette and vape pen manufacturers are not obligated to report their ingredients, so users don’t always know what’s in them. Most teenagers who vape, for example, believe they are just vaping flavoring, such as bubble gum, mango, and mint, when in fact, the most popular vaping devices (such as the sleek-looking JUUL) do not have nicotine-free options.

Nonetheless, many people – adults and teens alike – view vaping devices as safe. But are they as “safe” as they’re made out to be? If you are a parent, should you be concerned about your teen’s vaping habit? Should you be asking, what is my teen actually vaping? With this increasing trend, many parents cannot tell whether their child is vaporizing just flavor, nicotine, marijuana, or other synthetic drugs.

What’s in that Vape Pen?

Vaping marijuana, or more specifically, vaping THC (the chemical responsible for marijuana’s “high”), is a growing trend among young people. In fact, from 2017 to 2018, past-month vaping of marijuana jumped across all grades. Generally, teens and young adults see three benefits of vaping THC versus smoking it:

  • Vaping marijuana does not produce the typical, telltale smell that you’d get from smoking a joint, blunt, or pipe. It enables teens and young adults to use marijuana without being caught as easily. As a parent, it’s important to know that vaping marijuana is in fact possible – and it’s important to ask questions.
  • Vaping marijuana often means consuming higher concentrations of THC than you’d ingest from smoking weed. For users, this means more exposure to the drug's mind altering effects (and addictive ingredient).
  • Vaping marijuana does not bear the same risks of inhaling smoke, such as lung disease, chronic bronchitis, or heart problems. But does it come with its own risks?

Is Vaping Marijuana Bad for Teens?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, based on the 2018 MTF survey, has raising concerns about the impact vaping has on brain health and potential for addiction, of both nicotine and marijuana.

While research is still being done on this newly rising trend, vaping marijuana comes with a string of dangers for young people. As more youth use vape pens to “get high,” they also increase their risk of marijuana addiction. About 1 in 11 people who use marijuana become addicted to it, no matter how it is used. The risk is more for teens, as national statistics show that people who start using marijuana before age 18 are up to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.

Not only is vaping more popular than smoking cigarettes, marijuana use is also more common among teens than cigarette smoking. And only 27 percent of 12th graders perceive regular marijuana use as very risky or harmful. Especially when vaping the substance, they see it as relatively safe or natural.

Yet marijuana use, in any form, can cause many detrimental consequences for teens, including long-term effects on memory, drops in IQ and academic performance, and greater vulnerability to psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. Read more about the dangers by in the article, “Is Marijuana Bad for You?”

You may be asking, what about regular vaping? Is vaping, in general, bad for you? While the long-term consequences of vaping are unknown, experts do know that regular vaping in the teen years does in fact lead to addiction and a higher risk of smoking cigarettes later in life.

The adolescent brain is undergoing major, dynamic, developmental changes. Vaping – whether it is nicotine or marijuana – can impact that brain progress, introducing addictive substances into teenage brains’ reward system. Think about it this way: does your teenager have a JUUL? If so, JUUL pods always contain nicotine, equating to the same amount of nicotine found in a pack of cigarettes. But if your teen has used marijuana previously, it is highly likely that he or she is vaping marijuana, as well. One study of Connecticut high school students found that one in four students who have vaped and have smoked marijuana in their lifetime, also vape marijuana using their electronic device.

It is important that we – as parents, clinicians, educators, and treatment providers – understand the potential risks associated with both marijuana use and vaporizing. Know the signs of marijuana addiction in teens. As the appeal of vape pens grows among younger demographics, and as access to these devices gets easier, we must think about how exactly vaping could impact the growing teenage brain.

For more information about the growing trend of vaporizing, head over to the Monitoring the Future website to read their latest press release. If you suspect your teen is addicted, or are concerned about his or her vaping habits, please do not hesitate to reach out. Turnbridge’s clinical and support staff are always here for you. Call us at 877-581-1793 to learn about our drug treatment programs for adolescents and young adults.