A bombshell pediatric study released Monday showed that while alcohol and drug use has declined amongst North American teenagers since 2013, vaping with cannabis has soared.
JAMA Pediatrics, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, found the percent of adolescents in the U.S. and Canada who say they had vaped cannabis more than doubled.
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Using combined data from 17 different studies that surveyed 198,845 adolescents, JAMA reported that 13.6 percent of teens had ever vaped the plant in 2020, up from 6.1 percent in 2013. The number of adolescent respondents who admitted to vaping cannabis during the past 12-months nearly doubled from 2017 to 2020, while 30-day prevalence increased more than five-fold from 2013 to 2020: 1.6 percent to 8.4 percent.
Researchers noted that consuming vaping oils, extracts and resins could be harmful to teens not using cannabis for diagnosed medical purposes, due to the high THC count found in the oils and the plant’s effect on developing brains.
Research has suggested that young cannabis users risk harming their prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in complex behaviors and decision making. Stunting the growth of that part of the brain can also affect how the area processes information later in life.
“The human brain goes through a major remodeling during adolescence,” report author Carmen C.W. Lim wrote. “With cannabis products now containing a higher level of THC compared with previous, their association with neurodevelopment could be stronger.
“(One of the 17 studies complied by JAMA) found that long-term use is associated with increased odds of other illicit drug dependence and many other health, social, and behavioral problems later in life,” Lim added. “Hence, physicians should ask about cannabis vaping in adolescents with a history of vaping or of other cannabis use.”
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The JAMA report noted that adolescent marijuana vaping increased with age. Surveys included in the report found that about one in three high school seniors vaped cannabis in 2018 alone. The numbers were significantly smaller for middle school and early high school-aged children.
Vaping products as a whole jumped 13-fold in the U.S. among middle and high school students from 2011 to 2018. The report claimed vaping’s popularity is driven by the accessibility of vaping devices, enjoyable flavors and social media advertising.