A new study shows that in at least one state, a significant percentage of adolescents are using a potent form of marijuana known as cannabis concentrate. The study, published today (Aug. 26) in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed data from nearly 50,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students in Arizona. Researchers found that one-third of the participants said they had used marijuana, and nearly a quarter said they had used marijuana concentrates at least once in their lifetime. Cannabis concentrates are high levels of a substance called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for the drug's narcotic effects. These concentrates are sometimes called "butane hash oil", "dab", "wax", "crumb " or "", they typically contain three times as much tetrahydrocannabinol as dried marijuana flower.
As more states legalize marijuana, the sale and marketing of cannabis concentrates is growing exponentially. But few studies have investigated how widespread the use of these products is, especially among adolescents. "The finding that so many teens are using marijuana concentrates is surprising," said study lead author Madeline Meyer, an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University, in an interview with Live Science magazine.
Meyer said the high rate of marijuana concentrate use among teens is concerning because some adult evidence suggests that using products containing high thc concentrations may increase a person's risk of psychosis, cognitive impairment and other disorders marijuana dependence.
What's more, those who are inexperienced with cannabis concentrates, or who don't use them regularly - which users likely make up the majority of adolescent users - are likely to be more prone to harmful side effects, such as unconsciousness or burns, the study's authors say. (Some types of cannabis concentrates are produced using flammable solvents, such as butane.)
It's worth noting that this new study only included teens in Arizona, and the percentage of teens using marijuana concentrates in other states is unknown. More research is needed to see if this trend is limited to Arizona or if it is happening in other states as well.
Usage rates may be similar in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, Meyer said, as they are in Arizona. However, she added that some states have legalized medical marijuana but not marijuana concentrates, so marijuana use in those states may be lower. It's unclear whether states that allow recreational marijuana use in addition to medical marijuana have higher rates of marijuana concentrate use among teens.
An annual national survey called "Monitoring the Future" (Monitoring the Future) looks at drug use among U.S. teens and, to some extent, at the use of concentrated marijuana. However, the survey classifies "concentrated THC" as a hallucinogen, so only teens who report using psychedelics are asked about concentrated THC use. As a result, this type of question tends to underestimate use, Meier said. In 2018, the Monitoring the Future survey found that only 1.1 percent of 12th graders reported using concentrated THC.
This new study also found that teens who used cannabis concentrates had much higher rates of e-cigarette use. In fact, teens who used cannabis concentrates were three times more likely to report using e-cigarettes compared to teens who used other forms of marijuana. (Teens may be using e-cigarettes vape marijuana).
Previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc) investigated nearly 200 cases of influenza A h1n1 lung disease associated with e-cigarette smoking. So far, investigators have not found a single cause for these illnesses, nor do they know if they are all related.
However, some doctors have speculated that the cases may be caused by a contaminant that is present in some formulations of marijuana products, as previously reported by Live Science. In fact, earlier this year, researchers described an 18-year-old who developed lung damage after using butane hash oil daily for three years. That case report was published in the journal Respiratory Medicine Case Reports.
Meier emphasized that the link between e-cigarette smoking and lung problems still needs to be investigated. However, she noted that some cannabis concentrates may contain residual or residual solvents, such as butane, which can be toxic.
Further research is needed to test whether adolescents who use marijuana concentrates are indeed at higher risk for substance use problems and marjiuana addiction.
In addition, "with findings showing high rates of marijuana use among adolescents and increased risks associated with marijuana use high in tetrahydrocannabinol, policymakers may consider limiting the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol in marijuana," the authors conclude.