TEMPE, Ariz. — Recreational marijuana use among teens and adolescents certainly isn’t anything new. Dating all the way back to the “reefer madness” days of the 1930s and 40s, teens have been experimenting with marijuana, and adults have been trying to stop them. One thing that has changed, however, is the strength of the marijuana in question. Strains have steadily become more powerful and potent as the years have gone by, and much of the recreational weed being smoked today is significantly stronger than what was available just a few decades ago.
With this in mind, researchers from Arizona State University set out to examine marijuana use among Arizona teens and found that just about one in four (24%) had tried a highly potent form of marijuana usually referred to as marijuana concentrate. Additionally, one third (33%) of the nearly 50,000 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders surveyed admitted to trying some type of marijuana at least once.
Generally speaking, marijuana concentrate usually contains around three times more THC than a marijuana flower. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects, or “high” reported by users. While that’s all well and good from a recreational standpoint, higher THC doses have also been linked to a greater risk of marijuana addiction or dependency, cognitive impairment, and even psychosis.
In fact, after comparing teens who used this so-called “super” marijuana with those who only used traditional pot and those who hadn’t used the drug at all, the authors found that marijuana concentrate users were more at risk of becoming addicted. Researchers looked at a number of potential risk factors, such as perceived risk of harm from marijuana, parental and peer substance abuse, academic struggles, and perceived availability of drugs in the community. They determined that marijuana concentrate users were in a worse position than their peers across all considered risk factors.
“This is important because it shows that teens who have a diverse array of risk factors for developing marijuana addiction may be further amplifying their risk for addiction by using high-THC marijuana concentrates,” explains study co-author Dustin Pardini, an associate professor at ASU, in a release.
Among their other findings, the research team also discovered that teen concentrate users exhibited higher rates of e-cigarette use — which makes perfect sense considering that e-cigarettes can be used to vape marijuana concentrate. Vaping marijuana concentrate is essentially odorless and much harder to detect than traditional methods using marijuana, such as a bong or joint.
All of this just goes to show how far marijuana consumption methods have come. not only is the pot being used today stronger than ever, it’s also virtually impossible to detect in many scenarios. Furthermore, marijuana concentrates don’t look like traditional weed flowers or nuggets; instead concentrates usually look like wax or oil.
“What concerns me most is that parents might have no idea that their child is using marijuana, especially if their child is using marijuana concentrate,” comments Madeline Meier, an ASU assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead researcher. “Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents.”
The study’s authors say their findings support the recent decision by the FDA to place new restrictions on e-cigarette use as a way to reduce marijuana consumption.
Moving forward, the research team would like to conduct additional research to determine if concentrate users do indeed become addicted at higher rates than regular marijuana users.
The study is published in the scientific journal Pediatrics.