Alice was 14 when she first started using cannabis.
There was no smell, which made it easy to hide from parents. And it was convenient; Just press a button and inhale. After the second or third attempt, she was hooked.
“It was crazy. Crazy excitement,” said Alice, now 18, whose last name is hidden to protect her privacy. “Everything was moving slowly. I was very hungry. Everything was fun.”
But that excitement eventually turned out to be even more disturbing. Sometimes marijuana makes Alice feel more anxious or sad. The next time, she went out to take a shower, only to get up half an hour later.
This was not your average weed. The oils and waxes he bought from dealers were usually about 90% THC, the psychological ingredient in marijuana. But since these products are derived from cannabis, and almost everyone knew they were using them, she believed they were relatively safe. She began to steam several times a day. Her parents didn’t find her until about a year later, 2019.
“We found him at an event to help. We tried hard love. We tried our best to be honest with you, ”said Alice’s father.
Starting in 2020, he began to have a mysterious illness in which he used to throw up repeatedly. At first, she and her parents and her doctors were surprised. During one episode, Alice said, she threw the stool in the bathroom for an hour. “I felt like my body was jumping.”
Next time, she estimated that she threw at least 20 times over a two-hour period.
It wasn’t until 2021, after half a dozen trips to the emergency room for stomach ailments, including some hospital stays, that a gastroenterologist diagnosed him with cannabinoid hypermesis syndrome, a condition that causes frequent vomiting in heavy cannabis users.
Although recreational cannabis is illegal in the United States for those under the age of 21, it has become more accessible as many states have legalized it. But experts say today’s high-THC cannabis products – much different from smoked joints decades ago – are poisoning some heavy users, including teenagers.
Marijuana is not as dangerous as a drug like fentanyl, but it can have potentially harmful effects – especially for young people whose brains are still developing. In addition to uncontrolled vomiting and addiction, adolescents who often use high doses of cannabis may experience psychosis that can lead to lifelong mental disorders, the development of depression and suicidal thoughts, changes in brain anatomy and connectivity, and impaired memory.
But despite these risks, the potential of products on the market is largely erratic.
‘I felt so trapped’
In 1995, the average concentration of THC in cannabis samples captured by the Drug Enforcement Administration was approximately 4%. By 2017, it was 17%. And now cannabis growers are extracting THC to make products such as oil, food, wax, sugar-shaped crystals, and glass called shatter that advertises high THC levels – in some cases over 95%.
Meanwhile, average levels of CBD – a non-toxic compound from the cannabis plant that is bound to relieve seizures, pain, anxiety and inflammation – have declined in the cannabis plant. Studies suggest that lower levels of CBD may make cannabis more addictive.
THC-focused “strawberries are close to cannabis plants like frosted strawberry pop-tarts,” Beatrice Carlini, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Addiction, Drug and Alcohol Institute, wrote in a report on highly concentrated health risks. Hemp
Although cannabis is legal for recreational use in 19 states and Washington, D.C., and for medical use in 37 states and DC, only Vermont and Connecticut have caps on THC concentration. Both restrictions are concentrated above 60%, except for pre-filled cartridges, and do not allow cannabis plant content to exceed 30% THC. But there is little evidence to suggest that these specific standards are safe in any way.
National surveys suggest that marijuana use among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students will decline in 2021, a change that is partly due to the epidemic. However, in the two-year interval from 2017-19, the number of children reporting vaping marijuana in all grades in the past 30 days has nearly tripled among high school seniors. In 2020, 35% of senior and 44% of college students reported using marijuana last year.
Alice calmed down before entering the college, but soon everyone on the dormitory floor seemed to be using herbs.
“Not just carts,” she said, referring to the marijuana cartridges used in the vapor pen, “but bongs, pipes, bowls – everything.” Every morning, she found students washing their bongs in the communal bathroom at 8 a.m. to prepare for the “morning smoke”.
A few weeks later, she started steaming concentrated THC again, she said, and even dark thoughts began to come, sometimes sitting alone in her room and crying for hours.
“I felt very trapped,” said Ellis, who has been clean for about two months now. “It’s no longer fun in any way.”
Adolescents are particularly affected by cannabis
Michael McDonnell, an addiction treatment specialist at Washington State University College of Medicine, said more research is needed to better understand the prevalence of psychosis and cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome in adolescents and others who use high-potency products.
However, he added, “We know for sure that there is a dose-dependent relationship between THC and psychosis.”
A rigorous study found that daily cannabis users in Europe and Brazil were five times more likely to develop mental disorders than those who never used cannabis.
Another study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2021 reported that, in 1995, 2% of schizophrenia diagnoses in Denmark were related to marijuana use, but by 2010, that number had risen from 6% to 8%, which researchers attributed to the increase. The use and potency of cannabis.
Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which can often be reduced by hot baths and showers, has long been associated with the use of high-dose cannabis. As for psychology, it is not clear why some people develop it and others do not.
The director of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent Use and Addiction Program, Dr. Sharon Levy said, “There is no doubt that high concentration products are increasing the number of people who have had a bad experience with cannabis.”
‘Oh, well, it’s just weeds’
Laura Stack, who lives in the Highlands Ranch of Colorado, said that when her son Johnny first admitted to using marijuana at the age of 14, she said to herself, “Oh, it’s just weeds. Thank God it wasn’t cocaine.”
She used marijuana twice in high school and was warned that marijuana “eats up your brain cells.” But at the time, she wasn’t too worried: “I used it. I’m fine. What’s the big deal?”
“But I didn’t know,” he added, referring to how marijuana has changed in recent years. “Many parents like me are completely ignorant.”
Initially, her son had no mental health problems and excelled at school. But he eventually began using high-strength marijuana products several times a day, and this, Stack said, “made him completely confused.”
By the time he reached college, he had undergone various addiction treatment programs. He was so mad that he thought the crowd was following him and that his college was the basis for the FBI, Stack said. At one point, after he left his childhood home, he threatened to kill the family’s dog if his parents did not pay. His mother later found out that Johnny had received his own medical marijuana card when he was 18 and started treating young children.
After spending a lot of time in a mental hospital, doctors diagnosed Johnny with a serious case of THC abuse, Stack said. He was prescribed antipsychotic medication, which helped – but then he stopped taking it. Johnny died in 2019 after falling from a six-story building. He was 19 years old. A few days before his death, Stack said Johnny had apologized to him, adding that the weed had ruined his mind and his life, adding, “I’m sorry, and I love you.”
There is ‘no known safe limit’
When using cannabis, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much THC enters one’s brain. That’s because it’s not just the frequency of use and the THC concentration that affects the dose; It is also a matter of how fast the chemical reaches the brain. In vaporizers, the speed of delivery can vary depending on the THC dissolved, the strength of the device’s battery, and how warm the product is when heated.
High doses of THC are more likely to cause anxiety, irritability, insanity and psychosis.
“The younger you are, the more vulnerable your brain becomes to developing these problems,” Levy said.
According to the Drug Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, young people are more likely to become addicted when they start using marijuana before the age of 18.
In addition, there is growing evidence that cannabis can alter the brain in adolescence, a period when it is already undergoing structural changes. Until more is known, researchers and physicians recommend postponing the use of cannabis until later in life.
“Children always ask me, ‘What if I do it only once a month? Is that okay? ‘”Levi said.” All I can tell them is that there is no known safe haven. “