The dramatic rise in vaping among teens is alarming to pediatricians and parents alike. It’s common for teens’ first exposure to vaping to come as an effect of peer pressure, says Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC pediatrician.
“The rate at which vaping has increased over the last several years see is really scary for me to see as a pediatrician,” Williamson says.
CHOC teen advisers, a group of teens active in their community, committed to academic success, and who support CHOC’s mission, offer their advice for teens struggling to deal with peer pressure to vape.
It’s just not worth it
“My freshman year of high school, I was offered the opportunity vape more than 10 times. In these situations, it’s your choice how to respond. Vaping is simply not worth it. Do not be guilted or tempted by those around you.” – Andei, age 16
Consider the long-term consequences
“You may not feel it at first, but as you vape, your lungs are being damaged. You could end up in the hospital as a result of vaping. Turn down the offer to vape and walk away from the situation.” – Sam, age 12
Offer a valid excuse
“My parents always told me that to get out of a peer pressure situation, I could tell a white lie and blame it on them. I could say something like, “My parents are super strict and will drug test me, so I can’t. Or, I remove myself from situations by saying I have to get to volleyball practice or have another commitment.” – Noah, age 17
Complications of addiction
“Teens endure tremendous social pressure, which makes it easier for teens to fall victim to vaping. Avoiding peer pressure to vape might not be an easy task, but it’s far easier than having to withdraw from addiction.” – Christian, age 17
“Always think about the serious health consequences of vaping. It’s very addictive, causes breathing difficulties and increases your risk of cancer or even death.” – Lauren, age 15
“Although it is marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, they contain addictive chemicals. It’s a newer trend, and some teens may not be as educated on the dangers of vaping.” – Layla, age 14
“Vaping can change your life in an unhealthy way. Not only can you damage your lungs, but it can impact your life in others way, too. You could be punished by your school and parents, as well.” — Carina, age 15
Re-evaluate your friend group
“Walk away from the situation and stop hanging out with friends who are pressuring you. That means they don’t care about you. Find new friends who do.” –Trevor, age 15
“Schools take vaping seriously. They can take away your ability to participate in activities, sports or dances.” – Jorian, age 15
Harmful effects of vaping
As more teens develop an addiction to vaping nicotine or CBD oil, Williamson has treated more and more teens with lung problems, agitation and anxiety.
Vaping hasn’t been around long enough for us to know its long-term effects on the body. But health experts are reporting serious lung damage in people who vape, including some deaths.
Irritate the lungs
May cause serious lung damage and even death
Can lead to smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco use
Some people use e-cigarettes to vape marijuana, THC oil and other dangerous chemicals. Besides irritating the lungs, these drugs also affect how someone thinks, acts and feels.
By Dr. Jennie Gary, pediatric resident at CHOC, and Dr. Terez Yonan, adolescent medicine specialist at CHOC
Did you know that 45 percent of all high school seniors have tried marijuana? Marijuana use now exceeds cigarette use among high schoolers, according to a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Despite the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in California, parents and teens should be aware that recreational use of marijuana is still illegal for ALL minors under 21 years old.
What does the legalization of marijuana mean for our children and teens? Youth will now have easier access to marijuana, possibly through relatives, friends, or the use of fake IDs. With these new laws now in effect, how your child or teenager views marijuana may change as well. As advertising for and usage of legal marijuana becomes more widespread in our communities, adolescents may be less likely to understand the real dangers of marijuana use.
Many people feel that using marijuana is safe, but there are serious concerns. Parents should be aware of signs of acute marijuana intoxication in teenagers. These include slurred speech, red eyes, dry mouth, increased appetite, and changes in mood such as euphoria or anxiety. Other problematic effects that can come with even occasional use include impaired judgment and slowed reaction time, which can lead to unintentional injury or motor vehicle accidents. Frequent use of marijuana can cause long-lasting effects including learning difficulties, impaired brain development, lower IQ, lung disease, addiction and mental health disorders. As medical providers, we worry about marijuana as even one time use of marijuana can trigger a psychotic break in someone with a genetic predisposition for mental illness.
Medical marijuana refers to the use of the marijuana plant or its extracts (called cannabinoids) to treat symptoms of certain illnesses, such as nausea in chemotherapy patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana itself as a medicine. However, there are currently two FDA-approved cannabinoid medications. For parents who use marijuana for medical or other purposes, it is important to always keep all marijuana and marijuana-containing products hidden in child-proof containers that are out of reach to help prevent accidental ingestions.
Talk with your middle school and high school-aged children about marijuana and other drugs. We encourage open and honest discussions between you and your child. In general, it is best to discuss general drug use scenarios and not to share your own experiences with drug use with your children. Be sure to speak to your child’s provider about screening for substance use if you have any concerns about your child.
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In observance of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, we spoke to Sgt. Phil McMullin, public information officer with Orange Police Department, on the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids and its rise in popularity among teens.
What are synthetic cannabinoids/marijuana?
Synthetic cannabinoids refer to a growing number of man-made, mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense).
What is in them?
Synthetic marijuana is a designer drug that does not contain marijuana but rather contains any of a variety of plants sprayed with laboratory-produced chemicals.
Synthetic cannabinoid products may also be contaminated with other drugs or toxic chemicals, such as synthetic cathinones (“bath salts” or “flakka”).
They contain powerful chemicals called cannabimimetics and can cause dangerous health effects.
Why are they called “cannabinoids”?
These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana.
Synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” (or “fake weed”), and they are often marketed as “safe” legal alternatives to that drug.
What are the effects of synthetic cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoid products can be toxic. As a result, people who smoke these products can react with rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.
Synthetic cannabinoids can affect brain function. Signs and symptoms include:
Agitation and irritability
Confusion and concentration problems
Hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior
Sleepiness and dizziness
Heart attack, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, and stroke
In 2013, Colorado hospitals reported an increase in admissions to emergency departments from people using synthetic marijuana. Of the 127 patients, over half had rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, many had aggressive or violent behavior, agitation or confusion, 16 had to be admitted (10 to the intensive care unit), and one 15-year-old boy died.
In Florida, there was a report that two young siblings using Spice were taken to the emergency department because they were suffering from an “acute cerebral infarction,” otherwise known as a stroke. This report also talks about other patients coming in with heart attacks from using these substances.
The LA Times reported that in 2011 there were 29,000 emergency department visits nationwide from fake marijuana use, up from 11,000 in 2010.
Who is buying this drug?
A University of Michigan study revealed that from 2011 to 2013, 10.1 percent of high school seniors reported past-year use of synthetic cannabinoids.
The drug is the second most used illicit drug among high school seniors, behind marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
These drugs are popular with high school-aged teens, in part because they are easy to get and are marketed as “natural” and “harmless.”
In 2017 poison centers received reports of nearly 2,000 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids.
Is it legal?
The federal government has banned many specific synthetic cannabinoids
Makers of synthetic cannabinoids try to get around these laws by creating new products with different ingredients or by labeling them “not for human consumption.”
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By Sandy Merino and Jennifer Yen, clinical pharmacists at CHOC
With final exams right around the corner, teens will be tempted to turn to stimulants as they hope to cram in some last-minute late-night studying. Kids seem to be under more pressure now than ever before. Get to know the dangers of stimulant abuse to help your kids make smart decisions and stay healthy while performing under pressure.
These days, stimulants are only prescribed to treat a few health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and rare cases of depression that have not responded to other treatments. Any time these drugs are taken in a way that is not intended, it is considered abuse.. This includes taking someone else’s prescription, taking the medication in ways other than prescribed, and taking the stimulant to get high. A basic understanding of stimulant abuse can help you as a parent protect your family and friends against it.
The Science Behind Stimulants
As the name suggests, prescription stimulants increase biochemical activity in the brain that can help boost alertness, attention and energy. The most common prescription stimulants are Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately ten percent of children between ages 4 and 17 years are diagnosed with ADHD, and about 60 percent of them take medication. When they are taken as prescribed they are generally safe and effective. Doctors prescribe these medications starting at low doses and then gradually increase them, monitoring for effectiveness and side effects. The lowest effective dose is then continued, and the child is monitored on a regular basis. When taken as prescribed, many of these children will experience a reduction in ADHD symptoms and an improvement their academic performance, behavior, social relationships, and self-esteem.
Unfortunately, stimulants can be abused, and often by friends and family. Did you know that almost ten percent of high school seniors admit to abusing ADHD medications in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse? This number is as high as 35 percent among college students.
Pressure to perform tempts teens to turn to stimulants
Teens and young adults who abuse stimulants often do so for a better ability to concentrate, increased energy and more confidence. Academic pressures are the main trigger for teens and young adults to abuse stimulants, such as pulling all-nighters to study. What they might not realize, though, is that these drugs can be habit-forming when abused and can be dangerous when taken in high doses. Stimulants can speed up heart rate and blood pressure, and cause insomnia and anxiety. Although students expect stimulants to help their academic performance, studies have found that stimulants do not increase learning or thinking ability when taken by people who are not diagnosed with ADHD. Students who abuse prescription stimulants actually had lower GPAs in high school and college than those who didn’t abuse prescription stimulants, according to the NIH. Although a late-night study session and some Adderall might seem like a good way to cram for exams, it actually doesn’t work, may hurt them in the short-term, and definitely won’t help them with their long-term goals.
While some teens turn to caffeine pills or Adderall medication believing it will help them focus and cram for school exams, others turn to energy drinks. Many teens aren’t aware of exactly how much caffeine they’re consuming in each energy drink. Although experts consider 200-300 mg of caffeine a day to be a moderate amount for adults, teens should limit their consumption to much less, about 100 mg per day. Meanwhile, many caffeinated drinks easily contain 80-160 mg of caffeine in one serving. Some popular energy drinks contain up to 240 mg per can. Teens consume caffeine in more places than they realize: hot chocolate, iced tea and non-cola soda all contain caffeine. Too much of it can lead to anxiety, dizziness and headaches.
Abusing stimulants to get high
While some teens abuse stimulants for academic performance, others may use them to get high. When stimulant medications are taken suddenly and in ways not prescribed, they can rapidly increase dopamine activity in the brain, causing a sense of euphoria, which can increase the risk of addiction. This effect on the body and brain is similar to the effect of illicit drugs. Prescription stimulants are normally meant to be taken by mouth in a pill form, but other ways of abusing them include crushing the tablets to snort or inject them. This can cause additional problems because inactive ingredients in the tablets can block small blood vessels, leading to severe damage to the heart, brain and other organs, not to mention the risks associated with intravenous drug abuse, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Another form of prescription stimulants is a prescription patch, which contains an entire day’s worth of medication that is meant to release slowly over time through the skin. Some people abuse the patch by extracting the medication and consuming it all at once or by chewing on the patch. This is an extremely unsafe method of prescription drug abuse due to the more rapid method of exposure.
Most commonly abused stimulants and their side effects
Reason for abuse
Amphetamines (Eg: Adderall and Dexedrine)
Methylphenidate (Eg: Ritalin and Concerta)
The Smart Drug
Academic performance enhancement
To stay alert
Sense of anger
Increase in blood pressure
Dangerously high body temperatures
Risk for seizures and stroke at high doses
If you or your family has ADHD medication at home, be aware that it may be of interest to friends and family. Keep a close eye on your supply, especially if you have other teens and young adults in the house. Always keep medication out of reach of children. Keep open lines of communication with your kids about the pressures they experience and healthy perspectives on drug abuse. If you notice any red flags like a rapidly dwindling medication supply or sudden increases in cash flow, talk to them about it.
If you notice some changes in your teen and suspect drug abuse, look out for red flags such as: insomnia, excessive weight loss, twitching, disinterest in their hobbies, memory problems, neglect of personal appearance, sudden disinterest in work, school, or family responsibilities, or change in spending habits (for example, money missing or sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation). If you notice or suspect signs of a drug problem in your teen, take action right away. Consult their primary care physician or school guidance counselor.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis and need to speak with someone immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK. This is a crisis helpline that can help with a variety of issues.