Ohio group aims to stem surge in adolescent marijuana vaping

A survey indicates that the rate has doubled since 2017.

COLUMBUS – Groups working to prevent substance abuse have said immediate action is needed to stem the surge in youth vaping marijuana.

In one Federal Drug Survey 2020, 1 in 5 students in Grades 10 and 12 report having vaped marijuana in the past year. While this is roughly the same as 2019, it is still nearly double the rate of 2017.

Fran Gerbig, executive director of the Prevention Action Alliance and certified prevention consultant, said vaping poses legitimate health risks, including harmful substances used in vaping liquid and the risk of lung damage from vaping.

“Then you add the components of the marijuana,” Gerbig said. “Not only do you have an impact on the lungs, but also on that person’s cognitive ability. You have an impact on the potential risk of developing significant mental illnesses and mental health problems.

She said that decision-making, memory and concentration can be affected for days after using marijuana.

A recent study found that the more young people are exposed to videos with electronic cigarettes, the more likely they are to use the product.

Gerbig said the pandemic has removed some of the protective factors that keep young people away from vaping and marijuana, while reinforcing some risk factors.

“Their abilities to socialize were limited, and because of that we saw boredom – we saw increased stress, anxiety and depression,” Gerbig said. “And they had some time left where they could be on social media to see vaping being modeled. I really think that cut the wind in some of the prevention work that is going on.”

Gerbig said vaping during the pandemic is particularly troubling, as COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system.

She said everyone has a role to play in prevention and encouraged parents, teachers and other trusted adults to be proactive in educating young people about the dangers of substance use.

“Young people are smart,” said Gerbig. “And if they get good data and understand the expectations of their parents and other caring adults, they’re very likely to listen and do the same.

Prevention Action Alliance online substance abuse resources, including fact sheets with information on vaping marijuana.

About Margaret Shaw

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