Teens who use concentrated marijuana more likely to use other drugs

Teens who used a concentrated form of marijuana — sometimes called dabs, wax, shatter or crumble — are more likely to also use other drugs than kids who avoid marijuana, a new study suggests.

Marijuana concentrate can come in multiple forms, including oils and butter-like compounds, and can contain very high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. It’s often ingested using a vaping device and doesn’t smell like traditional pot.

In the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers surveyed almost 50,000 adolescents in Arizona. The researchers found that among teens who used any form of cannabis, 72 percent had experience with the more potent products.

Those findings should serve as an alert to parents who may not even know their kids are vaping, said the study’s lead author, Madeline Meier, an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University.

“I don’t know that parents know about this stuff,” Meier said. “If I weren’t a marijuana researcher, I don’t know if I saw [a vape with marijuana] that I would know what it was. Parents should educate themselves about what these forms of cannabis look like.”

To get a better sense of teen drug use, Meier and her colleagues surveyed 47,142 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades from 245 schools across Arizona in 2018. The students were asked whether they’d ever used marijuana or marijuana concentrate, as well as whether they had used either in the past month. They were also asked about other drug use, peer substance use and whether they thought cannabis was safe.

Some questions on the survey were designed to reveal whether teens were rebellious, engaged in risky behaviors or doing poorly academically.

Overall, the researchers found that 33 percent of the teens had tried some form of pot and 24 percent said they had used concentrated forms. The likelihood of a student using cannabis rose with age: 20 percent of the eighth graders said they’d used the drug, compared to 35 percent of the 10th graders and 46 percent of the 12th graders.

Similarly, 15 percent of the eighth graders, 25 percent of the 10th graders and 33 percent of 12th graders said they had used cannabis concentrates. Concentrate users had the highest rates of having tried other drugs.