As weed gets stronger, teens are getting sicker: psychosis, addiction, and vomiting all the time.
With THC levels close to 100%, cannabis products on the market today are making some teens very dependent and very sick.
Elyse started vaping cannabis when she was 14 years old.
Since it didn’t smell, it was easy for her to hide it from her parents. And it was easy to use—just push a button and breathe in. She was hooked after the second or third time.
“That was crazy. “Insane euphoria,” Elysse, who is now 18 and whose last name is being kept private to protect her privacy, said. “Nothing was happening quickly. I got super hungry. It was all very funny.”
But the happiness turned into something more disturbing over time. At times, the marijuana made Elysse feel more sad or anxious. Another time, she fell asleep in the shower and woke up thirty minutes later.
This wasn’t your typical pot. The oil and wax she bought from dealers were usually about 90% THC, which is the part of marijuana that makes you feel high. But she thought these products were pretty safe because they were made from cannabis and almost everyone she knew used them. She started to vape more than once a day. Her parents didn’t find out until 2019, which was about a year later.
“We put her in a program that would help her. “To be honest with you, we tried everything,” Elyse’s father said about her addiction.
In 2020, she started getting sick for no clear reason, and she would throw up over and over again. At first, she, her parents, and even her doctors didn’t know what was going on. Elyse said that during one episode, she threw up for an hour in a mall bathroom. “I had the feeling that my body was floating.”
She thought that she had thrown up at least 20 times in two hours another time.
Not until 2021, when she had been to the emergency room six times for stomach problems and spent some time in the hospital, did a gastroenterologist figure out that she had cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition that makes heavy marijuana users throw up often.
Even though cannabis use is illegal for people under 21 in the United States, it has become easier to get because many states have legalized it. But experts say that the high-THC cannabis products of today, which are very different from the joints that people smoked 30 years ago, are poisoning some heavy users, including teens.
Marijuana isn’t as dangerous as a drug like fentanyl, but it can still hurt you, especially if you’re young and your brain is still growing. Teenagers who use cannabis in high doses often and without control may also experience psychosis, which could lead to a psychiatric disorder that lasts for life, a higher risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, changes in the structure and connections of the brain, and poor memory.
But despite these risks, there aren’t many rules about how strong the products on the market are.
‘I felt so trapped.’
In 1995, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that the average amount of THC in samples of cannabis was about 4%. In 2017, that number was 17%. THC is now being taken out of cannabis to make oils, edibles, wax, sugar-sized crystals, and a product called shatter that looks like glass and has a high THC level, sometimes over 95%.
On the other hand, the average amount of CBD in cannabis plants has been going down. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that has been linked to relief from seizures, pain, anxiety, and inflammation. Studies show that less CBD could make cannabis more likely to be addictive.
“THC concentrates are about as close to the cannabis plant as strawberries are to frosted strawberry pop tarts,” In a report about the health risks of highly concentrated cannabis, Beatriz Carlini, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug and Alcohol Institute, wrote about the dangers of using a lot of cannabis.