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Vaping Marijuana | Risks & Health Effects

Published on April 15, 2021
Vaping Marijuana | Risks & Health Effects

Marijuana is a popular psychoactive drug derived from the marijuana plant, also known as the Cannabis plant. It can cause relaxation and euphoria (intense joy). 

In the past, most people who used marijuana either smoked it or mixed it with food to eat. Recently, though, another form of marijuana use has surged in popularity: vaping. 

How Do People Vape Marijuana?

To vape marijuana, you need a vaping device, also called a vaporizer or electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette).

These devices may resemble household items, such as pens or flashlights, or tobacco products, such as cigarettes or cigars. They heat substances into an aerosol or vapor that you can inhale.

Some marijuana vaping devices heat dry marijuana. They’re usually called dry herb devices. 

However, most marijuana vaping devices heat liquid that contains marijuana concentrates. These concentrates contain cannabinoids, which are compounds found in marijuana. 

They include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD can relax you, while THC can make you feel euphoric or “high.” 

Risks Of Vaping Marijuana

Some people, especially high school students and young adults, view vaping marijuana as a safer alternative to smoking it

Indeed, vaping exposes your lungs to fewer toxic particulates than smoking does. 

However, vaping is not necessarily safer. In fact, it poses a number of dangers, including:

EVALI

Since 2019, there’s been an outbreak of EVALI, which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury. Common symptoms of this potentially fatal lung illness include:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • chills
  • fever

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most cases of EVALI involve the cannabinoid THC.

They also usually involve the additive Vitamin E acetate. This synthetic form of vitamin E is sometimes used as a thickening agent for marijuana vaping liquid. While it’s typically harmless when taken as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin, it can harm your lungs when inhaled. 

Due to these findings, both the CDC and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have urged people to not vape products that contain THC or any vaping products from the black market (since you can’t be sure of the ingredients).

Health Problems From Other Ingredients

THC and Vitamin E acetate aren’t the only ingredients you have to worry about. Marijuana vaping products might also contain other dangerous substances, which don’t always appear on the ingredients list. These substances may include:

  • propylene glycol and polyethylene, which are thinning agents that produce carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds) when heated 
  • diacetyl, a flavoring agent that can cause bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (also called “popcorn lung”), a life-threatening lung disease 
  • toxic metals that can break off from the vaping device and enter the vaping liquid
  • tiny particulates that can irritate the lungs and cause problems like bronchitis (a type of lung inflammation that can cause wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath)

Side Effects Of Marijuana

Whether you vape, smoke, eat or use marijuana another way, you may experience harmful side effects, usually due to THC. 

Marijuana concentrates in vaping liquids have extremely high THC levels that typically range from 40 to 80%. In contrast, the THC levels of marijuana plant materials used for smoking average around 20%.

That means vaping may pose a higher risk of marijuana side effects, which can include:

  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia 
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
  • depression 
  • problems with memory, attention, and problem-solving, especially if you’re under 18
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure

Marijuana Addiction

If you vape marijuana regularly, you may develop marijuana addiction, especially if you’re under 18. 

Also called marijuana use disorder, this disease makes you feel unable to stop using the drug, regardless of the consequences. To recover, you may need to attend an addiction treatment program.

If you or a loved one struggles with marijuana use, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our comprehensive treatment options.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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