STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Vaping linked to marijuana use in young people, research says

Young people who vape are more likely to use marijuana, according to a study published Monday. The findings, researchers say, support the theory that nicotin...

Posted: Aug 12, 2019 4:00 PM

Young people who vape are more likely to use marijuana, according to a study published Monday. The findings, researchers say, support the theory that nicotine rewires the developing brain, changing how people respond to and crave addictive substances.

"Adolescents have a brain that's still changing and developing," said Dr. Nicholas Chadi, the lead author on the study, who conducted the research as a fellow in pediatric addiction medicine at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

When a young brain is exposed to an addictive substance such as nicotine, it "tends to be sensitized to other substances; it tends to seek a thrilling, rewarding sensation," said Chadi. "And so other substances like marijuana become more appealing."

The research, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, analyzed more than 20 pre-existing studies of people ages 10 to 24. The review found that the odds of marijuana use were 3.5 times higher in people who vaped compared to those who didn't.

That link suggests that "e-cigarettes really need to be considered in the broad category of addictive and harmful substances," said Chadi, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Montreal.

"We can't think of e-cigarettes as a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes with adolescents," he said, in part because "just like cigarettes, e-cigarettes increase your risk of using marijuana, and marijuana, we know, has several implications and negative health consequences in adolescents."

Teenage use of the drug is associated with declines in intelligence and mental function that persist into adulthood, according to some studies, and marijuana has been linked to psychosis, which can include hallucinations and delusions.

Review looked at correlation, not causation

Studies included in the new review looked for correlation, not causation, meaning that researchers couldn't prove that e-cigarettes directly caused increases in cannabis use. But when it comes to figuring out why marijuana use consistently increased in those who vaped, Chadi said "it's hard for me to find a better explanation."

"A reasonable hypothesis," he said, "is that e-cigarette use might cause at least a part of that increased risk of using marijuana."

Most of the 21 studies included in the review adjusted for gender, age, race and socioeconomic status, said Chadi. Research works best "by adjusting all of those factors, and repeating the same study in different parts of the world and using different designs," he said.

"The more times you do that, the less chances you have of finding an association that's not there, that's not true," he added.

Compared to young adults ages 18 to 24, teens younger than 17 were also more likely to use marijuana if they vaped, the review found. "The relationship seemed to be stronger in younger people versus older people," said Chadi. That makes sense, he said, because "a younger brain is more vulnerable to the effects of substances in general."

If a younger teen is exposed to e-cigarettes, "you would expect that there would be a higher risk of them using marijuana, versus an older adolescent or young adult who might have a more developed brain and might not be as sensitive to the negative effects of nicotine," he added.

Developing brains are more vulnerable, experts say

Experts have previously warned that nicotine changes the brain, interfering with development up until about 26 years old.

Adam Leventhal, director of the Health, Emotion, and Addiction Laboratory at the University of Southern California, told CNN earlier this year that "there's concern that the adolescent brain may be more vulnerable to the addictive effects of nicotine."

He added that "the circuits underlying pleasure and the pursuit of novel, enjoyable experiences develop much faster than the circuits that promote decision making, impulse control and rational thinking."

The nation's top doctor has also weighed in. Former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, in a 2016 report, said that "compared with older adults, the brain of youth and young adults is more vulnerable to the negative consequences of nicotine exposure."

The link between nicotine and marijuana is not new. A study published last year, for example, found that teens who vaped and used hookah were up to four times more likely to use marijuana later.

Some teens put cannabis into e-cigarettes, with almost 1 in 11 middle and high school students saying they have vaped marijuana, according to a report published last year.

While more than two dozen states have legalized marijuana in some way -- either for medical or recreational use -- Chadi warned that the drug is not risk-free, especially in young people. It can affect memory, learning and higher-level functioning, he said, and "those are risks that don't go away."

West Lafayette
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 63°
Kokomo
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 60°
Rensselaer
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Fowler
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Williamsport
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Crawfordsville
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 58°
Frankfort
Scattered Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 60°
Delphi
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Monticello
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Logansport
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Mainly Dry and Warmer Rest of the Week.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 112626

Reported Deaths: 3520
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20832759
Lake10292318
Elkhart6415109
St. Joseph6156102
Allen6029200
Hamilton4724109
Vanderburgh344530
Hendricks2673122
Monroe247436
Tippecanoe226913
Johnson2268123
Clark215056
Porter207845
Cass19329
Delaware188261
Vigo178123
Madison159575
LaPorte137739
Floyd131461
Howard128563
Kosciusko120217
Warrick119936
Bartholomew115357
Marshall98924
Dubois95418
Boone95146
Hancock91143
Grant89133
Noble89132
Henry77024
Wayne74414
Jackson7409
Morgan70038
Shelby66529
Daviess64427
Dearborn63228
LaGrange63111
Clinton59212
Harrison56024
Putnam53710
Lawrence50528
Montgomery50521
Knox5019
Gibson4854
White48114
DeKalb45611
Decatur45439
Miami4263
Fayette41813
Greene41835
Jasper3862
Steuben3707
Scott35610
Sullivan33012
Jennings31212
Posey3060
Franklin29925
Clay2935
Orange28524
Ripley2838
Carroll27013
Wabash2618
Washington2611
Starke2537
Whitley2526
Wells2482
Adams2453
Jefferson2443
Fulton2342
Huntington2223
Tipton21722
Spencer2153
Perry21413
Randolph2087
Jay1730
Newton17111
Owen1651
Martin1640
Rush1524
Pike1401
Vermillion1260
Fountain1182
Pulaski1151
Blackford1133
Crawford1030
Brown1023
Parke941
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland700
Warren391
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events