Not all fun…

It could be assumed that some high schoolers smoke or drink on their own time and their administration can’t control what they do outside of school, but it seems to become a growing issue in schools, specifically their students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, in 2022, 85.5% of high school students and 81.5% of middle school students who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days reported using a flavored e-cigarette during that time.

E-Cigarettes, dab pens and nicotine sticks have become more and more popular over the years compared to traditional cigarettes. In the same context, the actual marijuana flower, or bud, has been replaced with dab pens similar to vape pens. These versions are still used but not as much compared to the new electric substances. While the sure reason is unknown, many users have been put under the impression that these electronic versions are less dangerous than a cigarette or a joint, when that is not the case. 

This issue has gone as far as being present in school during school hours. Vape detectors are now available in schools due to the rise of this problem. Many TikTok videos also feature jokes and skits in their videos about using substances while they’re in school. These videos show students meeting in bathrooms for “breaks” to use their devices. 

It has become a recent trend despite the dangers. It could be popularity, feelings or just for fun. The use of substances like these at such a young age can take a toll as users develop. The Addiction Center website explains the dangers of using these devices and substances too young.

“Substance abuse affects teen brain development by interfering with neurotransmitters and damaging connections within the brain. Reducing the ability to experience pleasure. Creating problems with memory…”

A lot of teens are aware of these risks, but they continue to use their devices excessively. An anonymous student from Madras High speaks on how they know their peers feel about using. 

“I just know they have fun doing it and their biggest excuse is ‘you only live once’. This might not be super smart but I mean we’re young and dumb so who really cares right now”

Even if they don’t feel any changes or issues now, that doesn’t mean they’re not there or won’t show up eventually. These damages can be irreversible. 

Dr. Shewit Giovanni is from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at OHSU and specializes in pulmonology, including the effects of e-cigarettes. She was asked about the long and short-term effects of using these substances and devices at a young age.

“Data shows there’s a lot of harm in multiple ways, one of the most serious is long term “e-cigarettes associated lung injury” (EALI) that causes actual damage in the cellular level and presents respiratory failure that can take patients to the ICU, mechanical ventilation and intubation”

“When it comes to nicotine, one of the biggest complications other than the development of pulmonary disease, a lot of patients that start in adolescence have a really hard time getting off it and it goes into adulthood. This leads to effects on the pulmonary system, COPD, bronchitis, and increased cardiovascular symptoms including heart disease and atherosclerosis. So every single system is affected by tobacco exposure and can be at increased risk when they start early.”

Dr. Giovanni goes on to talk about the long-term effects of the use of marijuana on teens in terms of development and behavior. 

“We know that there’s an increase in psychiatric symptoms especially in patients that have an underlying psychiatric diagnosis. It connects back to academic performance, cognition, sleep driving, all of these things have been shown in multiple studies to date, particularly with cannabis usage in youth.”

While we seem to think marijuana is not as dangerous as nicotine, there are still different dangers teens accept into their bodies when they choose to smoke marijuana even if they think it is medicinal or harmless because of what the media shows them. 

The CDC published a fact sheet on their site, “Smoking and Youth”, about the dangers and issues of smoking young including a section about e-cigarettes. People still aren’t aware of how severe the toxins could be to youth, though they should be. 

They say no youth should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product because nicotine is known to be addictive, toxic to developing fetuses, and harmful to adolescent brain development.

The CDC also has a separate information section about teen use of marijuana.

Temporary psychosis is more likely to occur among marijuana users…People who start using marijuana at a younger age and use it more regularly have a stronger link between marijuana usage and schizophrenia. They also mention that using marijuana at a young age can have the potential for addiction. 

The use of e-cigarettes and marijuana has many dangerous side effects that teens are aware of but choose to ignore. There are so many dangers they aren’t aware of that could make it more convincing for them to quit if they know what they’re getting themselves into and what they’re going to put their bodies through just for some “fun.”