(Reuters Health) – The lifetime prevalence of cannabis vaping among teens and preteens in the U.S. and Canada doubled between 2013 and 2020, while “past 12-month” use nearly doubled from 2017 to 2020, a new study finds.

In an analysis of data from 17 studies that included nearly 200,000 adolescents, researchers found that the pooled prevalence for lifetime use rose from 6.1% in 2013-2016 to 13.6% in 2019-2020.

Use in the past 12 months increased from 7.2% in 2017-2018 to 13.2% in 2019-2020, and use in the past 30 days rose from 1.6% in 2013-2016 to 8.4% in 2019-2020, according to the report published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Adolescent cannabis vaping is becoming more common in the US and Canada,” said the study’s first author Carmen Lim, a PhD candidate at the National Center for Youth Substance Use Research in the Faculty of Health and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. “We also found that adolescents’ preference for cannabis products may be shifting from less potent products (for example, herbal cannabis) to highly potent vape oil and concentrates.”

“Adolescents are most vulnerable to cannabis harms,” Lim said in an email. “The use of cannabis products with high THC is easily achievable through vaping and raises several potential problems. Not only is it linked to poorer cognitive development in adolescents, it could increase risk of dependence, other substance use and many other health, social, and behavioral problems later in life.”

Initially, Lim’s team had hoped to look at the issue on a global scale, but they were only able to find studies that focused on the U.S. and Canada.

The 17 studies in their analysis were all school based and representative at the national, state or regional level. Sample sizes ranged from 2,630 to 45,677 teens and pre-teens leading to a total of 198,845 kids.

Analysis by students’ grade-level revealed that pooled lifetime prevalence doubled between 2013-2016 and 2019-2020. Lifetime prevalence for 12-graders, for example, rose from 14.6% in 2013-2016 to 28.1% in 2019-2020. Similar increases were seen in 12-month and 30-day calculations.

The three studies that reported on the type of product adolescents were using revealed a change in preferred products from herbal cannabis to cannabis oils and concentrates.

“The current study points to an alarming increase in past year and past month cannabis vaping among adolescents in the United States and Canada,” said Ziva Cooper, director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles. “These findings underscore the importance of investigating such trends in other countries and guiding studies to understand if and how cannabis vaping may impact health outcomes.”

“While the observed increases in yearly and monthly cannabis vaping over the last seven years is a significant public health concern, (understanding) how these findings translate to increases in heavier use, such as weekly and daily use, should be a priority,” Cooper said in an email. “We know that adverse effects of cannabis smoking occur with greater frequency of use in both adults and adolescent populations; therefore it is imperative to track if weekly and daily use is increasing at the same rate as yearly and monthly cannabis vaping.”

“It is also critical to identify health outcomes associated with this pattern of use,” Cooper said. “This work will be integral in educating the public about the associated health outcomes of cannabis vaping and improve prevention strategies to curb further increases in use among adolescents.”

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3CdZ1TR JAMA Pediatrics, online October 25, 2021.

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