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Addiction to Weed Makes Teens More and More Sick

By: April Sheng

Elysse who started vaping cannabis in 2018, described it as “insane euphoria. Everything was moving slowly. I got super hungry. Everything was hilarious.” However, the euphoria turned into something more troubling. At first, Elysse would start to feel sadder and more anxious when she vaped. Another time, she passed out in the shower. Things escalated from there. In 2020, she began throwing up repeatedly. Her doctors and parents were completely nonplussed.

In 2021, a gastroenterologist diagnosed her with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition that causes repeated vomiting due to heavy use of cannabis. Recreational cannabis is illegal in the United States for those under 21. However, many states have legalized it, making it more accessible to underage people. In addition, current strains of Cannabis can be up to 10 times stronger than it was 20 years ago, and there is no regulation of the percentage of THC. Experts say that cannabis is poisoning some heavy users, including teenagers.

Cannabis has dangerous effects on users, especially young people. It can damage their brains, leading them to a possible lifelong psychiatric disorder, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, changes in brain anatomy and connectivity and poor memory. Not to mention uncontrollable vomiting and addiction.

Before she went to college, Elysse became sober. However, once she got settled, it seemed that everyone on her dorm floor was addicted. “Not only carts,” she said, referring to the cartridges used in vape pens, “but bongs, pipes, bowls — absolutely everything.” She found that every single morning, students were preparing for their “morning smoke” in the communal bathroom. A few weeks later, Elysse began to vape again, and her dark thoughts returned.

“I felt so trapped,” said Elysse, who has now been clean for nearly two months. “This is not fun in any way anymore.” There also happens to be “no known safe limit.”

It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of THC that enters someone’s brain when they’re using cannabis. There is also growing knowledge about the fact that it can alter adolescent brains, when it is already undergoing changes.

“I have kids asking me all the time, ‘What if I do this just once a month, is that OK?’” Dr. Levy said. “All I can tell them is that there’s no known safe limit.”

The biggest problem is, how can we get this information to parents and kids fast enough?

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