Indiana school reports surge in students vaping marijuana

Posted at 8:18 AM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 08:18:30-04

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — School resource officers at Indiana's largest high school are reporting a surge in students being sent to hospital emergency rooms after they used marijuana's psychoactive ingredient in electronic cigarettes to get so high they had to seek help at the school nurse's office.

Shane VanNatter, a Carmel High School resource officer, said he's seen students who had vaped THC and were walking hallways "so stoned that they don't know where they are."

"They'll self-report. They'll come to the nurse and say, 'I'm too high. Something's wrong,'" he told The Indianapolis Star.

VanNatter said 17 students at the school with an enrollment of about 5,000 students have been caught this school year for using, possessing or dealing THC vaping products.

The potency of the devices can give students a much more powerful high than expected, experts said.

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THC levels in marijuana plants typically range from 15% to 24%, but VanNatter said one vaping cartridge that the school seized contained THC levels exceeding 80%.

Vaping devices burn liquid, or sometimes leaf, by using a battery-powered igniter in a chamber that looks like a pen or USB flash drive. The aerosol that's inhaled and exhaled is not smoke but mirrors water vapor. The liquid can be a tobacco product or THC.

A study conducted four years ago explored teen marijuana vaping by looking at a sample of Connecticut teens. Around 5% reported vaping marijuana, and 18% of teen e-cigarette users said they filled their vaporizers with cannabis.

As more teens have started to vape, adults' fears about teens vaping in general and vaping marijuana have intensified, said Meghan Morean, an assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College and one of the study's authors.

"My guess is that this is going on and they're just not aware of it and they have recently become aware of it," she said. "We get lots and lots of schools calling and freaking out about regular vaping. It's a thing, and I think it's a continuing thing that people need to be aware of."

From 2017 to 2018, teen students around the nation putting marijuana in their vape pens rose from 4.9% to 7.5%, according to a study conducted by Monitoring the Future.