How is Marijuana Used?
In order to effectively prevent youth marijuana use, it is important to understand how it is used. SAMHSA Evidence Based Resource Guide Series: Preventing Marijuana Use Among Youth provides the following information on how marijuana is used:
How people use marijuana has changed substantially over the years. In addition to smoking traditional marijuana cigarettes, a vast array and combinations of manufactured products have evolved. These include edibles, marijuana-infused beverages, topical applications, and various devices for inhalation. There has also been an increase in people using products originally designed for nicotine/tobacco for marijuana, such as blunts, vaporizing devices, and e-cigarettes. Youth are using marijuana via all of these routes, especially edibles and concentrates.
The graphic below shows the variety of ways people can consume marijuana.
Youth who ingest edibles are at increased risk of adverse events in part because the THC concentration can vary across products and batches of a single product. Consumption also has a delayed rate of absorption compared to other routes of administration. As a result, youth may not know how the amount of THC will affect the body. This is relevant because of the variability in how much and how quickly THC is absorbed in the body.
Foods and beverages can be infused with THC, including products such as brownies and cookies, candies such as gummies and lollipops, sodas, and alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. Edible marijuana products are especially attractive to youth, as their packaging often look very similar to that of non-marijuana products. Marijuana-infused beverages, often with sweet flavors such as orange soda are known to attract teens, especially girls.
Of note, the timing of a THC high from edibles is different from that of inhaled/smoked sources; it can take 1 to 2 hours to feel an effect from edibles, and peak effects occur later and may last for several hours. When the high is felt and how long it lasts depends on a user’s metabolism, the product formulation, what the person ate, and the dose consumed. Overconsumption can lead to severe intoxication and overdose.
Vaping liquid marijuana products can lack the characteristic smell of marijuana, making detection of use difficult. Vaping devices are also packaged in ways that resemble memory sticks or other non-drug paraphernalia devices. Detection-free use may be one reason why vaping marijuana has become increasingly popular among youth.
Marijuana products, such as vaping concentrates or hemp wrappers used for blunts, may be flavored. This is a strategy well documented to attract youth to tobacco products and is associated with over 80 percent of youth tobacco initiation. Marijuana products also frequently use names implying fruit or other flavors (e.g., grape, peanut butter cup, or pineapple haze), even if that fruit/ flavor is not present.