Vaping linked to cannabis use in young people, study finds

Canadian pediatrician Dr. Nicholas Chadi co-authored the research

A man smokes an electronic cigarette. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nam Y. Huh

Teens and young adults who use electronic cigarettes are significantly more likely to use cannabis as well, according to a new study co-authored by a Canadian researcher.

Pediatrician Nicholas Chadi’s analysis of previous research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that the likelihood of marijuana use was three to four times higher among youth who vaped.

One of the key findings showed the risk for younger adolescents aged 12 to 17 was higher than for young adults aged 18 to 24 years.

“It’s an important discovery for us,” said Chadi, who is now based at Montreal’s Ste-Justine Hospital but conducted the research during a previous posting in Boston.

“The risk is higher for both sub-groups, but it’s almost twice as high for the younger ones.”

The study analyzed 21 previous academic papers encompassing some 130,000 participants. Chadi worked on the project while he was a pediatric addiction fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The results are in line with current medical knowledge that shows young brains are less developed and more susceptible to substance use and addiction, Chadi said in an interview.

Both nicotine and cannabis affect the neural pathways associated with pleasure and reward. Chadi said both substances could make the brain more sensitive to other psychoactive subtances and addictive behaviours during adulthood.

“The younger we are, the more the brain is susceptible to becoming addicted to substances, therefore the risk of consuming nicotine or vaping is even higher for younger teenagers,” he said.

He said the analysis doesn’t go so far as to conclude that vaping leads directly to cannabis use, but it contributes to a growing body of work that appears to suggest a link.

“We can’t prove a link of causality,” he said. But with a large number of studies pointing in the same direction, “we have a good reason to think that exposure to vaping is part of the cause of initiation to marijuana.”

The strongest link was found in younger subjects who combined vaping with tobacco or alcohol consumption. It’s not impossible that these youth are simply more susceptible to substance consumption, Chadi said, although the studies tried to limit certain factors, such as addiction or mental illness.

Studies like this suggest the nicotine used in e-cigarettes is just as dangerous, if not more, he said, than the nicotine in traditional cigarettes when it comes to young teens.

READ MORE: Vaping among Canadian teens spiked 74 per cent in one year, study suggests

“It’s very important from a public health point of view, because it reinforces the message that e-cigarettes are not at all a tool to promote teen health, and on the contrary, it can increase the problems of dependence and addiction among those youth.”

Vaping is often falsely perceived as a banal and risk-free activity. However, other studies have shown that vaping as a teen increases the risk of smoking traditional cigarettes, Chadi said.

“We now realize that the vast majority of teens who vape probably have never touched a traditional cigarette or other drugs,” he said. “These devices are so addictive and well-made for youth that the youth fall into the trap; they develop a dependence and go find other sources of nicotine and other drugs.”

Jean-Benoit Legault, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

UVic student killed in bus crash remembered as passionate, kind

Emma Machado, 18, killed in bus crash near Bamfield on Friday

Oak Bay approves subdivision for lot that houses Maclure-designed heritage home

Mansion-style Blair Gowie house famous for its design and historical connection with Butchart family

MLA Andrew Weaver thins workload after illness, full recovery expected

BC Green Party leader felt symptoms at a public event in Langley, and was taken to hospital

Golfer aims for hole-in-one to raise cash for Victoria Hospice

Fundraiser event hits Highland Pacific Golf Course Sept. 17

VIDEO: Flames pick up 4-3 exhibition win over Canucks in Victoria

Vancouver split squad manages 3-2 OT triumph in Calgary

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Two Nanaimo residents share $5-million Lotto 6/49 prize

Jesse Logan and Teresa Winters Day matched all six numbers in Aug. 21 Lotto 6/49 draw

Island campground on the chopping block as ALC deadline looms

Owners fighting to continue facility’s operation, with a huge outpouring of support

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

Most Read