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A recent study on the use of delta-8 THC products among US 12th-grade students reveals significant usage, especially in states where marijuana is illegal for adults. The authors of the study, published in the journal JAMA, argue that this could potentially evolve into a public health concern.

The Rising Popularity of Delta-8 THC Among Teens

The study, led by Dr. Adam Leventhal from the USC Institute for Addiction Science, assessed the extent to which these readily available and unregulated products are reaching adolescents. In the sample of 2,186 high school seniors surveyed, 11.4% reported using delta-8 THC in the past year. Comparatively, 30.4% reported using marijuana, which is illegal for teens.

Of those who mentioned using delta-8 in the previous year, 68.1% used it at least three times, 35.4% had used it at least ten times, and nearly 17% used it at least 40 times. Delta-8 usage was found to be higher among teenagers in the South and Midwest regions and in states where marijuana is not legal for adults. Slightly more boys reported using both marijuana and delta-8 THC compared to girls.

  • 11.4% of US 12th grade students used delta-8 THC in the past year
  • Higher prevalence observed in regions and states without legalized adult marijuana use
  • Slightly more boys reported using delta-8 THC than girls

Accessibility and Lack of Regulation Increase Potential Risks

Dr. Nora Volkow voiced concerns about the existing accessibility of delta-8 THC products for teenagers, emphasizing the need to educate adolescents about potential risks associated with cannabis use. Studies have shown that cannabis use in general can negatively impact adolescent brain development. Meanwhile, Dr. Leventhal considers an 11% delta-8 THC usage rate among high school seniors “very high.” It is suggested that younger teens may also engage in using delta-8 THC products.

An accompanying editorial highlights growing concerns about increasing delta-8 use among students. As a result, public health officials and politicians in some states have already begun implementing bans or severe restrictions on delta-8 THC products.

The Unknown Effects of Delta-8 THC on Adolescent Health

Although scientists are still investigating the exact effects delta-8 THC may have on teenagers, some concerns include addiction and neurodevelopmental changes caused by exposure during brain development. Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate cannabis-derived compounds like delta-8 THC, the content of each product is unclear.

There has been a noticeable increase in calls to America’s Poison Centers regarding delta-8 products between 2021 and 2022, with over three thousand managed exposures reported in just one year. This spike further supports the potential risks and impacts on public health linked with delta-8 THC usage among adolescents.

  • Experts worry about addiction and neurodevelopmental changes due to delta-8 THC exposure
  • FDA does not regulate cannabis-derived products like delta-8 THC
  • Calls to America’s Poison Centers about delta-8 products increased significantly from 2021 to 2022

Addressing Delta-8 THC Use Among Teens: Prevention and Education

The ongoing concerns about delta-8 THC use among high school seniors indicate a need for comprehensive efforts to prevent and educate teenagers and their families about the potential risks associated with these products. Public health campaigns, school-based education programs, and parental involvement can play crucial roles in raising awareness and addressing this emerging issue.

Additionally, as the study reveals higher rates of usage in states without legal marijuana options for adults, it is essential to evaluate and monitor the impacts of cannabis laws on adolescent consumption patterns. Further research on delta-8 THC’s effects on teen users will be vital in shaping public health policies and strategies for minimizing harm.

In conclusion, rising trends in delta-8 THC use among US high school seniors raise various concerns related to public health and adolescents’ well-being. As the effects of this compound remain understudied, awareness campaigns and educational initiatives are necessary to curtail its growing popularity and availability among teens. Policymakers, researchers, and communities must collaborate closely to understand and address the risks of delta-8 THC usage among younger populations effectively.


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