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What are dabbing and vaping? After alleged Westminster High marijuana use, county issues advisory

What are dabbing and vaping? After alleged Westminster High marijuana use, county issues advisory
The term “dabbing” comes from dabs, a term for cannabis concentrates, which are ingested by using an e-cigarette or vaporizer pen, like the one pictured. (Richard Vogel / AP)

After an incident in which four Westminster High School students were sent to the hospital during the school day after allegedly dabbing marijuana, the school system sent an information sheet to parents who might be unfamiliar with that form of marijuana use.

While marijuana use is not new, vaping and dabbing have come into the mainstream more recently.

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Carroll County Public Schools sent a copy of an advisory from the Carroll County Health Department to parents. The health department’s focus was “to inform parents about the risks of vaping/dabbing and provide tips for talking to kids about substance abuse.”

The advisory was sent out after five girls were caught dabbing at Westminster High on Thursday, school system spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said. One had an adverse reaction and was sent to the hospital, Gaddis said, and three others were sent to the hospital as a precaution.

The term “dabbing” comes from dabs, a term for cannabis concentrates, which are ingested by using an e-cigarette or vaporizer pen. Other names for cannabis concentrates are hash oil or honey oil, wax, budder and shatter.

“These extracts are concentrated and vaping them can deliver very large amounts of THC, so the side effects of dabbing are often more powerful than those from smoked marijuana,” the advisory reads.

E-cigarettes can be used to vape marijuana in other forms, including dried marijuana plant or oils containing THC, the chemical in marijuana that is psychoactive, meaning it’s mostly responsible for the drug’s high.

The advisory also provided information about vaping, which the health department defined as “the use of an e-cigarette to inhale an aerosol that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other Chemicals.”

E-cigarettes can look like smoking devices, or they can be disguised as other objects like pens or USB flash drives, according to the sheet.

According to the advisory, “THC vaping has sent some people to the emergency room” and “Higher THC levels may also mean a greater risk for addiction.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse website states that “Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases.”

The numbers on marijuana addiction are controversial because individuals with a use disorder can also be counted as those with an addiction, according to the site.

Marijuana use disorders can have physical symptoms of dependence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines an addiction as separate from a use disorder, which it classifies as an addiction “when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life.”

People who start using marijuana in their teens are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults, according to the institute.

The information from the health department advisory concentrated on the effects of vaping and dabbing on teens and young adults whose brains are still developing. Nicotine addiction and marijuana use can affect attention, learning and mood and impulse control, according to the sheet.

A final section titled “How to Talk to Your Children about Vaping/Dabbing and E-Cigarettes,” encourages parents to research science-based information before talking to their children and to “Avoid criticizing or lecturing your child, and encourage an ongoing open discussion,” “look for opportunities to start the conversation,” be ready to answer their questions and “keep the conversation going.”

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The resource sheet also listed further sources for information about E-cigarette use by young people from sources including the CDC, drugfree.org and drugabuse.org.

The full sheet sent out by the health department can be found at cchd.maryland.gov/vaping-and-dabbing-alert.

The Carroll County Health Department Bureau of Prevention, Wellness, and Recovery provides a help line for substance abuse at 410-876-4449.

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