CARMEL, Ind. – The number of teenagers who vape with products containing the chemical found in marijuana that causes physiological effects is rising nationally and in at least one school in central Indiana.
The school resource officers at Carmel High School told the IndyStar they've found 17 students this school year who were caught using, selling, or having vaping products that contained THC.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, acts like cannabinoid chemicals made naturally by the body, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Some students are also admitting to using it. The SRO told the IndyStar, "They'll self-report. They'll come to the nurse and say, 'I'm too high. Something's wrong,'"
He added he's seen the effects of the drugs in the hallways. He told the newspaper students are "so stoned that they don't know where they are."
Former students in the high school were surprised to learn about the concerning issue.
"They might not be the only ones," said Carolina Hernandez. "There might be other ones who may not even go get help and see what they can do themselves because they’re afraid of the consequences."
A Monitoring the Future study compared THC usage among high school students nationally the past two years. The study found 4.9% of high school seniors admitted to vaping marijuana over a 30-day window in 2017. That number increased to 7.5 % in 2018.
"I don’t think anyone underage, between the ages of 18 to 20 years old, should be taking the compound," said Chase Eckelbarger.
DJ Schoeff, a sergeant with the Carmel Police Department and SRO with the school district, said THC has the potential to have a higher potency today, which might include products in central Indiana.
"THC levels are much higher and some of these vials, they’re 80-90% THC," Schoeff said. "So, sometimes our kids don’t really know what they’re getting into when they’re experiencing that.”
Some parents and graduates in the area said some of this could be avoided by regulating THC products. Much like alcohol, underage people still could find ways to get their hands on the products, but identifying the chemicals in them could help medical professionals better treat someone who feels ill after vaping with THC.
"Maybe if we looked at some of the regulated states and see how they’re handling it, and what’s happening in their schools, maybe we could learn how to best handle the situation ourselves," said Eckelbarger.
Stacy London with Breathe Easy Hamilton County reminded families that the surgeon general has called vaping a national epidemic. She said a person's brain doesn't fully develop until the age of 25 and any vaping can have effects on your health.
The FDA is holding a public hearing at the end of May to collect information on products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. The hearing is looking for information regarding safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and the sale of those products.