For our second article in this series, we are featuring a guest post from Elizabeth Driscoll Jorgensen, owner of Insight Counseling, LLC, in Ridgefield, CT, and Consultant to Family-Endorsed Provider Newport Academy at its Outpatient Treatment Center in Darien, CT.
As a local mental health provider based in Fairfield County, CT, Liz has written the first guest post for our new blog, Close to Home: The Fairfield County Mental Health Blog, which debuted this month. A big thank you to Liz for helping us launch this new service of www.rtor.org and Laurel House, Inc. during National Recovery Month!
In the past three to four years, a higher number of young people have presented at Insight Counseling with paranoia, psychotic thoughts, extreme mood disorders that arrive seemingly overnight. These young people are often extremely agitated or impulsive, or rapidly deteriorate in mood to lethargy and extreme depression. In many cases, we have no choice but to hospitalize these young people to get them stabilized.
The common factor in these cases has been the use of either “Dabs” or strong “edibles” with no other drug use. We, and many other providers nationwide have demonstrated this phenomenon, with urine drug screens proving THC levels in the patients’ system.
High Potency Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products. THC is the psychoactive molecule in cannabis and it is found in varying concentrations in the plant form of marijuana as well in progressively higher doses in edible forms and in the most potent product “Dabs” or THC concentrate.
What is marijuana wax?
Marijuana wax is a concentrated form of marijuana (cannabis) that resembles ear wax. It contains 90% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis). One small “hit” of wax causes the same euphoric effect as that created by smoking 1-2 marijuana cigarettes (joints).
Teenagers typically use wax via a vape pen. This tool extracts the THC rather than burning it, so the drug is basically odorless and smokeless. Teenagers can use wax with a vape pen without any obvious detection, and the tool can be easily concealed. This is very alarming because teenagers can use wax basically under the noses of their authority figures.
Many teenagers have discovered that using wax brings many “benefits”:
- Allows self-medication for anxiety and depression
- Is easy to use without detection
- Helps teenagers forget about their problems
- Eliminates boredom
The unfortunate result is that as many teenagers are developing independence and learning how to navigate life, the marijuana user is learning to cope with their problems by avoidance or “numbing out”. This creates a lack of creativity and motivation. These youth are not experiencing the exuberance of life, but are developing an “I don’t care” attitude. This is alarming at best; mainly it is devastating.
The effects of wax and other forms of marijuana
The short-term effects of using wax include attention and memory problems, distorted perception, poor judgment, and poor coordination.
Along with the short-term issues, there are also long-term psychological and health concerns involved with the use of wax. Regular use of marijuana can cause:
- An onset or worsening of mental health issues. These might include psychosis, depression, anxiety, anger control problems, mood disorders, sleep disturbance, or even suicidal ideation.
- Addiction. Withdrawal symptoms include nausea, cold sweats, lack of appetite, sleeplessness, and irritability.
- Chronic lung problems, including bronchitis and lingering cough.
- A permanent decrease in IQ.
- Lower quality of life overall, including lower income level, academic issues, and poorer performance in work.
Barriers to treatment for marijuana abuse
Speaking as a substance abuse counselor who works with teenagers who use cannabis, treatment is often challenging. Usually when teenagers seek counseling for their substance use, it is because some adult authority figure or institution has demanded it. Court- or school-mandated substance use treatment brings an additional set of problems.
or one thing, effective counseling requires the “counselee” to be motivated to change. People coerced into treatment are not internally motivated. External motivation often causes people to resist. This is even more likely for rebellious teenagers, determined to set their own terms and define their own choices. One of the jobs of the counselor is to figure out how to overcome this dynamic, “win” the youth over, and help break through the teen’s resistance.
Another problem faced by concerned adults is the social acceptability of marijuana. Since so many adults are using the drug themselves, to the point that many states have made it a legal substance, there is a trickle-down effect on the youth in our society. Oftentimes I hear teens say things like, “It helps me with my anxiety. It’s only an herb; a natural plant created by God that helps me feel good.” These are the same arguments adults use.
In addition to this, I have made the observation that marijuana no longer seems to be a gateway drug as it was in the past. Rather, it is the drug of choice for the majority of drug-using teenagers, far surpassing even the use of cigarettes. Alarmingly, about half of all teenagers, particularly in states which have legalized marijuana, have tried the substance some time during their high school years.
What can parents do about teen marijuana use?
One thing parents can do is to know the signs that their teen is using marijuana. These signs include the following:
- Having bloodshot eyes
- Being overly tired and lethargic
- Giggling for no apparent reason
- Eating a lot (having the “munchies”)
- Letting grades slip
- Showing excessive moodiness
- Wearing clothing or decorating their belongings with pro-drug messages
- Having excess money or lack of money
- Being unkempt or having poor hygiene
- Associating with drug-using peers
- Having drug paraphernalia such as vape pens, pipes, cigarette paper, small glass containers, etc.
If you do suspect your teen is using marijuana, it is important that you don’t ignore the clues. Address the issue straight on. Talk in no uncertain terms, directly. Have a “zero tolerance” attitude about drug use.
In addition, here are some other suggestions for how to address a teenager who is using marijuana in any form, including wax:
- Be a good role model.
- Develop a healthy relationship with your teenager.
- Set boundaries.
- Be aware of what your teen is doing with their time.
- Educate your child about the effects of marijuana use.
- Be involved in your teenager’s life.
- Don’t allow your teen to use drugs in your home or go to social activities which allow the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Do not use drugs yourself.
- Desired amount of BHO
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Oven thermometer
- Preheat your oven to 200°F (93°C). Make sure you use your thermometer to test the oven temp before placing BHO in the oven.
- Line your baking sheet with your parchment paper.
- Put your wax, shatter, crumble, or budder on the center of your parchment lined baking sheet.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. You will want to watch your concentrate very closely and make sure it doesn’t overcook. Once it has melted down and starts to really bubble, you know it is ready.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.