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With This New Method, Teens Are Now Smoking Marijuana Everywhere—Even in Class

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
Meet The Team >

Since California legalized the use of marijuana for adults, the substance has also become more readily accessible to underage minors, who use it recreationally – which is illegal. Marijuana use has become so rampant and pervasive that teens are now smoking everywhere they can—including school. Whereas it’s relatively common knowledge that many high school adolescents smoke on campus grounds before the bell, during lunch, or after school, did you know that some teens even smoke during class?

That’s right. And teachers don’t realize it.

How can they not see what’s going on, you ask?

Can’t they see and smell the smoke?

What Does Zeroing Mean?

Nope, thanks to a technique called “zeroing.” When a teen “zeroes” a drag of marijuana from a vape pen, they hold in 100% of the vapor they inhale. No vapor leaves their mouth or nostrils, so it’s relatively impossible for passersby – like a teacher or parent – to figure out what’s going on.

Of course, teens “zero” at other times, too, not only during class. It’s considered an act of skill, a way to show off. But they do so during school to avoid detection.

What’s more, the vaping device they use is so small and inconspicuous that the inhaling doesn’t attract attention.

The most famous e-cigarette, the Juul, looks just like a flash drive. Teens can even plug it into the USB device on a laptop to charge. Then, teens fill the Juul cartridges with liquid nicotine (that usually comes in several flavors) or marijuana oil.

So even if there is a faint scent of nicotine or cannabis in the classroom, the teacher can’t figure out the source. They can’t accuse the entire class of smoking, so the teen gets away with it.

Vaping and Teens

According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 3 million students in middle and high schools currently vape.

While the Juul is not meant for adolescent or teenage use, it’s become wildly popular among this population. It’s sleek. Small. Has bright colors and an easily concealable design. Its “cool” messaging appeals to teens—to their detriment.

While vaping is considered a bit less harmful than actual smoking, both can cause a host of negative complications. As a rule, inhaling addictive substances – like the nicotine found in almost all e-cigarettes, or the cannabis teens substitute it with – is not a good choice for teenagers. These substances cause physical and mental complications that are harmful to teens’ developing brains. Marijuana usage causes memory and concentration issues, which can lead to dangerous and reckless behavior. Some teens also seem to suffer from a phenomenon known as Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which can result in severe bouts of daily vomiting.

Recently, the dangers of vaping have come under the spotlight. Hundreds of vaping-related respiratory illnesses are being reported across America, many of them in teens. Just last month, someone from Illinois died due to a lung disease caused by vaping. One teen in Illinois is actually suing Juul for “deliberately marketing to young people and sending the message that vaping is cool,” according to the AP. After vaping for over a year, he had to be hospitalized for lung damage.

Advice to Parents

Parents, teachers and school administration officials should be cognizant of what “zeroing” is so that they know what to look out for. Since the presence of an adult does not, anymore, hinder a determined teen’s willingness to use marijuana, parents of teens with substance abuse issues should monitor their children’s behavior more carefully. If you find what looks like a larger-than-usual flash drive in your child’s backpack or room, or your teen is holding what looks like a Juul pod, examine it more carefully.

If you have a suspicion that your teen is smoking or vaping, take action. Speak to your teen. If he or she cannot stop smoking, they may need professional help at a teen1 substance abuse or mental health treatment center.

Mental health issues are often the real culprit when teens turn to substance use. More and more teens are turning to drugs to numb the internal emotional pain from depression, anxiety, ODD, ADHD, PTSD, or another mental health issue. These mental disorders can make an adolescent’s internal life so unbearable – even, and especially, when it has gone undiagnosed – that marijuana and nicotine seem like welcome reprieves from the intense misery. But in actuality, substance use actually worsens the effect of mood or psychiatric disorders.

That’s why parents can’t just take a laissez-faire approach if they find that their teen is regularly using this substance.

To learn more about vaping, read: Monitoring the Future 2018: Vaping Increase for Teens.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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