By Laurie Vollen, MD
As anyone who has listened to me discuss this topic may recall, I’ve never been a fan of “vaping” — inhaling distillates of marijuana — because there is no safety data on its health consequences. And the recent spate of hospitalizations and deaths attributed to “vaping” confirms my concern.
These unfortunate occurrences are primarily associated with Cannabis product usage, not nicotine. Over 85% of the more than 1000 confirmed cases are related to Cannabis, even though the media and public officials seem to be conflating e-cigarettes with marijuana. Thus far there have been 15 deaths -a tragic reminder that inhaling the wrong stuff can be deadly.
Vape pens (which is how distillate inhalant devices are commonly described) have often been marketed as “safe” and in many cases “safer” than smoking. That claim is wholly without scientific evidence. There are absolutely no studies that assess the short, medium, or long term health effects of inhaling distillates.
What are distillates? The oil extracted from various parts of the cannabis plant through a manufacturing process that can include solvents designed to separate THC and CBD from the remaining components of the plant. The end result is a highly concentrated THC and/or CBD oil. Vape pens are battery powered devices that aerosolize these concentrates (and any additives or by-products of the manufacturing process) for inhalation into the lungs.