A recent report from Johns Hopkins Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit in Baltimore published in JAMA Network Open. Using 17 healthy adults, scientists had participants inhale smoked and vaporized cannabis (10mg of THC). These separate ways of inhaling marijuana produced distinct drug effects. While smoking a 25mg dose of THC was associated with pronounced drug effects, increased incidence of adverse effects, and significant impairment of cognitive and psychomotor ability, vaporized cannabis at that dose produced greater psychotropic effects and resulted in more THC measured in the blood.
This is a pertinent study given the increase in vaping over smoking marijuana over the last few years. Some scientists are concerned that the increase in popularity has surpassed the amount of research on the health effects of vaping. The number is worrying “because cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory and may impair later academic achievement and education,” said lead researcher Katrina Trivers, who was not an author on the JAMA study, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaporized marijuana produced stronger drug effects which diverged further and further from smoked marijuana as the dose increased. Historically, cannabis has predominantly been smoked in joints, pipes, bongs, and blunts. The emergence of hand-held, easy to use, vaporizers have become an increasingly popular method for cannabis administration. It is believed that vaporizers produce fewer toxins that would be released in inhaling burnt weed.
Experts have suggested that vaping marijuana is putatively healthier than smoking it. However, researchers know far less about the long-term effects of vaping the compounds in marijuana extracts or oils, compared with the effects of inhaling compounds directly from the plant. However, a 2004 study in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics found that vaporized marijuana contained little other than cannabinoids. Furthermore, a 2007 study found users inhaled fewer toxic compounds and carbon monoxide when vaping compared with smoking marijuana.
This new research adds to this knowledge by determining that the psychoactive effects of vaporized marijuana are also different from smoking it. Most find that it also improves taste and does not leave a marijuana smell on their clothes and bodies. Yet the higher "high" that vapers may experience may also lead to more incidences of aversive psychiatric effects in those vulnerable smokers. That would not be a good "high" at all.