Addiction experts are warning parents about a powerful new cannabis-based drug available online that is gaining popularity among Quebec high school students.
The vaping cylinder, known as a “wax pen”, contains a liquid with a high concentration of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
“We are talking about 97-99% THC [in the ‘wax pens’]said Audrey-Ann Lecours, clinical supervisor at the drug addiction prevention organization Action Toxicomanie.
“This is considerable considering that the products available at the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), contain maximum concentrations of 30%,” she said.
Deep inhalation of higher concentrations of THC can cause serious side effects due to the way it acts on the brain and can be addictive more quickly than a low dose, Lecours explained.
“We’ve been hearing about it for about two, three years, but it was a fringe product,” she said.
Over the past year, however, there has been a significant increase in substance use in secondary schools, a phenomenon seen firsthand by members of their prevention teams working in the field.
“Wax pens” also go by other names, such as detailed by the Quebec Ministry of Health in 2019.
Whatever their name, they seem to appeal to teenagers, experts say, because they come in different flavors, fruit or cotton candy, for example, and have little to no cannabis smell.
STUDENTS PLAYING DANGEROUS GAMES
Experts are also concerned about a type of game children play with “wax pens” that have a light that comes on when someone has taken a big puff.
“To be part of the gang, to show them that I have my dose, I will take the biggest puff possible,” said Lecours, “and then between the students, there is the contest to see who will light the most the light”. .”
But that intense dose can trigger serious side effects, including loss of consciousness, dizziness and vomiting, the organization’s social workers and psychologists reported.
In addition to the immediate physical reactions, the student is also at risk of developing mental health issues.
“People assume that the long-term problems that can develop in young people are just illnesses like schizophrenia, but ‘it also impacts brain development and can cause anxiety and depression, and we don’t hear as much about it,” Lecours said.
EASY ACCESS TO ‘WAX PENS’
The slim devices, which are illegal in Quebec, can easily be purchased online via an Interac transaction after the teenager has checked a box indicating they are at least 21 years old.
For this reason, Action Toxicomanie has launched an awareness campaign with parents in the Mauricie and Centre-Québec regions where they focus their prevention work.
“They need to know that when teenagers get these products delivered in the mail, they need to be careful about the content, because it might not just be a new video game,” Lecours said.
“The business model of drug deals today is not the same. Before, they would meet a drug dealer far from home.”
“Now it’s delivered right to your doorstep,” she said.