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What are the dangers of vaping nicotine and marijuana to the Jewish community? Here is the unvarnished truth.

In the last 18 months, I have given multiple seminars on behalf of MASK (Mothers & Fathers Aligned Saving Kids) to many New York yeshivas, Jewish drug rehab and counseling groups, and parents on the subjects of vaping, nicotine, marijuana, alcohol and opioid addiction. In the last four years, I have given similar seminars to over 125,000 medical professionals throughout the United States. During this time, I have listened to numerous horror stories from nurses, addiction counselors, psychologists, and social workers about what nicotine and marijuana addiction is doing to our young people in America, specifically the Jewish community. It is not a pretty picture. I have been constantly surprised at the prevalence of vaping, both nicotine and marijuana, amongst our children, some as young as 11 years old.

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Most recently, I have joined the staff of Yeshiva Ohr Reuven in Suffern, N.Y., teaching a health class (11th grade) which includes many topics, among them; proper nutrition, proper sleeping habits, the importance of exercise, the problems of drugs, and alcohol in the greater frum Jewish community.

Drawing on my extensive research in these four years, I believe that the primary issue for Klal Yisrael to understand is that today’s vaping devices deliver far greater amounts of nicotine and THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) to unsuspecting young people than ever before.

 

Potencies of Marijuana and Nicotine Today

  1. Current research has discovered that blood nicotine concentrations from vaping devices are over five times higher than blood nicotine concentrations from equivalent cigarette smoking.1
  2. In 1969 at the Woodstock Music festival, if a young person smoked a small marijuana cigarette (a joint of approximately 300 mg), they would inhale 1 mg of THC (from 1 percent THC marijuana), and 2 mg of THC would be burned off in smoke. This amount of inhaled THC (1 mg) would raise their blood level to approximately 30 mg/ml (about 15X the amount necessary to get high).2
  3. In 2021, the potency of smokable marijuana was approaching 30 percent THC in many areas. This would mean that a person will inhale almost 30 mg of THC if they finished an entire small joint, or 30 times the amount inhaled with an equivalent joint in 1969.3
  4. In 2022, 90 percent THC vape devices are readily available that can quickly (in one 3-drag vaping secession) have a person inhale over 25 mg of THC, or 25 times the amount inhaled in 1969, in less than 90 seconds.4
  5. Genetic changes in genes (DNA) associated with growth, development, and behavior have been found in the zera of young men smoking marijuana. Children fathered by men smoking marijuana can inherit these changes and show behavioral impairments.5

These amounts of dangerous, addictive psychoactive chemicals are literally “astonishing” in their potency compared to just a few years ago. The vaping companies are making products that are poisoning their users.

Vaping devices and chemicals are manufactured to be addictive. The companies use social and psychological profiling to advertise these devices and chemicals to our young people. To make matters worse (as described by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky), the young people looking to try vaping for the first time are bombarded with messages that nicotine and THC are “legal and safe.”

Young people then do not trust our messages (i.e., from yeshivas and parents) after being told other dangerous and incorrect statements first.6

The ramifications of this rise in the potency of nicotine and THC are vast. For nicotine (a stimulant), more than eight different neurotransmitters are affected, which leads to quick and effective addiction to the drug, primarily through an elevation of dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain.7 THC is a neurotransmitter inhibitor that likewise dramatically increases dopamine in the brain leading to rapid addiction.

There is also a growing body of evidence suggesting that young people who utilize high potency nicotine will have a more than 3X incidence of starting to use THC and experience a more difficult time quitting THC. They will also face greater psychiatric and psychosocial problems if they are dual vapers.8 Finally, young people with any substance use disorder are more likely to abuse prescription drugs in adulthood.9

In adolescence (age 12-24), the human brain goes through an extensive wiring and maturation process. The young brain is especially vulnerable to drugs such as nicotine and THC, as pleasure centers (governing motivation and reward) mature far more quickly than the prefrontal cortex, which regulates behavioral inhibition and logical thought. As a result of the high potency and addictive nature of THC, a recent study described that the critical “indicators of economic well-being” in young adulthood, such as educational attainment, occupational prestige, and income were significantly less in individuals that were regular users of THC.10 These devices and chemicals will only make the transition of a person in their teens to their twenties far riskier and impose potentially permanent physiologic and psychological roadblocks to success and financial stability.

We therefore need to get our message to the young people first about the addiction potential and dangers of these insidious devices and chemicals. We can no longer sit back naively and say our children are safe because we send them to excellent boys and girls yeshivas. Here are my suggestions:

  • Every yeshiva should begin speaking to its students about these dangers in the 6th grade.
  • Every yeshiva should institute a nicotine and THC drug testing policy to inhibit vaping in their institution.
  • Every yeshiva should have someone trained in these areas to counsel students (and parents) who test positive for these substances.

We are at war with multi-billion-dollar actors manufacturing and selling these addictive devices and chemicals, and the casualties of this war are our children.

 

References:

  1. Rao, Poonam, et al., Springer. “JUUL and combusted cigarettes comparably impair endothelial function.” Tobacco regulatory science 6.1 (2020): 30-37.
  2. Sabet, Kevin. “Lessons learned in several states eight years after states legalized marijuana.” Current Opinion in Psychology 38 (2021): 25-30.
  3. Wadsworth, Elle. “The effect of price and retail availability on the use of illegal and legal non-medical cannabis in Canada and the United States.” Ph.D. Thesis – University of Waterloo (2021).
  4. Spindle, Tory R., et al. “Acute effects of smoked and vaporized cannabis in healthy adults who infrequently use cannabis: a crossover trial.” JAMA Network Open 1.7 (2018).
  5. Cranfill, Jessica R., et al. “CIPHERS: Effects of male marijuana use on sperm health and potential risks to future children.” Science Talks (2022): 100047.
  6. Twerski, Abraham J. Addictive thinking: Understanding self-deception. Simon and Schuster, 2009.
  7. Mahajan, Supriya, et al., “Multifactorial Etiology of Adolescent Nicotine Addiction: A Review of the Neurobiology of Nicotine Addiction and Its Implications for Smoking Cessation Pharmacotherapy.” Frontiers in Public Health 9 (2021): 664748.
  8. Prochaska, Judith J., and Neal L. Benowitz. “Current advances in research in treatment and recovery: Nicotine addiction.” Science advances 5.10 (2019).
  9. McCabe, Sean Esteban, et al. “Longitudinal Analysis of Substance Use Disorder Symptom Severity at Age 18 Years and Substance Use Disorder in Adulthood.” JAMA Network Open 5.4 (2022).
  10. Thompson, Kara, et al. “Associations between marijuana use trajectories and educational and occupational success in young adulthood.” Prevention Science 20.2 (2019): 257-269.
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Dr. Eric Bornstein is a biochemist, dentist, and photobiologist living in Suffern, N.Y. He has managed multiple human clinical trials in the infectious disease medical device space, culminating in three FDA approvals. He currently lectures for the Institute for Natural Resources (http://inrseminars.com) on Opioids, Marijuana, Vaping, Hallucinogens and Psychedelics, and Addiction. His first novel, The Goliath Pathogen, will be published by ADIR Press in early 2023. To schedule a seminar for your school with Dr. Bornstein, please contact MASK (www.maskparents.org) at 718-758-0400.
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