Q: When I was in college 1,000 years ago, we smoked marijuana and then went to class or went about doing other things — goofy, but pretty coherent. Now, with the elevated potency of marijuana, I'm worried my kids might smoke it, get behind the wheel of a car and do real damage. What's the best thing to do? — Leticia M., Portland, Oregon
A: You're right to be concerned, and the first thing to do, if you haven't already, is to have a sit-down with your kids and tell them exactly what you just told us. Here's some extra info that will bolster your point of view:
- The head of Health and Human Services and the surgeon general recently issued guidelines for adolescents and pregnant women, saying that today's marijuana is a dangerous drug. It is harmful to the developing teenage brain and a developing fetus.
- Just because marijuana is legal in more and more states, there's no reason to think it's not harmful. People are making lots of money off today's crops — a $10 billion industry, by some estimates — and just like big tobacco and liquor companies, cannabis sellers want your money, no matter what the product does to you.
- Alert your kids to the dangers of cannabis concentrate (also referred to as wax, budder, honey oil, shatter and dab). It is three times stronger than today's already pumped-up regular version of marijuana. Psychologists at Arizona State University found that nearly a quarter of eighth, 10th and 12th grade students in that state had used concentrate. It's smoked through vaping and in water and oil pipes, and can cause paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks and hallucinations.
If you're concerned that your child is abusing drugs, pay attention to changing behavior, withdrawal from social situations and slipping grades. Hopefully you can get in front of this so it doesn't become a problem. Knowledge, and spreading it, is power.
Q: Last spring when I picked up my daughter at college (she's in her senior year now), we drove past several hookah parlors, and I asked her if she's ever tried it. She said no, but she knew classmates who did it regularly. I figure that means she did try it at least once. Should I be worried? — Darnell Q., Elmira, New York
A: Hookah parlors are popping up across the country at an alarming rate. For example, in New York City, there were nearly 400 in 2017, four times more than in 2012. And 16.4% of high school students have smoked a hookah, up from 2.9% in 2008. That's prompted some locales to raise the minimum age to enter a hookah establishment from
18 to 21, but it doesn't keep kids from using them. Kids can buy them online and use them at home.
However they are accessed, they pose a serious threat to smokers' health. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, assembled a testing apparatus that analyzes emissions, not just from the tobacco (one draw can contain as many toxins as an entire cigarette), but also from the charcoal used to heat the tobacco. They found an "outsized quantity of carbon monoxide," which can cause carbon monoxide intoxication. Plus, smoking tobacco from hookahs delivers deep-penetrating and very harmful microparticles to your
lungs. Those particles can measure less than 100 nanometers and can dive deep into the pulmonary system, travel right through the lungs to the blood and easily cross the blood brain barrier. Water does not filter out unhealthy chemicals from hookah smoke.
Hookah parlors generally offer varieties of tobacco products (30-40 flavors, from apple to watermelon) and something called shisha, an herbal mixture that can contain nicotine or be nicotine-free. Either mixture exposes the smoker to ultrafine carcinogenic particles.
So tell your daughter she's smart to stay off the hook when it comes to the hookah.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.