Please Share with Your Teens
By Laura Stack
I’m delighted to announce that through your contributions to our new nonprofit, Johnny’s Ambassadors, JOHNNY has come to life as a cartoon and is ready to do something important in this world! Our mission is to educate parents and teens about the dangers of adolescent substance abuse and help parents have conversations with their children. The name on the cartoon logo is Johnny’s own writing. I’m crying as I see this all come together in our first efforts to save other precious young lives.
Through these bi-weekly series of cartoons and articles, Johnny’s spirit will live on! Johnny will continue to help his Ambassadors help the adolescents in their lives.
Parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers and counselors, please share this on your wall and with your teens.
This week is National Substance Abuse Prevention Week through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Each year around this observance, communities, and organizations across the country come together to raise awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health.
So, today we are here to discuss, “What are dabs?” The biggest problem I face in explaining the dangers of today’s marijuana, frankly, is other parents. I know because it was me. My attitude was, “Eh, I smoked pot when I was a teen, and I’m fine. It’s no big deal.” I didn’t have my eye on the ball when Johnny was first starting to do it. What I did not know is that today’s marijuana is not the same stuff I smoked when I was a teen.
Have you ever heard of dabbing? No, not the hip-hop dance! That may make you look like you’re on drugs, but the dabbing we’re talking about can actually scramble your brain. Dabbing involves a dangerous marijuana product: specifically, the concentrated wax popularly called dab. It’s made by using, get this, butane to extract the oils in marijuana plant matter, either via the liquid or its fumes. Butane is a solvent. Some producers also use ethanol or propane. You might remember that we typically burn all these chemicals as fuel, and they are poisonous to the human body.
The THC in the marijuana dissolves in the solvent. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in pot that makes people high. Producers press the resulting mush through a filter and dry it out in a dish or tray. This results in an oily wax called Butane Hash Oil consisting of up to 80-90% THC. It looks a lot like ear wax. One dose is a dab.
When you “take a dab,” you heat the wax up, usually in a vape-pen, and inhale the vapors to get high. Many advocates, usually in states like Colorado and Nevada where recreational marijuana use is legal, defend “dabbing some wax” as no worse than smoking pot. But they’re full of it. It’s a LOT worse. And the levels of THC aren’t regulated or restricted.
Forget that long-term use of pot may cause lung cancer, despite the “hemp” crowd’s claims otherwise; that it definitely drops your IQ by up to eight points permanently; causes chronic bronchitis symptoms; can be a gateway drug to worse stuff; compromises your judgment; and causes paranoia in high doses. Ignore, for now, that long-term pot users who started using in their teens drive more dangerously than non-users, and tend to have a lot more accidents — even when sober.
What you really need to know is, even today’s more potent marijuana plants contain no more than 28% THC, while the weed we rolled in the 70’s and 80’s was about 2 to 5%. Dabs, on the other hand, are more than three times more potent than the strongest marijuana plant. It is no longer a plant. Dabs aren’t natural. They are CHEMICALS. Dab is to marijuana like crack is to cocaine. One dab is like smoking 3 to 5 joints at once depending on potency.
And here’s what’s worse: dabbing has become popular among young people. Many start dabbing by age 14. Most of the time, their parents don’t have a clue. You see, dab vapor doesn’t have the skunky smell most marijuana smoke has. It may not even have a scent at all. So, kids can do it behind their parents’ backs at home. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t always leave the kind of stink on their clothes and breath tobacco and pot does. And the devices can look like nicotine. They tell you they are “vaping,” but they are actually dabbing THC. Vaping = nicotine, and dabbing = marijuana.
Maybe you think they are just being typical teens. Maybe you think it’s harmless because it’s legal. Maybe you think, “Ah, he’s getting straight A’s, so it can’t be affecting him.” Or “That’s not my kid, because we go to church.” Well, I used to think all of that too.
The wax can be a killer.
Until the young 20’s, a young person’s brain is still developing, and intoxicants can damage said development. Hence, one reason why 21 is the legal age for alcohol, pot, and cigarettes. Numerous medical studies show dabbing can slow mental development, trigger schizophrenia, and cause depression. These mental illnesses can lead to suicide. Our 19-year-old son, Johnny, took his own life after years of recreational dabbing led to severe persecution delusion (he thought the mob was after him), and he blamed weed for ruining his mind and his life three days before his death.
Compared to heroin or crack, marijuana has a lower addiction rate, but it’s still addictive — and dabs are pot on steroids. Even if it’s not physically addictive, anecdotal evidence indicates a high rate of psychological addiction among young people. Sure, maybe they could stop without withdrawal symptoms. But they enjoy the high so much they don’t want to.
It doesn’t take an addiction to dabbing to hurt you. For some who’ve tried it, it took just one hit to put them in the hospital with life-threatening effects or to cause psychosis. My 51-year-old girlfriend landed in the mental hospital for three weeks from hallucinations caused from hitting a dab pen twice. This doesn’t even account for all the damage dabbers do to their families, often accidentally, sometimes fatally.
Please study the research we’ve added to our website to learn more about dabbing, and please share Johnny’s story and talk to your kids about its dangers before it’s too late. Please.
We need your help to continue our mission to reduce teen substance abuse, mental health issues, and suicide. Please join Johnny’s Ambassadors at www.JohnnysAmbassadors.org/donate. Any amount helps, even $5! With thanks and love, Laura (Johnny’s mom)