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Ongoing FDA investigations and a spate of hospitalizations show that “safer than cigarettes” does not mean safe.

the question of vaping’s relative danger has recently taken on a much more desperate tone. While vaping is still so new that broad, long-term data on inhaling the often mysterious chemicals found in both nicotine and cannabis “vape juice” won’t be available for years, Americans are beginning to see the effects that heavy or extended use of the vaping market’s vast array of products might have.

The early evidence is alarming. A report today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 450 cases in 33 states of a mysterious “vaping illness” that affects the lungs of otherwise healthy people, most of them under the age of 30. So far, three people have died, and the CDC is investigating a fourth.

Now government agencies such as the FDA and the CDC have to play catch-up. The most immediate concern is the illness that has landed hundreds of people in the hospital this summer. Its laundry list of potential symptoms includes fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and extreme shortness of breath. Vape juice can contain dozens of different chemicals, so reverse-engineering what hundreds of sick people across the country have in common is tricky. Some of the problematic substances might be long gone by now, or they could be part of black-market cannabis products that patients are reticent to turn over to federal authorities.

The FDA has emphasized that it is too early to know for sure what’s causing the worst health problems, but testing so far points to cannabis products as the likeliest source of the most dire symptoms. Most patients have reported using vape products with tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. No common chemical has been found yet across all the samples the FDA has tested, but public health authorities in New York have suggested vitamin E acetate is a possible culprit. Vitamin E acetate is sometimes found in the oil base for vape juice and can be harmful when inhaled in high concentrations.

In much of the country, cannabis’s cultural acceptance far outpaces its legal availability, which means that its users rely on products with unknown origins and ingredients, manufactured with no regulatory oversight. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so even states that have legalized it are left on their own when regulating its manufacture and sale. One of the deaths has been linked to a cannabis vape purchased from an Oregon dispensary.

Advocates for the nicotine-vaping industry have been quick to point to black-market cannabis products as the real source of health problems, which they claim are being used misleadingly by anti-tobacco advocates to fuel their own crusades. But that argument belies the fundamental lack of information available when evaluating nicotine vaping’s impacts on health and its potential interactions with other drugs. Many of the people who are known to have fallen sick this summer use nicotine vapes in addition to cannabis, and it’s possible that lung irritation caused by frequent use of nicotine e-cigarettes could hasten or worsen the impacts of chemicals found in black-market cannabis products.

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Nearly 9,000 children and adolescents died as a result of prescription and illicit opioid poisonings between 1999 and 2016 in the United States, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open. Most of these deaths occurred in teenagers, who saw an increase in heroin-related mortality of more than 400% during that time.

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Teenagers who reported nonmedical prescription opioid use during high school were significantly more likely to later use heroin, according to findings from a prospective cohort study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The opioid epidemic has overwhelmed many communities in the United States, and teenagers are a particularly vulnerable group who also are at risk,” lead author Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, MSHS, assistant professor in the division of pediatric surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Prescription opioids are pharmacologically similar to heroin, making the association notable and unique.”

Kelley-Quon and colleagues conducted a longitudinal cohort survey in eight urban and two suburban Los Angeles high schools that were chosen because of their diverse demographic characteristics. The researchers followed 3,298 adolescents from ninth grade in 2013 through 12th grade in 2017. The adolescents, who had never used heroin at baseline, participated in eight waves of semi-annual surveys — each wave representing a semester in high school — to assess nonmedical prescription opioid use, heroin use and social and environmental factors. 

Current nonmedical prescription opioid use has a 13.1% estimated cumulative probability of subsequent heroin use initiation.

The cohort included 1,775 teen girls (53.9%), 1,563 (48.3%) Hispanic students, 548 (17%) Asian students, 155 (4.8%) African American students, 529 (16.4) non-Hispanic white students and 220 (6.8%) multiracial students.

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Monkey dust - which is highly addictive - has seen users turn to a live of crime to fund their addiction and can be bought for as little as a few pounds

THE 23 FACES WHO HAVE BEEN RAVAGED BY MONKEY DUST - Shocking photos show the ravaged faces of those whose lives have been ruined by 'monkey dust'. The drug, which can be bought for a mere £2 has led users to a dark path of crime, as well as violent and psychotic episodes. Some users, dubbed 'dustheads', have been responsible for a whole spectrum of offences - from petty shoplifting to brutal stabbings and terrifying rooftop sieges. 

This is what the perpetual promotion of drug use leads to! Permission, not Prohibition Models are systematically driving ever increasing drug us! #preventdontpromote

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Patrick DeGrave’s brother was still in a medically induced coma in a Wisconsin hospital when he spoke to the local news. Standing before a crew from FOX 6 Milwaukee, he was ready to go public, and the vaporizer cartridge he held up for the cameras was the reason for his brother’s significant heart and lung damage.

The vapor product DeGrave showed to reporters was distilled from cannabis. But it was also apparently made by the “company” Dank Vapes — an elusive, black-market brand that’s as tricky to pin down as vapor.

They all seem to tell a similar story — that Dank Vapes may be fake. It’s a black-market “brand” that has inspired loyalty online but comes with serious risks.

“They act like a cannabis company, but they actually don’t exist. They’re in the packaging industry,” Mark Hoashi, founder of the Doja app, which is “Yelp for the cannabis industry,” tells Inverse.

“These are just people filling cartridges as ‘Dank Vapes.’ It’s not a singular facility. It’s just people in their garages filling them and selling them.”

Myron Ronay, the CEO of BelCosta Labs, a cannabis testing lab in California, tells Inverse that they often see black-market products that contain unsafe levels of myclobutanil — a fungicide. When myclobutanil is heated, it releases toxic fumes, one of which is hydrogen cyanide. Small amounts of HCN are released when smoking cigarettes, but larger doses are lethal. HCN was a major component of Zyklon-B, the gas used in Nazi gas chambers. Unregulated products, like black-market Dank Vapes, have no one checking to see where that line is drawn.

“That’s one of the most commonly discussed pesticides. That’s definitely one that we see frequently in the underground market,” says Ronay.

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