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A study out of Johns Hopkins Medicine has shown that compared to smoking, vaping cannabis increases the effects of marijuana on new or infrequent users, highlighting the importance of proper dosing for medical patients.

The findings, described in the November 30 edition of JAMA Network Open, found that for those who were just beginning cannabis use or infrequently used it, effects such as short-term anxiety, paranoia, memory loss and distraction were more prominent when vaping.

The study suggests vaping delivers greater amounts of THC, as it heats the marijuana to a point that releases its mind-altering compounds, rather than burning the entire product.

For the study, the researchers chose 17 volunteer participants (nine men and eight women, average 27 years), who had not used cannabis in the past 30 days, and on average had not used cannabis in over a year. Each participant also completed the Drug Effect Questionnaire -- rating self-reported drug effects out of a score of 100 -- shortly after smoking and each hour for up to eight hours later. The survey assessed overall drug effect; feeling sick, anxious, hungry, sleepy and restless; and experiencing heart racing, dry mouth, dry eyes, memory impairment and coughing.

Results showed that a few minutes after smoking, those who vaped the 25-milligram THC dosage reported an average of 77.5 on the overall strength of the drug's effect, meaning how high they felt compared with the average score of 66.4 reported by those who smoked the same dose.

The researchers also tested how vaping affected typical daily tasks for participants compared to smoking . According to the postdoctoral fellow Tony Spindle, Ph.D, a researcher in the behavioral pharmacology research unit at John Hopkins Bayview, “Our participants had substantially higher impairment on the tasks when vaping versus smoking the same dose, which in the real world translates to more functional impairment when driving or performing everyday tasks.”

The researchers noted the study involved only a small number of younger adults and lasted only six weeks “We still don't have a full look at the long-term effects of vaping, such as whether there is a risk for chronic bronchitis, and more work needs to be done on that front,” said Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D. associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.


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