Teen ‘potheads’ more likely to try hashish

"Since it is the more frequent marijuana users and those who feel they are hooked who are more likely to use hashish, in some instances hashish use can be used as an indicator of severity of marijuana use," says Joseph J. Palamar. (Credit: Rafael Castillo/Flickr)

A wealth of research has been conducted to examine risk factors for teen marijuana use; however, studies rarely differentiate between different forms of marijuana, including a potent form called hashish.

A new study is the first to examine hashish risk factors, and finds two of the strongest are frequency of marijuana use and gender.

“Nearly one out of 10 teens reported ever using hashish and it was used by a quarter of lifetime marijuana users,” says Joseph J. Palamar, an assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Hashish and other marijuana use tended to share many of the same correlates; however, our results found that risk factors for regular marijuana use were often much stronger risk factors for hashish, a much more potent form of the drug.”

The study, “Prevalence and Correlates of Hashish Use in a National Sample of High School Seniors in the United States,” used data from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nationwide ongoing annual study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students. The MTF survey is administered in approximately 130 public and private schools throughout 48 states in the US. Roughly 15,000 high school seniors are assessed annually.

The work focused on data collected from high school seniors in years 2007-2011 (2011 was the last year recreational marijuana use was still illegal in all US states). The researchers determined how sociodemographic factors and reasons for marijuana use were related to recent (12-month) hashish use.

Hashish vs. marijuana

Both hashish and non-hashish marijuana can be smoked, vaporized, or cooked in food. Hashish can be used either in its natural state or converted into a more concentrated oil.

However, compared to other marijuana, hashish usually contains a higher concentration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the most potent psychoactive cannabinoid. While a typical marijuana cigarette (“joint”) contains only 0.5 to 5 percent THC, hashish tends to contain 2 to 20 percent with some estimates as high as 50 percent.

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Although young men and women are just as likely to use marijuana, men are much more likely to use hashish, the research shows.

“Another key finding was that other drug use was a robust risk factor for hashish use,” says Palamar. “Other illicit drug use, regular cigarette smoking, and frequent alcohol use each increased the risk for hashish use; however, a main finding was that as frequency of other marijuana use increased, so too did risk for recent hashish use.”

Palmer says teens who described themselves as being “hooked” on marijuana had double the odds of using hashish.

“Since it is the more frequent marijuana users and those who feel they are hooked who are more likely to use hashish, in some instances hashish use can be used as an indicator of severity of marijuana use.”

The findings are published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Source: New York University