Many of us have watched someone bring what looks like a space-age instrument to their mouth, inhale mightily, and blow out a trail of vapor that would make your Grandpa’s old jalopy jealous. What the uninformed might call a futuristic cigarette could actually be a cannabidiol (CBD) pen, vape pen, or simply a “vape.”
Like anything we put into our bodies, particularly something that can directly affect organs as important as our lungs, users should weigh the benefits and risks before buying. There are plenty of benefits to a vape pen, including the fact that vaporizing the oil enables more effective ingestion since it goes directly to the bloodstream. That means you’re able to receive rapid relief from pain and anxiety.
However, it’s crucial that you’re also aware of the risks—and that’s where we can help. We’ve put together a list of six potentially dangerous side effects of vape pens, and the impact they can have on your body, to help you make the decision if a vape pen is the right mechanism for your CBD usage.
As humans, we become conditioned to routines and rituals, and sometimes we enjoy them more so than the actual payoff or result. For example, some cigarette smokers don’t necessarily enjoy the taste but live for the ritual of lighting up immediately after waking, after eating, or while drinking alcohol. One could say the same for the sensation of using a vape pen, which shares the same mechanical components as an E-cigarette.
While the United Nations’ World Health Organization has said that CBD “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” it’s possible to become addicted to the act of vaping. Along those lines, it’s easy to see how someone could transition from CBD to a more harmful product in order to meet that need.
Since it involves poisoning, this one probably sounds scarier than it really is, but it’s useful information to have. As mentioned, a vape pen is similar to an E-cigarette. That means it has an atomizer, which is a metal coil that serves as the heating element, along with a tank, and sometimes automatic sensors. Because so many different manufacturers produce vape pens, some have cautioned that the quality of the device can wildly vary. With lower-quality vape pens, there is a chance that the metal in the atomizer could melt and leech into what you’re inhaling from your pen.
With a complex device like a vape pen, it’s imperative that the liquid used be of the right consistency. One of the ways that vape juice manufacturers achieve this is by using something called a thinning agent, with propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol serving as popular choices for CBD-infused (and nicotine-based) vape juice.
Though these agents are typically safe to ingest when used in food, they can become dangerous as the vape juice heats. In fact, they’ve been known to emit carcinogens like acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, which can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms, along with potentially causing cancer.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of a vape pen is the flavors that the user receives from the juice. Name a flavor, and there’s a good chance a juice infused with CBD that tastes like it already exists. From chocolate to waffles and whip cream, to even a mild tobacco taste, there’s a flavor out there for everyone. But with such a broad spectrum of flavors, it would be impossible for each to carry the same safety standards and side effects. That means the way your body tolerates one additive may be a completely different experience from how it handles another.
And here’s something else: A good number of those flavor additives can suppress immune function. Many flavoring agents like diacetyl also have been known to cause respiratory diseases. One of the most debilitating of these is bronchiolitis obliterans, also called popcorn lung. This condition, which is closely linked to inhaling diacetyl, damages your lungs’ airways and makes you cough and feel shortness of breath.
Something to be cautious of regardless of the mechanism in which you choose to consume your CBD is how it interacts with your regular prescription drugs. CBD can influence the absorption and efficacy of your medication by unnerving the cytochrome P450 system in your body. That means your prescription drugs may remain in your system for longer than pharmacists recommended and make them less effective.
We always suggest you consult with your doctor before beginning to dose with CBD, but especially if you are on prescription steroids, antibiotics, beta blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, as these drugs are likely to receive some effect from CBD.
Remember how the temperature of the oil caused the metal to potentially poison the user? Well, when it comes to cuticle wax, the vape pen just can’t get hot enough. Cuticle wax is the slippery outer layer of lipids smeared across the surface of hemp and many other flowering cannabis plants. When they’re smoked, that waxy remnant burns away and causes no harm to the user.
But a vape pen doesn’t get as hot as the flame of something smoked, which means those fatty bits can lump together and settle in the lungs. There have been no clinical studies performed on the topic, but it’s believed that those groupings of wax could potentially solidify into granulomas, structures formed during inflammation that deal with the immune system.
There’s no doubting that using CBD with a vape pen has its benefits. Not only does it pack a punch because of its potency, but it does it faster than many other types of products. Scientific research has also shown vaping CBD to cause a reduction in cigarette consumption, which is a good thing. CBD vaping in moderation is generally a safe practice, but it may be a good idea to find alternative methods of using CBD for variety and to give your lungs a break.
As with any CBD products, always make sure to shop at reputable retailers who either manufacturer or distribute quality products that you know you can trust. And of equal importance, stay away from products that lack a label or don’t include literature about third-party testing verifying the product’s legitimacy.
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