As a school administrator, it’s important to not just help prevent unwanted and/or illegal substances from coming into and being used in your building but also to inform and educate students, parents, and your community about these various substances and the negative impact they can have on students. During my career, I have unfortunately had to deal with several young men and women trying various substances in school. It is difficult to stay ahead of new trends as students try new drugs and the various methods in which to take them.
In my opinion, students that willingly use drugs in school and/or are in possession of drug paraphernalia need consistent and firm consequences to send a message to others that school buildings will not be a place for this type of behavior. Schools need to be a professional environment where students learn the skills needed to be college/career ready and successful and productive citizens that demonstrate respect for themselves and for others.
From doing reasearch and speaking with several colleagues that are school administrators in other districts in Massachusetts and from my own experience, I would say that E-Cigarettes/Vapes are the latest trend that students are trying to use unwanted, harmful, or illicit substances in schools. These E-Cigarettes/Vapes really started coming on the school scene about 3-5 years ago even though they have been around the U.S market since around 2008. People first started trying these E-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking to help them eventually quit. The problem is that many kids who never smoked cigarettes use these E-cigarettes/Vapes with nicotine added to the propylene glycol and/or glycerin fluid. As science has proven, nicotine is very addictive and we don’t fully know the long-term health issues associated with Vaping the “e-liquid” or e-juice with or without the nicotine. The CDC reports that use among youth in the U.S. for these products has increased significantly. With the recent surge in use among our youth, more studies are being conducted to shed some light on the effects of these products such as mouth sores, possible gum disease, irritated trachea and lungs, a persistent cough, bronchitis, and possible carcinogens (cancer causing agents) such as formaldehyde (For-MAAL-de-hide) and acetaldehyde (Ass-et-AAL-de-hide) are being released into their bodies from the E-fluid being heated by metal coils.
Some users want to get a greater high from the E-fluid with nicotine in it so they remove the cover to the E-cigarette/Vape and drop the oil directly onto the heated coils which creates more smoke to inhale and a greater hit to that person’s throat. With the increase in heat, greater level of toxins can also be released into the user’s body.
E-Cigarettes/Vapes used for Illegal Substances
Here is a news report on how these devices can be altered to use various drugs and synthetic substances. The most common illicit drug used in them is a sticky marijuana oil called Dabs which usually has higher levels of THC (primary intoxicant in marijuana and hash). Dabs-are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using solvents like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in this sticky oil also commonly referred to as wax or butter.
Other drugs being smoked from E-cigarettes/Vapes
As if it wasn’t bad enough that marijuana and nicotine are being smoked through these devices, several other substances are being added to the fluids such as GHB, heroin, Special K (ketamine), cocaine, magic mushrooms, spices, peyote, percocet, hash oil, amphetamines, ritalin, LSD,MDMA Xanax, Lorazepam, Here is a video from CNN on the rise of synthetic drugs like Flakka.
Why should schools change their handbooks to include E-Cigarettes/Vapes as drug paraphernalia instead of being listed as a Nicotine/Tobacco infraction? Because students can possibly use a variety of chemicals/drugs in these E-fluids, we as administrators don’t have the ability to tell exactly what is in them and don’t have the resources to test for all the possible drugs. If students are brazen enough to bring these into our schools, in my opinion, the Vapes/E-Cigarettes need to be treated as drug paraphernalia. Would it be Ok for a student to be smoking hash oil in class and our teachers not be able to tell what it is because the Vape-fluids are scented? These devices are also becoming smaller and harder to detect. An example are JUUL’s (which look like a thumb drive and can be charged in USB drives in school and some.
A few links on the Dangers of Vape Battery explosions
Other pics of various Vapes/E Cigarettes