When juveniles walk into various convenience stores in Concordia Parish they are met by glass cabinets whose contents entice them to purchase a smorgasbord of vibrant, shiny packages. The packages promise long-lasting energy and good times, but opponents claim the reality is much more sinister.
Christ Hope Center Board of Directors met March 2 to inform and develop ways to fight the wave of legal substances being sold at local stores that could possible harm shoppers.
Leading the move was Concordia Parish Coroner Dr. Dennis LaRavia who called the substances detrimental to users.
“The vape products are very, very dangerous,” LaRavia said. “Anybody can walk in there and buy them because it is not against the law.”
An estimated 5.66 million adults in the U.S. vape, but perhaps most alarming is that more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students vape, according to a 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
LaRavia said he has seen the effects of youth vaping first hand. He told of a 17-year-old who was ejected from school for selling vape products to other students. The youth’s parents introduced her to drugs and were in jail.
“It is a very complex issue,” LaRavia said. “I can’t tell you how many times children’s parent introduced them to drugs which I think is devastating.”
A 2019 study out of Virginia Commonwealth University found that four of nine cannabidiol (CBD) vaping liquids researchers tested contained a synthetic cannabinoid compound called 5F-ADB. The synthetic cannabinoid compound is an active ingredient in some synthetic cannabis products (such as Spice, K2, Black Mamba and Crazy Clown) that is illegal in the U.S. due to its link to deathly overdoses.
Vaping CBD primarily affects the lungs and heart and is linked to both lung disease and heart disease, said Vijay Iyer, M.D., an interventional cardiologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“Vaping irritates the lungs’ inner lining,” Iyer explained, adding that researchers also believe vaping impairs the ability of the inner lining of the blood vessels to produce a substance called nitric oxide.
“Nitric oxide keeps blood vessels nice and relaxed, reducing blood pressure,” Iyer said. “The inability of blood vessels (to relax) can cause clotting and the blood vessels to constrict, which can raise blood pressure levels.”
Iyer said that someone who regularly vapes CBD oil isn’t likely to notice its harmful effects at first. The immediate side effect of vaping CBD tends to be feelings of relaxation. But Iyer said vaping was damaging and, over time, this damage could have a serious effect on a person’s health. The health risks of regular CBD vaping:
- Popcorn lung: Medically known as bronchiolitis obliterans, popcorn lung is marked by a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs, which blocks airflow, explained Iyer. This restriction makes it hard to breathe, causing wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Popcorn lung is irreversible and a cause of progressive lung damage.
- Lung or heart disease: Vaping damages blood vessels, which increases one’s risk of lung and heart disease, according to Iyer.
- Compromised immune health: While applying CBD topically or consuming it via food, drinks and other edibles is linked to immune health support, studies show vaping decreases immune health.
- Death: While data on vaping-related deaths specifically is sparse, at least 68 people between March 2019 and February 2020 died due to lung injury caused by vaping.
During his presentation, LaRavia went over a plethora of different substances people could buy over the counter at various stores that could be dangerous to their health.
One product was ZaZaRed which “works like heroin and found in gas stations, CWD and smoke shops,” LaRavia said.
Phenibut, a Russian product commonly found in vapes, is used for opioid withdrawal. It is used in Red Dawn which costs approximately $6 to $8.
Benzedrex, aka Benz, is available on Amazon and is banned by anti-doping committees for athletes. Users take cotton out of the inhaler and suck on it for a “high,” according to LaRavia.
Ayahuasca, aka Spirit Dog, is a psychedelic commonly used in Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica and is street legal in 49 states.
Delta 8 or Delta 8 THC is most commonly made from CBD and is used for its calming effects. Users call it “diet weed” or “weed light.”
“There are 30 to 40 variants to Detla 8 which include a large number of chemicals that are added to cannabis,” LaRavia said. “They are advertised as pain relief, anti-nausea and anxiety relief.”
Fentanyl is often found in “candies” and vaping material, LaRavia said, adding fentanyl is “very dangerous.”
Tran Q is Xylazine which is a liquid veterinary tranquilizer. It increases the high and length of the effect of heroin and fentanyl.
Gabapentin is a highly abused drug in society and prison, according to LaRavia. It enhances the high of opioids in drug users. 2,000 msg is considered the “sweet spot” among drug abusers.
Kratom, aka Kava Kava, is sold as a “dietary supplement” and is cheap, approximately $6 to buy.
In Franklin Parish and parts of Richland Parish, kratom has been banned.
LaRavia and his group have goals of spreading their message to schools and churches throughout the Miss-Lou.
Schexnayder places blame
Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder blamed the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) on blotching implementation of legislation he drew up to create Louisiana’s consumable hemp industry. The proposed mistake involved over-the-counter products that contain delta-9 THC.
Members of the House Health and Welfare Committee this week heard testimonies from business owners and lawmakers. Although members of the LDH Drug Policy Board were a no show to the hearing.
According to Schexnayder, he called on LDH to explain why it approved products that could get people high, while the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control sent out a memo saying they would remove any illegal products from retail sites.
LDH officials have acknowledged their agency mistakenly approved about 230 products it shouldn’t have, specifically vape cartridges that some manufacturers disguised as CBD casts.
Schexnayder accused LDH officials approved not only 230 but nearly 400 illegal products and jeopardized small businesses by misinterpreting his legislation. According to the lawmaker, his legislation did not allow for any hemp product with more than 8 milligrams of THC.
Rep. Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas, said Schexnayder bill was “a little loose-ended” and attributed language in the legislation which was to prohibit products with multiple servings of 8 milligrams of THC.
According to the legislation, “The total THC in a product shall not exceed eight milligrams per serving.” Many manufacturers, as well as LDH officials, read that to mean each individual serving is limited to 8 milligrams. The legislation did not limit the number of servings a product can have.
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