Moke: What It Is and Why It’s Unhealthy for Teens
Understanding Moke and Its Effects on the Body and Brain
Have you noticed the word “moke” being used lately, in the media and among young people? If so, you might have wondered, what is a moke?
Moke is a term for a mix of marijuana and tobacco, typically smoked with a bong, or water pipe. Mixing weed with tobacco is more common in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world. According to some estimates, 90 percent of cannabis smokers in Europe mix marijuana with tobacco.
Furthermore, this mix is gaining popularity among American teenagers. In the United States, a marijuana and tobacco cigarette is known as a spliff.
It’s important to understand the health risks of smoking tobacco and weed together. Moreover, this tobacco and weed mix can have a detrimental impact on teen mental health .
What Happens When You Mix Marijuana and Tobacco
While both tobacco and weed have specific effects, mixing the two also has other effects on the body and mind.
A 2009 study showed that mixing cannabis and tobacco actually increases the THC content of the combined drugs. Thus, a moke produces a stronger high. In addition, both nicotine and THC produce a sensation of euphoria.
Moreover, smoking marijuana and tobacco, mixed, have resulted in what health officials call “respiratory cripples.” In 2016, doctors in St. Lucia reported an epidemic of young patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as a result of this combination of drugs.
COPD is a debilitating, progressive disease that directly affects the lungs and cannot be reversed. Patients with the disease are confined to a bed with oxygen tanks to aid in breathing.
Moke Leads to an Increased Risk of Addiction
Smoking mokes may create a greater risk of teen substance use disorder . A 2008 study conducted with users between ages 17 and 35 showed that using tobacco with marijuana contributes to cannabis dependence symptoms.
Furthermore, a 2016 study confirmed these results. Researchers analyzed responses from 33,687 cannabis users from 18 countries who participated in the 2014 Global Drug Survey, an anonymous online survey of drug use.
Subsequently, they found that people who did not mix cannabis with tobacco were much more motivated to quit and thus more likely to seek professional help for cannabis and nicotine addiction. Therefore, researches concluded that people who regularly mix tobacco with cannabis are at greater risk of psychological dependence than people who use the drugs separately.
“Mixing tobacco with cannabis lowers the motivation to quit using these drugs,” said lead author Chandni Hindocha, a doctoral student at the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit of University College London.
Tobacco, Marijuana, and the Brain
Both nicotine and marijuana interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Furthermore, the ECS has receptors in the brain and body that help regulate basic metabolic functions, including pain, pleasure, mood, digestion, and motor control.
A large number of these receptors are found in the hippocampus and amygdala, the parts of the brain that play important roles in remembering, decision making, emotional responses, and addiction. Therefore, drugs that alter the functioning of these receptors can negatively affect functioning in these areas.
In a study done at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, scientists uncovered significant differences in the brains of people who use both tobacco and marijuana, as compared to the brains of those who only use marijuana. Researchers studied the size of the hippocampus as it related to memory function.
They found that the combination of nicotine and marijuana had a unique effect on the brain, as compared to the brains of people who did not smoke or who smoked only one of the two substances.
According to the principal investigator in the study, Dr. Francesca Filby, “Our findings confirm that the interaction between marijuana and nicotine is indeed much more complicated due to the different mechanisms at play. Future studies need to address these compounding effects of substances.”
Effects of Marijuana vs. Tobacco
According to the World Health Organization, tobacco and cannabis are used respectively by 1 billion and 182 million people worldwide.
It is difficult to directly compare marijuana and tobacco in terms of the long-term changes they make in the body and brain. However, both substances are dangerous and unhealthy.
Consequently, the marijuana-tobacco mix known as a moke carries two sets of unhealthy effects.
The Mental Health Risks of Tobacco
Most Americans are very familiar with the physical health risks of smoking nicotine, including lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 480,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, smoking tobacco is also associated with substance abuse and depression . This is particularly true for teens.
What Parents Need to Know About Moke
Specifically, statistics compiled by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that teens who smoke cigarettes are five times more likely to drink. They are also 13 times more likely to abuse marijuana, and seven times more likely to abuse drugs like cocaine and heroin. Thus, alcohol abuse and addiction is nine times higher among teens who smoke tobacco than among their peers who do not smoke.
These findings are supported by a report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. The report, titled “Tobacco: The Smoking Gun,” showed that the changes created by nicotine make a teen’s brain more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol.
The brain’s receptors for nicotine increase when smoking, making it more likely for nicotine addiction to develop and making it harder for teens to stop smoking once they start. Moreover, the brain receptors are also altered, which increases the chances of cravings for other drugs. Additionally, the serotonin receptors change, which increases the chance of depression when not smoking.
Furthermore, the report revealed that smokers ages 12 to 17 are twice as likely as non-smokers to experience symptoms of clinical depression.
Marijuana’s Effects on Teen Mental Health
Like tobacco, marijuana use leads to both physical and mental symptoms. Not only is marijuana addictive, it is extremely harmful to users, especially when they are in the critical developmental stages of adolescence. Teenagers’ use of drugs such as marijuana creates chemical changes in the brain, resulting in disruption of mental and physical growth and health.
Regular marijuana use can lead to the following short- and long-term effects:
- Changes in mood
- Impaired memory
- Cognitive difficulties (thinking and problem-solving)
- Respiratory problems (coughing, lung infections, etc.)
- Faster heart rate
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Depression and anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts in teens
- Decreased IQ: One study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and continued to use it lost an average of eight IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38.
In conclusion, not only do marijuana and nicotine each have individual consequences for teen mental health, the combination of both has additional effects. It’s important not to underestimate the negative impact of these addictive and life-threatening drugs. Therefore, parents need to help their teens find safe, healthy ways to navigate challenges and feel empowered.
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National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
Have you noticed the word “moke” being used lately, in the media and among young people? Moke is a term for a mix of marijuana and tobacco, that can be dangerous for teens.
Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?