Last month, 19-year-old Levy Thamba traveled with three of his friends to Colorado for an adventure. They drove from their small college in Wyoming during their spring break, and on the way, the boys stopped at a local marijuana shop and purchased a marijuana cookie.
Although experts are not sure how much of it Levy Thamba ate, they are clear that the effects of the drug influenced his suicide. At some point in the early morning of March 11, 2014, Levy Thamba, born in Africa, leaped over the balcony of the hotel where he and his friends were staying and died. The coroner reported that his death was linked to “marijuana intoxication.” Interestingly, the boy had no history of suicidal thinking, depression, or psychological disorder.
Thamba, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, showed that he his THC levels were at 7.2 nanograms per milliliter, which is above the legal driving limit. He had no other drugs or alcohol in his blood. Typically, at that level, marijuana, especially edible forms can cause anxiety, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and hallucinations. Also, the problem with edible forms of pot is that its effect comes on slowly. Whereas when a user smokes the drug, effects are felt pretty quickly. With a longer wait time to experience the drug, users might ingest more. The potency of the edible forms of pot is articulated in warning labels on the products, but they don’t seem to having an effect.
Edible forms of marijuana make 40% of marijuana sales in the state and are typically the form for first-time users of the drug use. Thamba’s death was the first marijuana-related death since the state legalized the use of it. The state is now examining its laws around the use of the drug. They are not attempting to retract legalizing marijuana but officials want to be more cautious about how users are taking the drug, how often, and the effects it’s having.
However, experts are concerned that the use of edible marijuana could easily emphasize marijuana as a gateway drug for teens and children. According to the Journal of American Medical Association, 14 children under the age of 12 ended up in the hospital after taking in the edible form of the drug between 2009 and 2011.
Fortunately, many adolescents are already aware of the dangers that accompany the use of marijuana, especially teen marijuana use. Often, but not always, this alone can keep teenagers away from drugs, especially if their home and school life is relatively healthy. Some adolescents will experiment with drugs to satisfy their curiosity but frequently experience ends there. If drug use continues, likely there are underlying issues that continue to feed the desire for drug use.
Commonly, there are feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that ultimately lead to trying and then using a drug on a regular basis. Alcohol and drugs induce an altered state and therefore provide an escape from the tumultuous inner atmosphere that a troubled adolescent might have. Some feelings are hard to bear, especially if they are intense, and particularly if a teenager feels that he or she cannot express those feelings without being reprimanded or hurt in some way.
Yet, even if a teen’s life isn’t necessarily all that troubled, drug use that comes with euphoric feelings can certainly induce additional use of the drug. Or sadly, as in the case of Levy Thamba, teen marijuana use only needed to happen once to have a lasting effect.
Deam, J. (April 7, 2014). Student’s death in Colorado raises questions on pot and health. LA Times. Retrieved on April 28, 2014 from: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-colorado-pot-woes-20140407,0,5725785.story#axzz30DPUDToH