Where there's vapor, there's danger

By Spc. Chris BrownJanuary 7, 2020

Alcohol and drugs have long been known to wreak havoc on a career, but a lot about vaping is unknown. Though it's become a common habit among the younger generation and with Soldiers, little is known about the dangers vape juice can induce.

The Surgeon General's website lists several serious health complications that are known risks directly related to vaping liquid ingredients. Among those are lung disease due to flavorants like diacetyl; volatile organic compounds; heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead along with other fine particulates that are inhaled while vaping. All of those risks are associated with the legal vape juices. But there are other dangers coming to the attention of Army leaders.

Recently, vaping has been getting Soldiers into trouble because, even though the juice they use is legal in some places, it is not in others. One of the ingredients that is gaining a lot of attention is cannabidiol. Although CBD has been legalized in many areas of the U.S., it has not been legalized at the federal level. There are also some question about the specific legality in Kansas for various types of CBD. Typically, Kansas law, according to Kansas.gov, requires CBD sold in the state to have 0% tetrahydro cannabinol, or THC, content. However, there is no regulation on how vape liquids are labeled and regulated.

A story in the July 19 issue of U.S. News and World report said, "Full spectrum commonly refers to CBD products that include THC. (Although, buyer beware: Sometimes products labeled "full spectrum" don't actually contain THC, and sometimes those labeled "THC-free" actually do have it.)"

So, while a non-Department of Defense civilian is able to use CBD legally in Manhattan, a Soldier may not. Even though the CBD vape juice may seem legal, it could have an illegal or hazardous substance in it. In fact, CBD isn't the most dangerous issue in vape juices -- many of which are pur-chased through internet sources.

"So they purchase a vaping product, and have no idea what is in it," Tony Metcalf, drug preventive coordinator with Fort Riley's Army Substance Abuse Prevention Program, said. "The internet says it's a good deal for a vaping device. Well what happens when it gets to our military lab?"

Metcalf said the Army does not accept ignorance as a defense when a Soldier tests positive for an illegal substance. Though vaping is a legal activity, it may carry some ingredients tha have negative consequences with hem. If Soldiers want to go about it legally, Metcalf advises they do extensive research on the product beforehand, and he warns against buying any sort of vape juice online.

These vape juices can contain synthetic drugs that can create an abrupt disruption to a Soldier's career and life.

"Some of these bottles come back with synthetics … Soldiers were experiencing all kinds of side effects," Metcalf said. "They couldn't focus on anything, their hands were clammy and cold to the touch, their blood pressure was up, and these side effects lasted for 15 to 20 minutes. That's what started us on these classes for the commanders to inform them of this."

Every week, the unit commanders on Fort Riley are briefed on what to look out for when it comes to side effects of the substances that could be found vape juices their Soldiers are using. They learn to identify suspect behaviors that accompany known synthetic compounds. Based off of the information collected since May 2019, of the Soldiers who were sent for special testing because they exhibited the signs commanders have been trained to watch for, 88% have come back with positive test results for some sort of an illegal synthetic compound, said Rene Douglas, drug test coordinator with ASAP.

So, even vape juice thought to contain only nicotine, and used as a replacement for smoking, could have other compounds in it.

For more information, call the ASAP office at 785-239-4151 or visit Bldg. 7424.