Forget vitamin E, high school kids put heroin in their vape pens

Forget vitamin E, high school kids put heroin in their vape pens

VicesNovember 13, 2019 By Reilly Capps

Sounds bad: Vitamin E in vape pens sickens hundreds

But high schoolers are putting in heroin. 

Two high school students in West Virginia overdosed and were hospitalized recently after puffing on vape pens that actually contained an opioid. 

After the overdoses, local cops searched another high schooler's stuff and found empty cartridges they think the kid was filling with heroin-laced e-juice. The pens were labeled TKO — technical knockout. It's not clear if the high school kids who overdosed knew an opioid was in their vapes, or if they thought they were vaping weed. 

"Some of [the vape pens] are being marketed as marijuana oil, [but] they have heroin-based products and other opioids," a Morgantown, West Virginia police department spokesperson said on Facebook

The feds warned Appalacians to be on the lookout for the heroin-pens. 

photo - heroin-laced vape pen

photo - heroin vape pen

[The heroin-laced vape cartridges found in West Virginia. Photos from the Department of Justice.]

Vaping is probably a safer alternative to cigarettes and joints, since smoke in the lungs causes cancer. But 2,000 cases of vape-related illness, and 40 deaths, are scaring people away from vapes. The government now blames vitamin E acetate, an ingredient in skin lotions that thickens and dilutes vape juice. Vitamin E is safe to rub on your skin, but maybe not to inhale. It's mostly found in black-market vapes. 

The case of heroin-laced vape pens in the West Virginia high school adds to the vape story. 

Since a vape pen looks less sketchy than a pipe, vapes can be a user's poly-drug delivery system. The Global Drug Survey reports people vape everything from meth to crack to to ecstasy to ketamine. We've reported on igh schoolers vape the world's strangest drug, DMT, in the parking lot before school. And it's likely that kids, able to sneak vape pens into schools and concerts and work, will keep experimenting with druggy vape potions,as if they were cut-rate chemists. 

But vape pen risks are real, as the high school heroin case shows. Because of prohibition, users usually don't know who's packaged it and what's in it. A few drops too much of one drug or another, or a weird additive, and the hospital or the morgue are possibilities. 

States and cities are trying to keep kids away from vapes by banning flavors and raising the legal age to 21, while plant medicine companies promise cleaner, purer vapes. But high school kids will always find a way to ratchet things up a notch.