GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Overdoses among youth are an issue happening around the world and here in North Carolina. Researchers at East Carolina University are trying to help with the fight against the overdose epidemic.

The research began in December of 2021 when a small pilot study was conducted where researchers ordered 20 CBD and Delta THC products from across the U.S. and had them shipped to their location. Their main concern was how easy it was to access products that should only be available to those who are 18 years old or 21 and older.

“We found that none of these products required a signature or proof of identification at delivery, meaning that youth and young adults are able to access these products when they’re not supposed to be able to based on the age requirements,” said Kathleen Egan, assistant professor at ECU’s Department of Health Education and Promotion. “This is problematic because we’re seeing issues with overdoses due to exposure.”

Egan said chemicals are being added to some products that should never be in peoples’ bodies.

“What’s come around now is these synthetic cannabinoids, so Delta 8 is one example of those,” said Eric Soule, ECU assistant professor. “And these are chemically derived. So we take CBD, we take cannabis products or the, you know, manufacturer might add some chemicals to CBD. And that’s when you can get some of these other products like Delta 8 THC.”

How easy it is for youth to buy vaping products without age verification is the same concern around purchasing CBD and Delta 8 products.

“There’s legalization of medical marijuana that’s going on, and people looking at it for medicinal effects of these products. But some of these other products, especially these, like Delta 8, these synthetic cannabinoids, there’s such risks that are going on just in the production of these products to beyond just their risk of addiction or the effects that can have on the developing brain for youth,” said Soule.

But their research isn’t stopping here.

“There’s no oversight, no FDA regulations. So, we don’t really know what’s in these products. Evidence is coming out to suggest that there are heavy metals and other chemicals that you don’t really want to consume, or inhale and these products,” said Egan. “And so that’s where our research is going.”

The next steps in the research study are obtaining funding to better understand what’s in products and hopefully work to make it harder for kids to have access to the products, all to help decrease side effects and overdoses in kids and youth.