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Vaping 101: What to Know About E-cigarettes and  Addiction

Vaping is a popular way to consume both nicotine and marijuana. While many vapes contain about half the nicotine of cigarettes and appear to be a healthier option, there are still many health risks. In vaping 101, we will answer questions such as what does vaping to your brain and how to treat vaping addiction.

At Focused Addiction Recovery in Wallace, North Carolina, our team of highly trained addiction specialists provides treatment resources for people suffering from addiction to learn how to cope with and manage their conditions to achieve long-term recovery.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is inhaling vapor through a device called an electronic nicotine delivery system or ENDS. Generally called e-cigarettes, vape pens, tank systems, and mods, they typically contain a battery, a heating element, and a compartment for the liquid. They also come in various sizes and shapes.

The liquid or vape fluid, which turns to vapor, contains nicotine, artificial flavorings, water, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin base, and other additives. However, knowing exactly what’s in the vape fluid can be challenging. Besides nicotine, THC and other illicit substances can also be vaped.

The History of the E-Cigarette

The first reference to an electronic cigarette is in a patent granted to Joseph Robinson in 1930. It’s unclear if he ever made a prototype. Herbert Gilbert received a patent in 1965 and created a prototype. But this e-cigarette was never commercialized.

Fast forward to 2003, and the first commercialized e-cigarette was created in China by Hon Lik, a 52-year-old pharmacist. In August 2006, e-cigarettes were introduced in the U.S.Sincee then, there have been many debates about their safety and health risks.

Vaping 101: Understanding the Risks

Vaping increases your exposure to harmful chemicals. It can also expose you to addictive nicotine. However, if you smoke cigarettes, vaping is less harmful. Because vaping is on the rise among teens, parents should know these vaping 101s when talking with their teens.

Nicotine is not proven to cause cancer. It is used in nicotine replacements such as nicotine gum and patch. However, nicotine use has risks. For instance, vaping with nicotine can:

  • Lead to dependence
  • Cause a nicotine addiction in those who never smoked cigarettes

Children and teens are more susceptible to the effects of nicotine. They are at a higher risk for dependence and addiction than adults. Nicotine affects memory and concentration and can alter brain development.

When teens use nicotine, it can reduce impulse control and lead to cognitive and behavioral issues.

The nicotine in vaping liquid is poisonous, especially to children. Even a small amount can be harmful if vaping liquid with nicotine is swallowed or absorbed through the skin. There were reports of fatal and non-fatal nicotine poisonings when children swallowed the fluid.

Vaping fluid with nicotine should always have child-resistant lids and a poison hazard symbol. This is a law to protect children. It also opens the door for parents to discuss vaping 101 and its dangers.

Although vaping liquid has fewer chemicals than tobacco products, the chemicals have health risks. The main liquids in vape fluid are vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol. They are used in sweeteners and cosmetics and are considered safe. But, the long-term effects of vaping these substances are unknown.

When vaping, there is no burning. But, the liquid still heats up and can create new chemicals such as formaldehyde. The amount of chemicals a person is exposed to depends on the following:

  • Strength of battery
  • Type of vape device
  • Device settings
  • Internal components of the device
  • Type of liquid and strength of nicotine
  • How often does a person vape

The effects of vaping are still being studied, and the long-term effects are unknown. But, research shows enough evidence to prevent teens and non-smokers from using.

People who vape are exposed to diacetyl and risk developing popcorn lung. Diacetyl is a chemical flavoring in food products and vapes. The disease is called popcorn lung because workers in popcorn plants were developing it.

Popcorn lung is a chronic disease that damages the small airways in the lungs. The medical term for this disease is bronchiolitis obliterans. Steps are being taken to reduce the use of diacetyl in vaping liquids.

Vaping On the Rise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey on e-cigarette use. The FDA is highly concerned about e-cigarette use among youth, and this survey shows why. In 2022, one in ten or over 2.5 middle and high school students currently vaped. This number includes:
  • 1% or 2.14 million high school students
  • 3% or 380,000 middle school students
  • 85% used flavored vapes
  • More than 27.6% use e-cigarettes daily.
  • More than 4 in 10 reports using a vape in 20 of the last 30 days
North Carolina began participating in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) in 2016. Of North Carolinians who participated in the survey in 2018, 22.6% said they had tried a vaping product at least once. This is up from 21.2% in 2016. The participants who said yes were asked if they currently use e-cigarettes. In 2016, the daily number of users was 6.7%. And in 2018, it jumped to 10%. From 2011 to 2017, high school students using e-cigarettes rose by 900 percent. In middle school students, this number increased by over 400 percent. When asked, many students didn’t know their vape contained nicotine.

The Great Vaping Debate – Is It Harmful?

Nearly 7 out of 10 smokers say they want to quit. If you’re going to stop smoking, you may consider trying e-cigarettes to help. The debate continues over the harm and benefit of vaping. Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H.. director of clinical research at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, shares these pointers about vaping.
  • While vaping is less harmful than smoking, it is still harmful.
  • Research shows vaping is bad for the heart and lungs.
  • Electronic cigarettes are just as addictive as regular cigarettes.
  • A new generation is becoming addicted to nicotine.
  • E-cigarettes are not the best tool to stop smoking.
The link between cardiovascular disease and smoking is significant. But what does vaping do to your brain? There are better ways to stop smoking than turning to e-cigarettes. Talk to your doctor for recommendations.

What Does Vaping Do to the Brain?

Vaping gets a lot of attention because it can cause severe lung issues. However, scientists also want you to ask, what does vaping do to the brain, especially in teens? Nicotine and vaping can disrupt brain circuit formation that controls attention and learning and increases the risk of addiction. Nicotine releases dopamine which is a feel-good chemical. This creates a pleasurable experience that can lead to addiction. Parents should know what does vaping to their brain so they can educate their teens and help them make smart choices. Research and surveys have found the following:
  • Nicotine affects brain receptors making teens more susceptible to addiction.
  • Teens who never smoke but use a vape have a higher risk of smoking cigarettes a year later.
  • Vaping may increase the severity of ADHD symptoms.
  • Increases mental fog in teens who vape before age 14.
  • It makes concentration, memory, and decision-making more difficult.

Why Does Vaping Become Addictive?

Because most vape liquid contains nicotine, vaping can be addictive. When you inhale nicotine vapor, it absorbs quickly through blood vessels in the lining of the lungs. Then nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds. Over time, this affects how the brain works because it increases dopamine levels. Due to this increase, a person may feel relaxed, alert, calm, and euphoric. But, these feelings typically subside within a few minutes, leaving the body craving more. This starts the cycle of addiction.

Is Vaping Nicotine More Addictive than Smoking Cigarettes?

Vaping nicotine is likely more addictive than cigarettes. One reason is that many vape liquids have flavorings and don’t taste like cigarettes. Furthermore, they don’t burn the throat like cigarettes. Vape pens are also easier than smoking a cigarette. And maybe the most significant addiction factor is, for example, one JUUL pod has the same nicotine as 20 cigarettes. Because vapes do not have an offputting smell, people can smoke them in more places. This further increases the risk of addiction.

What Health Concerns Come with Vaping Nicotine?

Researchers are still learning about the health effects of vaping nicotine. However, they know that vaping produces toxins that can cause irreversible lung damage and disease. Chemicals such as acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde in the vape liquid can cause lung and heart disease. Additionally, nicotine use in teens can change how synapses are formed and interfere with learning and attention. Other health effects of vaping include:
  • Increasing the risk of asthma exacerbations
  • Acute lung injury
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Stunting brain development in children and teens
Bodily injury is also possible when using a vape pen. Defective vape pen batteries have caused fires and blown up in people’s faces. Many battery explosions happen while the battery is charging.

Debunking Common Myths about Vaping

While the number of people smoking cigarettes is dropping, the number of teens vaping is on the rise. There are various misconceptions about vaping you should know when having a vaping 101 talk with your teen. Using e-cigarettes is harmless. While e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, they are not harmless. Although vaping has only been around for about ten years and its effects are still unknown, we know it can increase heart rate and blood pressure, promote blood clots, and damage veins and arteries.

Most vape liquid does contain nicotine. One JUUL cartridge contains as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. 

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug. While youth are more susceptible to addiction, adults can also become addicted

The vapor from e-cigarettes is not just water vapor. It contains dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer and other lung issues.

 Are New Approaches Needed to Treat Vaping Addiction?

There is limited research on how to treat vaping addiction, especially in teens. They are the fastest-growing age group of people using e-cigarettes. Many of these teens want to quit or plan to quit but need the tools to do so.

Ninety-nine percent of teens own cell phones and prefer texting over talking on the phone. Cellphone-based behavioral interventions can be effective for teens to stop vaping long-term. Interventions such as speaking to a counselor over the phone, via video chat, and via text can boost quit rates over automated text services.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Nicotine is an addictive drug. And like other addictive drugs, you may need treatment to achieve lasting recovery. Treatment for drug addiction is based on a person’s personal needs, the severity of addiction, co-occurring mental health disorders, and finances.

The most effective drug addiction treatment includes:

Substance Abuse Coalition Prevention Measures to Stop Vaping

Education is key to stopping vaping use, especially among teens. Despite the companies insisting that they advertise to adults, teen vaping rates continue to rise. Giving teens the facts to make informed decisions is the only way to reduce the use of vapes.

Many teens didn’t know vape liquid contained nicotine, much less the health risks of e-cigarettes. Telling a teen to stop doing anything rarely works, and vaping is no different. Teens need information and the tools to cope with cravings and resist peer pressure.

What can I do to stop using nicotine?

Vaping is marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. Because of this, it can be difficult to know when someone is vaping despite the health consequences, which is the main characteristic of addiction.

It’s important to make a “quit plan” and speak to a counselor before quitting. If you are struggling with severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms, medications like Varenicline and Bupropion can help. Others may benefit from nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches.

Focused Addiction Recovery Can Help Break the Cycle of Addiction

Educating your children about drugs and vaping 101 can reduce the chances of them using harmful substances and struggling with addiction. If you or a loved one needs help breaking the cycle of addiction, we can help. Contact us today to find out how.

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