E-cigarettes, or vaping, have seen a spike in popularity amongst young adults in recent years. Marketed as a solution to quitting cigarettes, vaping uses a nicotine-based solution that offers a cleaner and more concentrated means of getting one’s nicotine fix. Although e-cigarettes are devoid of the harmful tar found in traditional cigarettes, cancer-causing compounds and other toxins in tobacco have been found in some cartridges such as diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze. The vaping industry’s claim that e-cigs are an answer to a smoking addiction is probably an accurate statement for many people, but is it a solution or merely an alternative?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, conducted a study on e-cig cartridges from two manufacturers in 2009. The results showed that not only were the amounts of nicotine delivered inconsistent with the amounts stated on the label, but some cartridges labeled nicotine-free actually contained nicotine. The potential for a more concentrated dose of nicotine as well as some cartridges’ inconsistent labeling makes vaping little more than a new medium for an existing nicotine addiction at best, and at worst, a means of inadvertently becoming more addicted. Although the vaping industry is still in its infancy, requiring much more research on whether it really does or does not make smoking cessation easier, some studies have already suggested that it does not.
Although the liquid nicotine used in vaping is usually suspended in cartridges of propylene glycol, a harmless chemical found in smog machines, the nicotine itself is notorious for an array of health issues such as blood clots, lightheadedness, sleep disturbances, irritability, dizziness, abnormal dreams, vascular constriction, joint pain, insulin resistance and heart disease. Even more disconcerting is a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that e-cigarettes act as a “gateway drug,” making users more likely to develop addictions to illicit drugs such as cocaine.
The study, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health, focused on the effects of nicotine and cocaine in mice. Mice who took cocaine in addition to nicotine displayed manic and compulsive behavior, spending more time running around and loitering by the space where they are usually fed (in anticipation of more nicotine/cocaine). These results lined up with the author’s epidemiological data displaying similar effects in people, suggesting that nicotine can prime the reward system of the brain, making them predisposed to more serious addictions.
Despite vaping in itself still looking relatively safe compared to regular smoking, many countries are not taking any chances, with the American Heart Association releasing a policy statement calling for stricter vaping laws such as more industry oversight and a ban on marketing to adolescents as well as Toronto banning e-cigarettes from places of work. Even the World Health Organization has proposed a set of regulations for the e-cig industry in an attempt to prevent the massive demand and ignorance of the risks that the tobacco industry initially saw.
At White River Academy, we understand the dangers that gateway drugs pose, developing individualized programs to treat the condition(s) holistically, ensuring the best possible chance for a quick and lasting recovery. If you have any questions about gateway drugs or nicotine addiction, feel free to contact us today at 866-520-0905.