E-cigarettes or vapes aren’t new. They first appeared in the early 2000s and were marketed as products to help people quit smoking. However, in 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 900%, and almost 40% of them have never smoked regular cigarettes, cigars, or tobacco products. Overall, as the use of traditional cigarettes slows down, a new form of nicotine delivery rises. Vaping addiction might as well be the same thing as nicotine addiction.
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How Addictive is Vaping?
While e-cigarettes and vapes don’t contain tobacco, they still have addictive ingredients like nicotine. The National Institutes of Health calls nicotine as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Unlike other drugs, nicotine can be absorbed into the blood and reach the brain within 10 seconds.
The nicotine found in vaping devices can disrupt neurotransmitters responsible for muscle contraction, memory, and cognition. Like other drugs, this produces several chemical reactions that produce feel-good sensations. Vaping can cause relaxation, focus, calmness, and euphoria, reasons why it also becomes addictive. The biggest problem with vaping is that it takes the body about two hours to wear-off the effects of nicotine, so people feel the crave or urge to smoke again.
As people vape, they experience a rollercoaster of dopamine levels that go up and down, motivating them to continue vaping. This is why so many experts believe vaping is essentially changing a tobacco product for another substance.
Is the Nicotine to Blame?
While nicotine is addictive and a significant component of vaping addiction, it’s the only factor to blame. Vaping addiction has also to do with the environment, social settings, mental health, coping mechanisms, and so forth. Eventually, people develop both psychological and physical cravings.
Once someone develops a habit of vaping, the brain will physically crave nicotine or whatever substances are in the vape. It’s also an automatic habit. For example, depending on their environment, people may only vape when they’re eating lunch, after work, drinking at a bar, or when they’re with friends. These habits make the brain and the person believe that something is missing — in this case, the vape — and without that, they can’t feel at ease.
Of course, there are changes in dopamine levels that also trick the brain. The more an object, situation, or substance increases dopamine levels or feel-good hormones, the more your body craves these substances. If eventually, you associate the use of e-cigarettes with a better mood, it’s easy to develop an addiction to it.
Factors That Make e-Cigarettes Addictive
Beyond the substances inside e-cigarettes, it’s the delivery mechanism that makes them so addictive. For example, one cartridge or e-cigarette pod is equivalent to 20 cigarettes or one pack. Then, add to that the fact that people can buy extra-strength cartridges, which have a higher nicotine level than traditional ones. Plus, you can increase the vape’s voltage to get a more intense hit of the substance.
There’s also the issue of practicality. People don’t have to find a lighter with vapes, don’t need to be in a smoking area, and don’t have to excuse themselves outdoors to smoke cigarettes. For many, the smell of cigarettes was unpleasant, now they can choose their flavor. They’re also so sleek and easy to hide that makes them perfect for teenagers and even kids to use.
Risks of e-Cigarettes Use During Adolescence
While vaping isn’t an adolescent issue, its use is rising among young people. In 2019, almost 25% of 12th graders used vapes, an increase from 11% back in 2017. For 10th graders, the numbers went from 8% to 20%, and among 8th graders, from 4% to 9%.
The problem is yonder people are more susceptible to nicotine poisoning. Not to mention, the brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25. Various studies show that nicotine disrupts brain development. Nicotine primarily impacts the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for critical skills, memory, logical thinking, and reward processing.
When people start vaping or smoking before 25, they’re more likely to suffer from impulse control, emotional regulation, and other lifelong complications.
Read more: What’s the Deal with E-Cigs? Are they Safe?
Struggling with Addiction?
If you or someone you love is struggling with vaping addiction, please seek help. While it might seem insignificant, and our society has approved cigarettes’ habit somehow, it’s an addiction nonetheless. The health effects of vaping can be devastating, affecting the brain, heart, and lungs. Not to mention, it also serves as a stepping stone to other drugs that can be even more dangerous.
While you might not think of vaping as a reason to visit an addiction treatment center, you should consider it again. Trying to quit an addiction alone can be challenging, emotionally draining, and sometimes dangerous.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we’re here to help you or your loved one win the battle against addiction and find long-lasting recovery. Stop leaving it for another day.