What is Vaping?
Vaping is using battery-operated devices – vaporizers – to inhale an aerosol. In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert drew up the original designs for a vape pen, as he didn’t like the idea of burning and smoking regular cigarettes.
Called “Smokeless” by the original designer, he failed to find anyone interested in producing the item and the whole thing was scrapped.
Vape pens as we know them today were officially created and produced in 2004 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik– now there are hundreds of different brands on the market.
A vape pen has 4 parts to it:
- Cartridge or pod where the liquid solution, or e-liquid, is held
- Heating element
- Power source like a battery
The liquid in e-cigarettes can contain flavorings, nicotine, and other chemicals. The looks of the vapes vary, from a cigarette look-a-like to something that looks like a pen or USB memory stick. Some common names used are vapes, vape pens, e-cigs, e-hookahs, hookah pens, and mods. Mods are more powerful and customizable than regular vape pens.
Vaping is generally thought of as the safe way to smoke. Since its creation, it has become very popular. In 2018 it was estimated that 41 million people vape worldwide. The United States, the United Kingdom, and France are the biggest markets with ten billion dollars spent on vaping in 2018 alone.
Some claim vaping can be used to replace cigarette smoking and eventually be used to taper off the amount of nicotine until zero nicotine is inhaled – claims that many are starting to dispute. Multiple studies have linked vaping to depression and illicit drug use. Contrary to the image people have of it, vaping is far from harmless.
How are E-Cigarettes Used?
Vapes were originally designed to consume nicotine. As more and more started using the vape pens, alternate versions were created to allow for smoking marijuana herb, wax, or oil. Unfortunately, vape pens can also be used to use multiple types of drugs in a much sneakier and portable way.
It can be almost impossible to tell if someone is using a vape pen to smoke nicotine, marijuana, or something else. This has led to an increase in the rates of marijuana abuse and addiction. The rates of high school students vaping marijuana within the last 30 days doubled from 2018 to 2019.
Health Impacts of Vaping
Unfortunately, the full impacts of vaping are unknown. In general, it’s thought to be less harmful than cigarette smoking, however, it has been clearly linked to some major health concerns.
Vitamin E Acetate
In 2019, the CDC began studying an “outbreak” of lung injury and death in vape users. It’s estimated that more than 2,000 people fell ill and 57 were killed by the vaping-related illness. Studies by the CDC found that vitamin E acetate was in all 29 samples of lung fluid from studied individuals.
Vitamin E acetate is added to cannabis oil to prevent oxidation, or browning, of the oil. It can also be used as a thickening agent for terpene or to thin cannabis oil used in vapes. It is not used in vape pens designed to smoke nicotine, so only illicit versions of vape pens carry the risk. The CDC hasn’t completed the study yet, but they do recommend staying away from all non-approved vape pens for the time being.
Get Your Questions Answered Now.
A study done in 2019 found a strong link between vaping and depression – in fact, vape users were two times more likely to have depression than those who had never vaped. The study also found that past e-cigarette use still had a significant impact and that young adults ages 18-25 showed the strongest link between the two.
Levels of Nicotine
There have been very few regulations for vape producers – leading to varying levels of nicotine in every brand. What this means is it can be difficult to know how much nicotine you are consuming. While cigarettes are not a better option, you at least had a gage with the number of cigarettes. Nicotine is a drug and is very addictive. Nicotine can cause changes to the brain and those changes can often be long-lasting.
To make matters worse, studies have shown that people – especially young people – who vape are very likely to eventually move on to smoking cigarettes. Contrary to what people may think, the FDA has not approved vape pens as a tool to stop smoking.
The vaping devices called mods or pod mods have some of the highest levels of nicotine out there. A single pod can contain the same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarettes.
The Link Between Drug Use and Vaping
Aside from its own health concerns, vaping has been associated with a higher rate of multi-substance abuse. A study done in 2017 by the University of Texas, showed a positive association between the use of e-cigarette and the use of “combustible cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, inhalants, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and misuse of over‐the‐counter and prescription medications.” Other studies show that it can prime your brain for drug addiction by activating the same reward signals. The reasons for this association are still being studied, but there are some general theories about why this association exists.
Common Addictive Tendencies
It could be the link exists, because the same behaviors and emotions that lead to substance use also lead to e-cigarette use. In this case, e-cigarettes wouldn’t necessarily be considered a cause of the drug addiction – that person would likely develop the substance addiction regardless. However, it can be an indication of a substance abuse problem and should be discussed and monitored.
Viewed as Safer Alternative
Vaping is thought by some to reduce the harm done by some other methods of drug use. It has a reputation as being a safer way to use. Since the link between vitamin E added to counterfeit vape liquid and many lung-related illnesses and deaths, that perception has shifted slightly, but it is still there. This perception as a safer alternative to other methods of drug use can lead new people to try it out.
Easy to Use and Hide
Vaping is a very quick and easy way of accessing a drug. Because it’s so inconspicuous, people can use the drug in situations they might not have considered before – some teens even use them in classes. This can drastically increase the amount of nicotine or marijuana consumed.
Nicotine and marijuana aren’t the only drugs that can be used through a vape. DMT (one of the most powerful psychedelic drugs), Spice (synthetic marijuana) and Flakka (a stimulant like methamphetamine and cocaine) can all be smoked through vape pens. Some illegal venders are also listing e-liquid containing cocaine, morphine, MDMA, and even fentanyl.
Substitution for Drug Use
Often when someone is in recovery, they can start looking for a substitution for drug use – like food, sugar, nicotine, or gum. Substitutions can lead to their own problems, like nutrition issues or even eating disorders.
The use of a substitution can make recovery harder and can lead to a relapse. Substitutions can be a trigger and don’t allow the person to learn to manage cravings and solve issues that lead to drug addiction in the first place. The action can reinforce addictive behaviors and increase cravings for other substances. For many people, quitting smoking is the final step in their sustained recovery.
All in all, the risk is still low of someone developing a drug addiction just because they vape. If someone you know is vaping, there is no need to worry too much. Even if that person is in recovery for a substance abuse problem, it’s something to talk about, but nothing to cause panic.
If you have any questions concerning drug addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact us at Truvida Recovery. Call 877-228-1102 to speak in confidence with an experienced treatment advisor now.