Insight Neurosurgery – With people looking for cheaper, less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes and new ways to stop smoking, the popularity of e-cigarettes (or vaping) has been surging in the last few years. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 3.7% of US adults use e-cigarettes on a regular basis. Vaping is even more prevalent in young people, with 14.1% of high school students and 3.3% of middle school students reporting use of e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Although some e-cigarettes have the potential to help people stop smoking and may seem harmless, they can also lead to serious long-term health impacts in adolescents and people who do not normally use tobacco products. Here are five surprising ways e-cigarettes can impact your neuro health, including tips to help your teen quit vaping.
Many people start vaping because they think it is a safe substitute for traditional smoking.
Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and many of the other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, they still contain high levels of an extremely addictive substance called nicotine that is thought to be just as addictive as heroin and cocaine. When nicotine is inhaled, it creates temporary feel-good sensations that leave people thinking they need another dose soon after the first. This becomes an unbreakable cycle over time and young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to graduate to cigarettes in the future as the addiction grows. There are also other factors that cause people to become addicted to e-cigarettes, including addictive flavors found in vaping products, the use of e-cigarettes as a coping mechanism, and advertising and peer pressure targeting young people.
In addition to being extremely addictive, the high levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes can also severely impact development in teenage brains. Researchers have found vaping is significantly associated with higher levels of ADHD, memory loss, impulse control, and the ability to learn and focus. This is because nicotine impacts the brain’s dopamine system, which is responsible for how we react to everything from pleasure and rewards to impulses. Compared to an adult brain, a developing brain is much more sensitive to these processes and can be permanently altered as the brain matures. And because e-cigarettes are relatively new, it is still unknown what long-term impacts regular users could experience in the future.
Although there is no direct connection between the ingredients in e-cigarettes and mental health, studies are finding troubling links between vaping and symptoms of depression in both adult and adolescent users. According to a recent JAMA study of approximately 30,000 adult e-cigarette users, frequent vaping is tied to higher odds of having a diagnosis of depression compared to those who do not use e-cigarettes. A similar study from the journal Preventive Medicine found that ninth graders who used e-cigarettes had higher levels of depressive symptoms, including sadness and crying, than those who never vaped.
Researchers have known for years that smoking cigarettes can be detrimental to spine health and contribute to low back pain and other spine conditions. We are now learning that the toxins in e-cigarettes, including nicotine and chemical flavors, are just as harmful as those found in regular cigarettes. In a recent study published in the journal Cureus, researchers observed that carcinogens in e-cigarettes have a toxic effect on osteoblast cells, which can result in reduced bone mineral density. High levels of nicotine can also lead to blood vessel constriction, which can cause degeneration in spinal discs and reduced ability to create the collagen necessary for healing and fusion. Additionally, nicotine from e-cigarettes can cause spine instability, including degeneration in discs, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. When degeneration occurs, the back can no longer support itself optimally, leading to serious injuries and additional health complications.
The concentrated nicotine liquid in e-cigarettes can be very hazardous and has been linked to a growing number of emergency room visits – particularly in adolescents and young adults. Poisoning usually occurs through ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin and eyes. E-cigarettes are especially dangerous for children due to the limited regulation of vaping products, lack of adequate childproofing, and the candy and fruit flavors common in e-cigarettes that appeal to children and adolescents. The most common adverse health effects related to e-cigarette poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation. However, high levels of nicotine ingestion can also result in stroke, seizures, and even death (especially in children and toddlers).
With the prevalence of e-cigarettes, it may seem like vaping is a fun and harmless alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. But with their highly addictive properties and impacts on brain, spine, and mental health, there is a significant health risk to vaping that most people are unaware of – especially in adolescents and young adults. There is also the misconception that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes contain other harmful ingredients, including higher levels of nicotine, which makes them just as addictive and difficult to quit. If you or someone you know uses e-cigarettes, talk to your doctor or contact us at Insight. Many local resources and online tools are available to help you quit and prevent continued damage to your health and the health of your loved ones.
Q: What is an e-cigarette?
A: An e-cigarette (vape) is an electronic device that heats a concentrated nicotine solution to create a vapor mist simulating smoking traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco or produce tar, but they do contain other harmful chemicals such as nicotine, metals, and flavorings.
Q: How can I encourage my teen to stop using e-cigarettes?
A: If your teen is vaping or you suspect they may be, parental support is essential in helping them kick the habit. It is important to avoid getting angry. Instead, do your research on the subject before asking questions, be patient and non-judgemental as you explain your concerns, ask them how you can help remove temptations, and provide them with resources to get help.
Q: How easy is it to become addicted to e-cigarettes?
A: The concentrated levels of nicotine and other substances in e-cigarettes are highly addictive. Studies have shown that symptoms of nicotine addiction can occur within a few days of use. Addiction is particularly dangerous in teens and young adults because the adolescent brain is not fully developed.