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Dangers of Teen Vaping Have Addiction Experts Concerned

Teenage girl smoking an electronic cigarette in a vape bar  

As the vaping epidemic continues to be a topic of debate and discussion in the United States, some addiction experts are worried existing treatments aren’t enough to help the teens and young people physically dependent on nicotine. This fear adds to the potential dangers of vaping and in particular, the dangers of teen vaping.

Dangers of Vaping for Teens

Despite the growing popularity of vaping among teens, there are numerous risks. Recently, Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H. who serves as the director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, spoke out about the possible dangers of vaping for teens. Dr. Blaha says there are specific reasons young people may be drawn to e-cigarettes, including the fact that they believe it’s less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. Dr. Blaha also says that teens find the fun flavors appealing and there’s less stigma attached to vaping than the use of traditional cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nicotine, which is found in almost all vaping products, can harm the developing adolescent brain. Brains continue developing until we’re around the age of 25. The CDC says the use of nicotine by adolescents and teens can impact the parts of the brain controlling learning, mood, impulse control, and attention. There is also the risk that using nicotine at a fairly young age can increase the chances of becoming addicted to other substances in the future.

Why Addiction Experts Are Concerned

Is vaping bad for teens? We’re overwhelmingly finding out the answer is yes, but we’re just starting to learn more as to why this is the case. According to Dr. Sharon Levy, who serves as Director of Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, vaping delivers highly concentrated nicotine. It goes into the body of the user much faster and at greater doses than with traditional cigarettes. This delivery method can make vaping more addictive than using regular cigarettes.

Dr. Levy says that, as a result, treating teen vaping is very challenging not only because of the concentrated nicotine delivery but also because there’s no research regarding the best practices of treating this kind of teen addiction. Levy said experts are using medicines to help with nicotine dependence, but counseling is also necessary to help kids addicted to vaping.

Signs and Symptoms of Nicotine Addiction

Possible signs of vaping in teens and signs of nicotine addiction in a teenager can include:

  • An inability to stop vaping or using nicotine products in spite of negative consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms occurring when a teen tries to stop or cut down on nicotine products
  • Giving up other interests or activities to vape or use nicotine products

Other general signs that a teen could be vaping include sweet smells and odors if they use flavored products, as well as finding vaping devices and battery cartridges. The problem with vaping is that sometimes it can be hard for parents to identify it’s happening because of how small and discrete vaping devices can be.

Nicotine Addiction Treatment for Teens

If your teen struggles with vaping or the use of other nicotine products, as Dr. Levy points out, they may benefit from addiction treatment. The first step to help your teen is speaking with them openly and honestly about their use of vape devices. You can ask their doctor about resources available to help them stop using nicotine. There are also nicotine addiction treatment programs available. Contact Next Generation Village if you’d like to learn more about evidence-based addiction treatment programs specifically geared towards teens.

Sources:

Edwards, Erika. “Addiction experts concerned that existing treatments aren’t enough for vaping teens.” NBC News, September 12, 2019. Accessed October 23, 2019.

Raven, Kathleen. “Nicotine Addiction From Vaping Is a Bigger Problem Than Teens Realize.” Yale Medicine, March 19, 2019. Accessed October 23, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Quick Facts on the Risk of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens and Young Adults.” Accessed October 23, 2019.

Mayo Clinic. “Nicotine Dependence.” March 9, 2018. Accessed October 23, 2019.

Blaha, Michael Joseph M.D., M.P.H. “5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed October 23, 2019.

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