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Do Vapes Only Contain Nicotine?

Various types of vapes lined up in a circular formation on a wooden table  

Although the most common types of vapes contain nicotine, states with legal recreational marijuana can sell vape pens that contain THC. Vape pens are also frequently retrofitted with cartridges that contain very dangerous illicit drugs that are associated with a high risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction.

So-called “dark web marketplaces” are sources of e-liquids that include recreational drugs of all types. The best way to prevent teen vaping risks is to learn about the dangers associated with teens and vaping as well as the types of drugs commonly included in vape pen cartridges.

Substances Found in Different Types of Vapes

Vaping e-liquids can be sold as simple glycerin-based liquid with or without flavoring and with additions like nicotine or, in some states, THC from marijuana. There is no safe way to vape, and even food-safe flavorings used in e-liquids have been shown to create toxic chemicals like diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione when they are vaporized.

Other dangerous chemicals in vaporized oils may include formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals that cause fibrosis (essentially scarring) in the lungs. Vaping has also been shown to reduce the lungs’ ability to fight infection.

Although data on the effects of vaping illicit drugs is still preliminary, early evidence indicates that the already substantial dangers of vaping, even without added nicotine or other drugs, is compounded when additional chemicals are added to the liquid. Making matters worse, buyers have no way of truly knowing what they are inhaling when they purchase unregulated, black market products.

Nicotine Vape

Nicotine is one of the most powerfully addictive substances known to man, second only to heroin and cocaine. Nicotine is also associated with incredibly adverse health effects, including increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders, cancer and impaired immune system function.

Nicotine vape pens are sold under several brand names, the most popular of which is JUUL. Hence, kids “juuling” has become a popular way to reference nicotine vaping among teenagers. Flavored vape juice with nicotine often has tempting names like cotton candy and creme brulee, which further appeal to teens.

The meteoric rise of nicotine vaping among adolescents is the largest increase recorded for any drug in the 44 years that the National Institute on Drug Abuse has been running the “Monitoring the Future” survey.

THC Vape

Marijuana vape pens come in several forms, and many THC cartridges (also known as “weed vape juice”) do not contain the dangerous flavoring and carrier oils that have been linked to several types of respiratory illnesses and diseases. However, marijuana vape pens are largely unregulated and a great deal of research remains underway to understand long term consequences of vaping THC.

Importantly, marijuana or THC and synthetic cannabinoids like K2, spice and bath salts are vastly different drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids (sometimes called “counterfeit weed”) are profoundly dangerous compounds that can have devastating, even lethal outcomes when they are vaped or smoked.

DMT Vape

Vaping DMT has become a popular way to consume this illicit, powerfully psychoactive drug. Recreational vapers say that they have more control over their dosage when they use DMT vape pens. Alarmingly, DMT vape juice and replacement DMT vape cartridges can be purchased online.

Meth Vape

Methamphetamine is powerfully addictive and extremely dangerous. Vaping meth is an alarming new trend among young people. Teen meth use is made easier by meth vape pens, which hide the fact that teens are inhaling a potentially lethal stimulant.

Cocaine Vape

Teens who use cocaine have found vaping to be a useful way to hide their cocaine use from their parents. Cocaine-infused flavored vape cartridges are essentially indistinguishable from legal cartridges. Cocaine is a dangerous drug in itself, but it’s even more dangerous derivative, crack, can also be vaped.

Heroin Vape

Teen heroin use has become easier with the advent of heroin-infused vape cartridges. Vaping heroin is not new, but the sudden near-ubiquity of vape pens makes it much easier to hide heroin use. Teenage heroin use is incredibly dangerous and is associated with profoundly debilitating, lifelong consequences.

Other Vaped Drugs

Unfortunately, many common drugs of abuse can be vaped, including:

  • Opioids (fentanyl, Percocet)
  • Benzodiazepines
  • GHB
  • Synthetic marijuana
  • Ketamine
  • MDMA
  • Morphine
  • PCP
  • Ethanol (alcohol)
  • Prescription stimulants

Dangers of vaping have become clearer in recent years. Teenagers are at particularly high risk. If you are concerned that your teen is vaping legal or illegal drugs, contact Next Generation Village. Our experts understand teen substance use and have demonstrated excellence in helping teens achieve long-term success in sobriety.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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