With Halloween around the corner, there are more than goblins and ghosts to be concerned with. In preparation for a local television interview last week, I visited a vape shop known to sell to youth. I was able to purchase three devices that researchers point out are very scary. The first was a “Ghost” vape that had THC. Researchers are telling us that youth are often using a THC vape product without knowing it has THC. That my friends is very scary! I was able to purchase a “VAPIN DONUTS” with the flavor, Juicy Fruit Bubblegum. We had our twin granddaughters for the weekend, and I showed them these devices. When they saw this one, they said, “That smells so good!” They are sixth graders, tell me that isn’t scary! The last one is from “SNOOPYSMOKE”. The flavor is “Black Ice” which means it has mint or menthol. Research tells us that many disposable products add mint or menthol and use the code words ice, cool, freeze, and other names describing mint and menthol. But that isn’t even the most concerning issue of the Snoopsmoke. It has 15,000 puffs. This is the highest puff count I have found available to date. This is the equivalent of 7 ½ packs of cigarettes or 150 cigarettes. This is very scary because a youth doesn’t know when to stop using it.
Nicotine addiction and mental health problems often go hand-in-hand. Nicotine acts on the brain and can change mood, thinking, and behavior. Over time, the brain gets used to nicotine and needs it to feel normal. When someone tries to quit nicotine, they can feel anxious, sad, crabby, and have trouble focusing. This can make any mental health problems worse.
Research shows that people with conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are more likely to smoke and get addicted to nicotine.
People with mental health conditions smoke about 1 in 3 of all cigarettes smoked by adults (CDC)
Individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders (depression or bipolar disorder) are 2-3 times as likely to be current smokers than individuals without mental health disorders (American Psychiatric Association).
Don’t think that vaping is a healthier option. There is emerging research on the connections between mental health and vaping:
The rates of teen vaping are 2-3 times higher among those with mental health disorders (NIDA)
Analysis of a national survey showed that adults who vape regularly are about twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions compared to non-vapers (Truth Initiative).
For those already struggling with mental health disorders, vaping may exacerbate symptoms just like traditional cigarette smoking (CDC).
With more research emerging, experts theorize that high nicotine concentrations in some vape juices may negatively impact mental health, especially in teens whose brains are still developing (CDC).
Sadly, there are a few reasons for this:
Nicotine may help some mental health symptoms feel better for a short time. But it does not treat the actual problem.
Mental health issues can make it hard to control urges and quit smoking.
Smoking may be more accepted around psychiatric patients and healthcare providers. This reinforces the habit.
Some mental health medications and nicotine do not mix well. This can make quitting harder.
Genes and environment may play a role in both mental illness and smoking.
Quitting smoking can improve mental health over time. Withdrawal goes away after a few weeks. Brain receptors become more responsive, easing anxiety and depression. Quitting also eliminates smoking health risks like cancer.
People with mental illness who smoke can use nicotine gum, patches, sprays to manage withdrawal. In fact, nicotine replacement therapy, though not risk-free, is safer than smoking. Research shows that they can double the chances of successfully quitting, regardless of mental health status (Cochrane Review). Combine these treatment options with professional support, like that at The Breathing Association, and a personal drive, even those with mental illness can quit smoking or vaping and gain the mental benefits.