How addictive are e-cigarettes?
Last month, the U.S. Surgeon General released a statement urging individuals to come together to protect our nation’s youth against the recent surge in the use of e-cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes.
One of the steps recommended by the Surgeon General is to educate yourself about the various products and their risks. We asked an addiction counselor for her perspective on the addictive nature of nicotine products.
“Nicotine is an addictive drug,” says Wendi Ashford, licensed clinical social worker and addiction counselor at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Even though the high from nicotine isn’t as dramatic as that of cocaine or heroin, it’s equally addictive. Nicotine has a powerful effect on the brain and the central nervous system. When smokers inhale, nicotine first goes into their lungs and bloodstream. Within seven seconds, a significant portion of the nicotine has traveled through the bloodstream directly to the brain.
Tolerance to the effect of nicotine begins with the first dose. As with most addictive substances, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuits and increases levels of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine, which reinforces rewarding behaviors. Pleasure caused by nicotine’s interaction with the reward circuit motivates some people to use nicotine repetitively, despite risks to their health and well-being.”
Ashford continues, “Nicotine withdrawal involves physical, mental and emotional symptoms. Depending on how long you’ve smoked and how many cigarettes you have a day, symptoms of withdrawal can last anywhere from several days to several weeks.
Adults and teenagers have the belief that they have found a healthier option with e-cigarettes. Because e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco, people don’t inhale the same amount of tar and carbon monoxide as they would it a regular cigarette; however, they still get an unhealthy dose of nicotine and other chemicals, which causes them to be addictive. Over time, nicotine can lead to serious medical problems, including heart disease, blood clots and stomach ulcers. As with any other drug, nicotine increase the chance of cross addiction to another drug.”
You can learn more about the e-cigarettes and young people by visiting the Surgeon General’s website dedicated to the topic. If you or someone you know could benefit from treatment for an addiction, you can schedule a professional assessment at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center by calling 309.268.5993.
About the Author
Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.