More Addictive Than Heroin
Theoretically, as humans we are supposed to learn from our mistakes and pass our wisdom down to our kids and grandkids in hopes that they won’t let history repeat itself. One way or another, we let this one sneak up on us.
Theoretically, as humans we are supposed to learn from our mistakes and pass our wisdom down to our kids and grandkids in hopes that they won’t let history repeat itself. One way or another, we let this one sneak up on us. When you talk to your kids about vaping, don’t just tell them not to do it. Explain the reasons why they shouldn’t do it. The conversation about the safety of the product misses the point. The fact that nicotine is more addictive than heroin and can permanently change the brain, especially when the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, is the point. We’re talking about effects on cognition, memory, emotion, and a proneness to lifelong use.
Good Intentions Gone Bad: Technology can be a wonderful creation, and should hypothetically be far more beneficial than it is destructive. The invention of e-cigarettes (vapes, e-cigs) is no exception. Originally created to give smokers a safer alternative, e-cigs came into existence with just that in mind— a better product meant to help people who can’t quit smoking while giving them the opportunity to improve their health and potentially extend their lives. For many, it has been a huge success. While we still don’t know what long-term vaping means in relation to overall health, most experts agree that it’s better than smoking traditional cigarettes. What we do know is that every good intention usually comes with a negative consequence. In this case, it’s the explosion of vaping among middle and high school students.
A Growing Problem: As a person who works in drug prevention and provides programming to students of all ages, here’s a rough guess: 30-50% of middle school students and 50-75% of high school students have vaped within the past 30 days. I’m not telling you these are official numbers— I’m just telling you what the students tell me. Yes, those are their estimates. Even if the actual numbers amount to just half of that, it is still an incredibly troubling trend. But they don’t think so. They think it’s harmless fun, and great for a quick buzz. What they don’t realize is that it’s rewiring their brains.
The Substance That Won’t Go Away: Nicotine is the addictive substance that won’t go away. For years, health department messages and tobacco prevention efforts have been largely effective. Teen smoking and chewing tobacco use is down. Many cities and campuses have gone “smoke free,” which has helped change culture over the past couple of decades. Despite all of that progress, we have somehow allowed a new generation to get addicted to nicotine. The delivery method has simply changed. This was not an intentional consequence of e-cig creation, but it was predictable.
Turning Things Around: Regardless of the intent, the time to turn this around is now. I’m not sold on the idea that teens who vape will eventually start smoking. Being chemically dependent on anything in order to feel normal and to restore brain function is a definite form of addiction, though, and can easily be avoided.
Derek Osborn is a Certified Prevention Manager/Specialist and the Executive Director of the Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE) of Tuscaloosa. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is president-elect of the Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.
The topic of Vaping and eCigs was presented at the 16th Annual FOCUS Rallies at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa by Derek Osborn and at Shocco Springs Conference Center by Raven Barber, President of the Peer Leaders at Jacksonville State University. Follow PRIDE of Tuscaloosa on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in drug news and trends, or go to prideoftuscaloosa.org for more information.