Deadly Vaping Epidemic Attacks the Brain Too
Across the country, over 400 people have been struck with a serious lung illness linked to vaping and as many as 5 have died. U.S. health officials have issued a statement urging people to stop vaping due to the deadly breathing issue.
But lung issues aren’t the only danger associated with vaping. The habit is also damaging the brain and increasing the risk of mental illness.
How Vaping Harms the Brain
Vaping nicotine or THC causes you to inhale into your lungs a host of fine and ultrafine toxins that can also penetrate your brain. Does size matter? Yes! The smaller the particle you inhale, the greater its ability to cause inflammatory reactions and damage your brain.
The Trouble with E-Cigarettes
There’s no question, vaping is addictive, and teens and adults are getting hooked. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that is quickly absorbed into the blood vessels that line the lungs. With vaping, it takes only about 10 seconds for nicotine to reach the brain.
That’s where it hijacks the brain’s reward system. Nicotine binds to receptors in the brain, causing it to pump out large doses of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. This dopamine surge can be 2 to 10 times what your brain releases for natural rewards—think hearing your favorite song on the radio, hitting a home run in baseball, or eating a delicious peach. Over time, this diminishes dopamine’s effectiveness and makes people need more and more of it to get the same effect.
Nicotine causes other problems too. It constricts blood vessels, lowering blood flow to the brain. This deprives the brain of the nutrients it needs and eventually causes lower overall activity. Brain imaging studies show that low blood flow is associated with short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, impulsivity, anxious thoughts, depression, schizophrenia, and addictions.
E-cigarettes raise the risk of mental health problems. A 2019 study found that university students who used e-cigarettes were significantly more likely to have mental health disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, PTSD, gambling issues, and drug use.
The problem with vaping is getting worse. In 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General called e-cigarette vaping among youth an “epidemic.” In a report involving over 40,000 teens nationwide, more than 20% of 12th graders said they had vaped nicotine in the previous month. That’s twice the number who had reported vaping in 2017. Younger kids are also jumping on the trend with 11% of 8th graders saying they had smoked e-cigarettes in the past year.
The Dangers of Vaping THC
Vaping THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana, is equally troublesome. Research from Amen Clinics has found that marijuana lowers blood flow to an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved with memory, attention, moods, and learning.
A 2019 review of 11 studies involving more than 23,000 people found that using cannabis as an adolescent increased the risk of developing depression and suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts in young adulthood. Other research shows marijuana impairs short-term memory, contributes to learning and attention problems, reduces focus and coordination, and increases the risk for psychosis.
There is no question that vaping is putting America’s youth at risk.
If you’ve taken up vaping or if your teen or tween is vaping, understand that it is addictive and associated with brain and mental health issues. To help patients overcome addictions, Amen Clinics takes a brain-body approach that looks at all the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that may contribute to the problem. For more information or to schedule a visit, call 888-288-9834.