Dr. Amen on Dr. Phil: The Power of the Addicted Dragons

Carissa has a big problem. She can’t stop vaping. In fact, her daughter describes her mother’s 10-year vaping addiction as “absolutely insane.”

Carissa is never without her vape—except when she’s asleep. It’s the first thing she reaches for in the morning and the last thing she touches at night. She panics if she accidentally runs out of cartridges. Despite the pressure from her daughter to quit, Carissa sees no harm in the habit. Afterall, she used to be a heavy drinker and cigarette smoker—2 habits she reportedly gave up.

Carissa doesn’t believe vaping causes any health problems, because, in her mind, it’s just water vapor and nicotine. She also thinks that if there actually are any consequences, she’s likely immune to them since she’s been doing it for the past 10 years. Even though she experiences a lot of brain fog and attention problems, she doesn’t connect the dots to her addictive habit.

How Vaping Hurts the Brain and the Lungs

Carissa and her daughter, Alexa, appeared on the Dr. Phil show after Alexa had contacted them about getting help for her mom. Dr. Phil invited Dr. Daniel Amen, a well-known neuropsychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics, to educate everyone about the dangers of vaping and to dispel any misconceptions about the real harm caused by this popular but very unhealthy habit.

Dr. Amen’s important points included:

  1. The decreased blood flow that results from vaping prematurely ages the brain.
  2. The changes to the brain caused by vaping lead to low motivation, depression, poor memory, and reduced concentration.
  3. Like all addictions, the pleasure centers in the brain—the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex—are affected by vaping and cause a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The release of dopamine makes you feel good momentarily, but after it passes, you feel bad until you take another hit. Over time, this wears out these parts of the brain, causing decreased functioning in them.
  4. In addition to nicotine being highly addictive, when people vape, they are inhaling multiple poisons that constrict blood flow and can lead to heart disease and damage to the lungs.

According to a 2019 research article from the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, vape liquids contain harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, acetone, and carcinogenic material, among others.

Vaping and the Addicted Dragons

It is not unusual for people who are hooked on alcohol or a drug (nicotine is a drug!) to deny there is any harm in their behavior.

Carissa has a bad case of what Dr. Amen calls the “Addicted Dragons.” In his newly released book, Your Brain is Always Listening, he teaches us about the dragons that breathe fire onto our emotional brain and steal our joy and contentment while driving unhealthy behaviors.

In this book, Dr. Amen describes 13 different “Dragons from the Past” that stem from the personal stories we tell ourselves based on our experiences earlier in life. Everyone—regardless of status or success—has at least a few dragons, and some people are better at “taming” them than others. However, if these dragons are left untamed, they can drive a person to engage in unhealthy personal and interpersonal decisions and behaviors.

Such is the nature of the Addicted Dragons. They develop when the Bad Habit Dragons and the Scheming Dragons override the Dragon Tamer (the prefrontal cortex), which is the CEO and “the brakes” of the brain.

Addicted Dragons are the result of the Bad Habit Dragons and the Scheming Dragons overriding your Dragon Tamer (the prefrontal cortex), which is the CEO and “the brakes” of the brain. Click To Tweet

Brain-Based Addiction Recovery

To help those who are suffering from untamed Addicted Dragons, Dr. Amen includes a section in the book with his brain-based 12-step program to overcome addiction. Among the steps, the novel approach of this program includes:

  • Understanding your brain type and nourishing it properly
  • Learning how to protect the pleasure centers of the brain by engaging in activities and behaviors that drip, rather than dump, dopamine into your system
  • Taming your dragons and killing the ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) that make you feel miserable

Learning to identify and tame your Hidden Dragons from the Past that still have control over you—even if you’re not aware of it—can lead to greater happiness, better health, and more success in your life!

Your Brain Is Always Listening is written by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and New York Times bestselling author Daniel G. Amen, MD. In this book, Dr. Amen equips you with powerful weapons to battle the inner dragons that are breathing fire on your brain, driving unhealthy behaviors, and robbing you of your joy and contentment. Order your copy here.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of Amen Clinics patients who have already tamed their dragons and overcome their symptoms of addiction, anxiety, depression, trauma, , and more, speak to a specialist today at 888-609-4318 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Please make these shareable or printable

    Comment by Shelley Z Goodman — April 19, 2021 @ 5:34 AM

  2. Thank you for covering these important topics.

    Comment by Rose James — April 19, 2021 @ 5:56 AM

  3. Dr Amen’s books are fantastic for helping understand the brain. I tell all my clients about his wonderful work. Hope Dr Amen will open a clinic in the UK. Thank you for dedicating your work to educate us on how our brain works and how to live a long happy and healthy life.

    Comment by Lynda Cant — April 19, 2021 @ 6:09 AM

  4. thank you for this article. More people need to know that vaping is not the gentle alternative to smoking. Vaping in my opinion is worse than traditional cigarettes because there are no barriers. With smoking, people were conditioned to only smoke outdoors – a necessary yet inconvenient “cost” in order to smoke. This limited access and therefore limited consumption. Odorless indoor vaping is more convenient and therefore likely increasing the amount of nicotine consumed. And with flavors, this has become such a horrible addiction for young people!

    Comment by Lynette Gibson McElhaney — April 19, 2021 @ 7:49 AM

  5. Is CBD safe to use? Is it addictive?

    Comment by Lori Taylor — April 19, 2021 @ 12:11 PM

  6. I have a friend who is vaping THC (aka Marijuana) several times a day. Is that the same as vaping Nicotine.

    Comment by Virginia Fitzpatrick — April 19, 2021 @ 3:21 PM

  7. All this information is very helpful. I must add, though, that since I quit smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes some 8-10 years ago, I haven’t had one asthma attack or upper respiratory infection. And I have asthma and COPD. maybe someday ill quit e-cigs, but for now, I feel better than I used to smoking cigarettes.

    Comment by Tina Wade-Lucas — April 19, 2021 @ 3:35 PM

  8. Hello Shelley, thank you for reaching out. There are share buttons and a print button at the top of the blog underneath the title.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 19, 2021 @ 7:14 PM

  9. My daughter has anxiety and depression and was vaping nicotine. I got her a CBD
    VAPE, no nicotine or THC. Is this still damaging?

    Comment by Natalie Hale — April 24, 2021 @ 10:08 AM

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