What Does Nicotine Addiction In Teens Look Like
Teens who vape are at risk for addiction, and breaking free isnt easy.
While adults might turn to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, many teens start vaping thinking its a safe alternative. Thats because some e-cigarettes claim to be nicotine free. Recent CDC research has shown that isnt true 99% of e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Vaping products may contain other harmful substances as well, such as lead and cancer-causing chemicals.
Bottom line: Vaping is not a harmless habit.
Just ask Collin Bynum, 18, of Red Oak, Texas. He knows firsthand how addictive e-cigarettes can be.
Mr. Bynum started vaping at the end of his sophomore year in high school and built up a heavy habit. I used to go through two pods a day, he says. But thanks to the nicotine cessation program at UT Southwesterns Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, and plenty of help and encouragement from his mother, Mr. Bynum was able to quit vaping. I can breathe a lot better now, he says.
How Does Nicotine Addiction Work
If you’re a smoker, your brain is filled with nicotine receptors. These receptors eagerly await incoming nicotine. Think of nicotine as a key, and receptors as little locks. When the nicotine unlocks the nicotine receptors, a feel-good chemical called dopamine is released, giving you a little hit or buzz. This doesnt last long. The nicotine soon fades making the receptor eager for more. Cue nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings!
Two proven quitting methods really work on the nicotine addiction. Nicotine replacement therapy and prescribed stop smoking tablets.
Causes Of Nicotine Addiction
Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products causes nicotine addiction. Nicotine is very addictive, so even infrequent use can lead to dependence.
Its possible for smoking cessation products, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches, to cause nicotine addiction. However, the risk is low. This is because the amount of nicotine in these products is lower and delivered more slowly than the nicotine in tobacco.
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Risk Factors For Addiction
Certain people are more susceptible to developing nicotine addiction. For example, people who begin smoking when they are young have a greater chance of becoming addicted.
Susceptibility to nicotine addiction can also be inherited. Genetics influence how a person responds to high doses of nicotine. People with parents and friends who smoke are more likely to try smoking.
Those who abuse illegal drugs or alcohol or have mental illness are more likely to smoke.
How Nicotine Affects You
Researchers are also looking at other chemicals in tobacco that make it hard to quit. In the brains of animals, tobacco smoke causes chemical changes that are not fully explained by the effects of nicotine.
The average amount of nicotine in one regular cigarette is about 1 to 2 milligrams . The amount you actually take in depends on how you smoke, how many puffs you take, how deeply you inhale, and other factors.
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Will Smoking Or Using Tobacco Products Containing Nicotine Hurt My Baby
Nicotine can cross the placenta when a pregnant person uses tobacco products. This can negatively impact the baby, including, but not limited to: premature labor low birth weight respiratory failure at birth and even sudden infant death syndrome .3, 8, 9, 10
People who use tobacco products can experience negative health effects on their reproductive health, their pregnancies, and their babies. If you use tobacco products and are considering having a child, consult your doctor and learn more about how you can quit smoking.
Nicotine Symptoms And Warning Signs
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What Makes Tobacco Use Harmful
Nicotine is what keeps people using tobacco products. However, its the thousands of chemicals contained in tobacco and tobacco smoke that make tobacco use so deadly. Some of these chemicals, known to cause lung damage, are also found in some e-cigarette aerosols.
This toxic mix of chemicalsnot nicotinecause the serious health effects among those who use tobacco products, including fatal lung diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.3
Tobacco products containing nicotine pose different levels of health risk to adult users. Combustible products, or products that burn tobacco, are the most harmful. An example of a combustible product is cigarettes, which deliver more than 7,000 chemicals1 along with nicotine that makes it hard to quit.
FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies , such as gums and lozenges, are the least harmful. Noncombustible products, such as heat-not-burn tobacco products, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes, fall somewhere in between combustible products and NRTs.
If youre an adult and dont use tobacco products, we strongly encourage you to stay tobacco-free. If youre an adult who currently uses tobacco products, there are resources to help you quit.
To learn about the additional harms tobacco can have on young people and their developing brains, read Why Cant My Teen Quit Smoking or Vaping?
Why Do We Become Addicted
When cigarette smoke is inhaled, nicotine reaches the brain within a matter of seconds. This nicotine rush increases the levels of noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain, reducing stress and engendering feelings of relaxation.
After a while the body develops a tolerance to nicotine, so to get the same pleasurable feelings, a person will need to smoke more. Not being able to smoke causes feelings of irritability and stress, as well as withdrawal symptoms.
Cigarettes can also become part of a daily routine, which makes it even harder to give up. Smokers may be used to having a cigarette first thing in the morning or after a meal, or with a group of friends outside work. People also turn to smoking as a form of comfort or as a way with dealing with stressful situations or anxiety.
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How It Affects Health
Most people link nicotine to cancer, but it doesnt cause cancer. Other ingredients in tobacco products are carcinogenic, however. While nicotines primary side effect is addiction, the chemical has its own potential side effects.
Nicotine itself still has its own series of harmful effects including headaches, seizures, jitteriness, and elevated heart rate just to name a few, Dr. Joshua Mansour, a Los Angeles-based oncologist, told Drugwatch.
At low concentrations, short-term nicotine exposure may affect the heart and respiratory system, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health . Higher concentrations can cause paralysis and lead to death.
Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include:
How Does Circulation Improve After Quitting Smoking
Within two hours of smoking your last cigarette, your peripheral circulation will improve. Peripheral veins and arteries are located in the arms, hands, legs and feet and supply oxygen to the body. As your body rids itself of the chemicals in cigarettes, your hands and feet will start to feel warmer.
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How Bad Is Addiction
Nicotine addiction is dangerous because it increases the risk that a person can be a lifelong tobacco user. Young people are especially susceptible to nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing. Nicotine can rewire the brain to become addicted to other drugs.
Cigarettes are especially dangerous because they contain thousands of harmful chemicals. These chemicals can harm every organ in the body and many increase cancer risk.
Some studies claim e-cigarettes are more addictive, while others say they are less addictive. But e-cigarettes have the ability to deliver nicotine faster and in greater amounts to the brain. For example, high voltage e-cigarettes can heat the vape juice at higher temperatures, causing a greater hit of nicotine.
Nicotine addiction leads to more tobacco use, which can cause more health problems.
Complications of smoking include:
- Pregnancy complications
The Tobacco Addiction Cycle
Smoking is a highly efficient form of drug administration. Inhaled nicotine enters the circulation rapidly through the lungs and moves into the brain within seconds. Rapid rates of absorption and entry into the brain cause a strongly felt rush and reinforce the effects of the drug. In animals, rapid administration of nicotine potentiates locomotor sensitization, which is linked to reward, and neuroplastic changes in the brain. The smoking process also provides rapid reinforcement and allows for precise dosing, making it possible for a smoker to obtain desired effects without toxicity. Unlike cigarettes, nicotine medications marketed to promote smoking cessation deliver nicotine slowly, and the risk of abuse is low. In addition to delivering nicotine to the brain quickly, cigarettes have been designed with additives and engineering features to enhance its addictiveness.
There is considerable peak-to-trough oscillation in blood levels of nicotine from cigarette to cigarette. Nevertheless, it accumulates in the body over the course of 6 to 9 hours of regular smoking and results in 24 hours of exposure. Arteriovenous differences in nicotine concentrations during cigarette smoking are substantial, with arterial levels up to 10 times as high as venous levels. The persistence of nicotine in the brain throughout the day and night changes the structure and function of nicotinic receptors, stimulating intracellular processes of neuroadaptation.
The Tobacco Addiction Cycle
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What The Experts Say
Many researchers are beginning to question whether nicotine is any more harmful than a daily dose of caffeine.
To date, there have been studies showing positive effects of nicotine, including decreased tension and increased thinking, as well as the stimulant’s potential in warding off cognitive decline into Alzheimer’s, delaying the progression of Parkinson’s disease, and as a therapeutic approach for ADHD and schizophrenia.
Still, health professionals continue to warn about the dangers of nicotine, especially when used by adolescents whose brains are still developing .
Nicotine impacts the parts of the brain that play a role in attention, memory, learning, and brain plasticity.
While cigarette smoking is on the decline, vaping and e-cigarettes are on the rise. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that “e-cigarettes are threatening to addict a new generation to nicotine.”
Why Should I Quit
Wanting to be the best, healthiest version of yourself is an important reason to quit vaping. Others include:
Unknown health effects: The long-term health consequences of vaping are not known. Recent studies report serious lung damage in people who vape, and even some deaths.
Addiction: Addiction in the growing brain may set up pathways for later addiction to other substances.
Brain risks: Nicotine affects your brain development. This can make it harder to learn and concentrate. Some of the brain changes are permanent and can affect your mood and ability to control your impulses as an adult.
Use of other tobacco products: Studies show that vaping makes it more likely that someone will try other tobacco products, like regular cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and smokeless tobacco.
Toxins : The vapor made from e-cigarettes is not made of water. The vapor contains harmful chemicals and very fine particles that are inhaled into the lungs and exhaled into the environment.
Sports: You want to do your best in sports, and vaping may lead to lung inflammation .
Money: Vaping is expensive! The cost of the cartridges over time starts to add up. Instead, you could spend that money on other things you need or enjoy.
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Under 18s And Pregnant Women
High doses of nicotine can be dangerous, especially for children.
Nicotine can affect brain development in babies, and ideally pregnant women should be smokefree and nicotine free. However, nicotine products are used to support pregnant women to quit smoking. Your doctor or local stop smoking services can give you more information.
Nicotine can also have some negative effects on brain development in adolescents.
To avoid accidental poisoning, e-liquids should be stored out of the reach of children and animals.
What Are Some Other Non
Other ways to help manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Get physical! Find some form of physical activity to keep your body active. Its a double win for you quitting nicotine use and getting your body fit at the same time.
- Spend time with friends who dont smoke. Tell people you are quitting so they can encourage you and provide support.
- Keep your hands busy. Find a favorite fidget toy or stress ball that will keep your hands active.
- Substitute a straw, toothpick or cinnamon stick to replace the physical sensation of having something touching your lips and mouth. Chewing gum can also keep your mouth busy.
- Talk back to your temptations. Write down logical responses to your tug of war thoughts that its OK to use a nicotine product. Youll be ready when the thoughts come up the next time.
- Practice deep breathing when you feel the urge to use nicotine. It may help you relax and allow the urge to pass.
- Distract yourself in all ways possible. Sing or talk to a friend . Play with your pet . Put together a puzzle .
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Nicotine Withdrawal And Your Mood
As your body adjusts to life without nicotine, you may have mood swings or feel increased anxiety or sadness. If you become depressed or are having extreme sadness, do not ignore these feelings or keep them to yourself. Let someone who cares about you know how you are feeling, and talk to a doctor or another trusted healthcare professional.
How Long Does Nicotine Addiction Last
Nicotine addiction will last for life in those who do not try to quit. However, people who enter a smoking cessation program will eventually see their cravings go away.
The first week of the program is the most challenging because cravings and other nicotine addiction symptoms are most intense during that time. However, getting through that first week is critical because if a person can get through it smoke-free, he or she is more likely to quit successfully.
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Brain Changes Fuel Addiction
Nicotine can trigger brain changes that make people, particularly young people, crave more nicotine. Until about age 25, the brain is still developing and each time a new behavior or skill is learned it builds a stronger connection. Addiction is a learned behavior, which means young people are more vulnerable to it, according to the U.S. Surgeon Generals Office. The nicotine consumed while vaping can also condition the brain to become more easily addicted to other drugs.
Vaping Vs Regular Cigarettes
Weighing the pros and cons of vaping versus smoking is difficult to do. On the one hand, e-cigarettes likely do not produce 7,000 chemicalssome of which cause cancerwhen they are activated, like regular combustible cigarettes do. However, the aerosol from a vape device has not been proven safe. Studies have found that it contains lead and volatile organic compounds, some of which are linked to cancer. Researchers are still gathering data on the possible long-term health effects from vaping. Its notable that e-cigarettes have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as smoking cessation devices. However, e-cigarettes may be a better choice for adult smokers if they completely replace smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
But where nicotine levels are concerned, a newer and popular type of vape device, called a pod mod, outcompetes many other e-cigarette devices. The form of nicotine in these pods is estimated to be 2 to 10 times more concentrated than most free-base nicotine found in other vape liquids. A single pod from one vape manufacturer contains 0.7 mL of nicotine, which is about the same as 20 regular cigarettes.
Despite its extremely addictive nature, people can successfully quit using nicotine with personalized approaches, especially under the guidance of physicians who understand addiction.
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Does Nicotine Stimulate Your Respiratory System
Nicotine also stimulates your respiratory and vascular systems. People who are craving nicotine may have faster breathing. Their anxiety and nervousness caused by the nicotine can cause irregularly high breathing, limiting their physical abilities.
Nicotine has a stimulative effect as soon as it enters the bodies, releasing adrenaline, which in turn releases glucose. Glucose is turned into sugar, resulting in energy. Later, the body produces insulin, and blood sugar levels return to normal.
However, nicotine suppresses insulin, keeping blood sugar levels higher than usual. For this reason, doctors recommend that diabetics do not smoke. Smoking has the same effect as eating sugary foods, except that blood sugar levels do not return to normal as quickly as they should.
Psychoactive Effects Of Nicotine
Nicotine induces pleasure and reduces stress and anxiety. Smokers use it to modulate levels of arousal and to control mood. Smoking improves concentration, reaction time, and performance of certain tasks. Relief from withdrawal symptoms is probably the primary reason for this enhanced performance and heightened mood. Cessation of smoking causes the emergence of withdrawal symptoms: irritability, depressed mood, restlessness, and anxiety. The intensity of these mood disturbances is similar to that found in psychiatric outpatients. Anhedonia the feeling that there is little pleasure in life can also occur with withdrawal from nicotine, and from other drugs of abuse.
The basis of nicotine addiction is a combination of positive reinforcements, including enhancement of mood and avoidance of withdrawal symptoms . In addition, conditioning has an important role in the development of tobacco addiction.
Molecular and Behavioral Aspects of Nicotine Addiction
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What Are The Most Common Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. How severe your symptoms are depends on how frequently you use a nicotine product and the amount of nicotine in the product you use.
Common symptoms include:
- Constipation and gas or diarrhea.
- Cough, dry mouth, sore throat and nasal drip.
- Chest tightness.