It’s common in today’s world to see teens and adults vaping, which is an increasingly popular alternative to smoking. The latest craze has many forms, including e-cigarettes mimicking the reviled tobacco cigarettes, vape pens shaped much like classic fountain pens, and even advanced personal vaporizers which come in many forms, some resemble miniature flasks while others as shaped much like an over large thumb drive.
Teens think vaping is cool for a lot of reasons. Appealing packaging and all the fun flavors are a big part of the attraction. Teens believe that isn’t as bad as smoking due to the way manufacturers and distributors promote it. Some even have added essential oils implying vaping in not just harmless but even “healthy”. So teens give it a try without realizing how addictive it is.
Vapes are commercially positioned as an alternative to smoking and often touted as a way to give up the nasty habit of cigarettes. This has led to the false belief that vaping is less dangerous, which leads teens to naively see it is the safer option.
Social media marketing is aggressive and targeting the desire look cool while implicitly claiming to be a better alternative to smoking. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the use of e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) by high school students has jumped 78% from 2017 to 2018.
There are a lot of reasons why parents should be concerned about vaping but understanding why your teen is hooked can help you tackle both the issue of vaping and the underlying cause with your teen.
Despite all the fun flavors and “natural essential oils”, vapes still have a ton of nicotine in them making them highly addictive. In a 2017 research published in JAMA, E-cigarettes were found to contain higher concentrations of nicotine than regular cigarettes. Nicotine is a stimulant which activates the reward centers of the brain. This results in an increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and well-being.
Stress is a healthy and natural response to challenges or frustrations. Anxiety, however, interferes with our daily functioning because the anxious feelings or behavioral symptoms are disproportionate to the real or imagined worry or issue. Since anxiety lingers, children or teens (and adults!) often experience looping or spinning thoughts.
Navigating peer pressure is a normal part of teen development. Every generation of teens wades through the issue de jour of their time. Some teens are more adept at avoiding the common pitfalls than their peers. The problem with vaping is that public perception and heavy marketing have normalized it as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Teens lacked the facts to argue the health hazards so they try it because all the other kids are doing it. In no time, they are hooked, addicted to the high nicotine levels and lulled by the false impression of its safety.
Teens have long experimented with alcohol and drugs but over the years these vices have acquired a stigma. Vaping has been destigmatized thanks to carefully seeded implications of being harmless. So, while drinking alcohol may be frowned upon, vaping in the school bathroom has become pretty commonplace.
The term self-medicating is used when substances, food, drugs or alcohol, are over-used or abused to self-treat or mask symptoms of a mental health issue. Self-medicating an issue is problematic for many reasons. Aside from the possibility of overusing a substance, there is the very real danger that a person isn’t getting the right kind of help for their individual needs. If your teen is vaping, consider whether they may be self-medicating to deal with stress, focus issues, anxiety, depression, or some other struggle. Research indicates that 8.3 percent of teens aged 13-18 have an Anxiety Disorder classifying as severe impairment range with the average onset age listed six-years-old. In the U.S., Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
Just because so many teens are vaping, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a positive influence on what your teen is doing. Talk to them is always the first step. Educate them about the health facts of vaping. Take time to listen to what they are worried about even if they don’t participate in vaping. Your positive influence on them may result in their positive influence on a friend.
Dispel the false image of vaping as a healthy alternative. Let them know they are still inhaling nicotine and discuss with them the highly addictive properties of nicotine. Make sure they realize that once they are addicted, it will be a hard and painful habit to break. Cravings can be powerful and addiction can begin within a few weeks of use. And if they are addicted, talk to them about what they can do to break that addiction, including getting help from a licensed therapist.
Teens brains are developing which means they are highly sensitive to chemical substances. In particular, the frontal lobes are delicate and continue developing until around the early twenties. Contact with dangerous substances during this critical development period can reduce activity in that region. This means that planning, working memory, multi-tasking and a host of other important skills can all be impaired.
Vaping carries the risk of serious physical illness. Across the US, a few hundred vapers have developed a life-threatening lung illnesses. The CDC reports twelve deaths have already been attributed to vaping and e-cigarette usage.
Open up the dialogue about why kids are vaping and check in with your teen about their choices and worries. We like to think saying, “No” to unhealthy choices is simple but with teens there are layers of social consequences. The risks of “going against the crowd” are amplified in a world perpetually connected through social media. Listen, validate, educate, and leave the door open for regular conversation. Teens are working through a process of differentiating themselves as individuals. Learning to be increasingly independent of parents is tough, so you want to make sure you empower your teen to make healthy choices while at the same time acknowledging what they have to socially navigate through.
Thankfully, there are many ways to naturally increase focus. They are things that teens can do for themselves that have a proven positive impact on health and well-being.
If you think your teen is addicted to vaping or e-cigarettes, reach out to a licensed mental health professional. They can help you as parents and your teen deal with this addiction. We coach parents all the time in our office and virtually about many issues but vaping is certainly a frequent subject.
Call our center today to discuss how we can help you or your child with our clinically effective and natural therapies, such as neurofeedback or biofeedback, addressing ADHD, anxiety, depression, and numerous other conditions. We also offer counseling, executive functioning coaching and behavioral support for children and families, and parent coaching sessions with our staff psychotherapists. To set up an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Roseann, or to meet with one of our psychotherapists,
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Dr. Roseann is a Psychologist and Therapist and our center provide expert-level care for children, adults, and families from all over the US, supporting them with research-based and holistic therapies that are bridged with neuroscience. She is a Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS) and Epidemic Answers, Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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