Vaping devices are everywhere these days. From happy hour to the golf course to high school campuses to (most surprisingly) the gym, many people are indulging in a few puffs of a vapor that seems harmless to them.
But is vaping really harmless? While we don’t have long-term research on vaping, researchers have long reported that products that contain nicotine, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes, have negative health effects. Although nicotine itself isn’t carcinogenic, the other chemicals in cigarettes and delivery devices may cause cancer and other health issues.
So, What’s the Draw of Vaping and Nicotine Products?
Most of us probably know that vaping isn’t good for us. So, then, why do we do it?
Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., a neurobiologist and ophthalmologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, explored this in a recent episode of the Huberman Lab podcast. In the podcast, Huberman discusses the effects of nicotine on the brain and body, positive uses of nicotine among non-smokers, and strategies for quitting it. According to Huberman, nicotine has four major effects on the brain and neural circuits. It:
- Triggers the release of dopamine
- Increases attention, focus, and concentration
- Increases alertness and arousal
- Suppresses appetite
While there may be some benefits to ingesting nicotine through methods other than smoking, vaping is the most dangerous and most addictive due to the speed and concentration at which nicotine enters the bloodstream and spikes dopamine levels in the brain. Huberman says that changing the method of cessation each week — for example, starting with a nicotine patch, then switching to nicotine gum and nasal spray — can help nicotine users provide intermittent and unexpected rewards to the dopamine system which can make quitting easier.
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The Dangers of Nicotine
Despite the pull nicotine (and vaping) can have, here are several key reasons to quit using it today:
- Addiction: Nicotine is highly addictive, and if you use it regularly, you’ll develop a physical and psychological dependence on it that makes it more difficult for you to stop using it.
- Cardiovascular disease: Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, which can strain the cardiovascular system and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues.
- Cancer: Nicotine itself isn’t a carcinogen, but it’s often used in conjunction with tobacco products that contain other harmful chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer.
- Respiratory problems: Nicotine can cause respiratory problems, including shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. It can also exacerbate existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Pregnancy and fetal development: Nicotine use during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can also affect fetal development and lead to behavioral and cognitive problems in children.
5 Tips on How to Quit Nicotine
While there are many convincing and important reasons to quit nicotine and vaping, doing so can definitely be ‘easier said than done.’ Here are five strategies you can use to help curb your use of these products to benefit your health:
1. Gradual Tapering
Progressively reducing the amount of nicotine in the vape juice you use over time can make it easier to quit vaping. Start with a high nicotine concentration and gradually reduce it over several weeks or months until you’re using a nicotine-free e-liquid.
2. Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as over-the-counter nicotine gum or patches, can help you reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms when quitting vaping. Additionally, by changing your method of cessation each week as noted above — by, for example, starting with a nicotine patch, then switching to nicotine gum and nasal spray — you can provide your brain with intermittent and unexpected rewards to the dopamine system that may make quitting easier.
3. Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy can help you identify triggers and develop coping strategies to manage your cravings and stress, which are common triggers for vaping. Therapy can be done one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting.
4. Support Groups
Joining a support group, such as Nicotine Anonymous, can provide you with a sense of community and support during the quitting process. Sharing experiences and learning from others can be helpful in staying motivated and committed to quitting.
5. Cold Turkey
Quitting vaping cold turkey involves stopping all nicotine use at once. While this can be challenging, it’s a straightforward approach and can be effective for some people. It’s important to be prepared for nicotine withdrawal symptoms and have a support system in place.
The Bottom Line
Though eliminating nicotine from your life can be difficult, doing so can dramatically improve your health. By following the five strategies above, you’ll give yourself a better chance of living a healthier, longer life.
Take our quick health assessment to evaluate your current health status or learn how our Arootah health coaches can support you in eradicating bad habits and building healthier habits and coping strategies.