The findings align with “other research indicating that there is a significant risk of developing nicotine dependence symptoms among teens that use e-cigarettes,” said Adam Leventhal, the director of the University of Southern California Institute for Addiction Science, who wasn’t involved in the study.
The research also “highlights the urgent need for treatments that can help youth who are trying to quit stay quit,” said research coauthor Jennifer Dahne, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.
The new research is “the clearest sign that once (kids) get hooked, they realize what’s happening to them,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“The absence of regulation has meant the e-cigarette industry has marketed highly flavored products that appeal to kids (and) deliver nicotine that rapidly leads to intense addiction.”
Addiction refers to a person’s loss of control over use of substances and is associated with changes in your brain’s “reward center,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Levy wasn’t involved in the research.
A teen or adolescent’s developing brain is more susceptible to these changes than mature adult brains. “When these changes occur,” Levy explained, “the rational decision-making part of the brain loses out to the more instinctual parts and people find themselves using nicotine even when they really want to quit.”
Know why you’re quitting
Think about what really matters to you and how vaping gets in the way of those things. Is vaping affecting your feelings, money or relationships with people who are important to you?
Answering these questions can help you see how vaping is affecting your life, maybe in ways you hadn’t realized. Keep a list of the reasons you want to quit on your phone and read it when you feel the urge to vape.
Commit to an end date
Don’t pick the day before anything stressful, like an exam. On your phone, set an alert for the day.
Create your quit plan
Know what to expect
Knowing the possible challenges ahead can help you stick to your plan.
“Nicotine is a stimulant and lots of teens who use it like the feel or the ‘buzz’ they get from it,” Levy said. “But over time, most people find that the buzz is harder and harder (to reach) as you develop tolerance and your body starts to accommodate to the nicotine.”
Withdrawals can make quitting uncomfortable and especially for the first week or two. If you experience symptoms and cravings, talk with your doctor about medications that could help. “Hang in there because the withdrawal symptoms pass in time and cravings become less and less intense over time,” Levy said in an email.
Maybe you vape with friends and vaping is part of how your group spends time together. Since hanging around them while you’re quitting can be challenging, you might want to see other people for a while. Some people find they are eventually able to spend time with friends who vape without being triggered to follow suit, Levy said.
- Lung damage
- Dizziness, vomiting or seizures
- Difficulty concentrating and learning
- Symptoms of depression
- Greater risk of using cigarettes, marijuana and other drugs
- Hindered or abnormal brain development
“Being addicted to tobacco products means that adolescents don’t have full control of their use,” said research coauthor Tracy Smith, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. “If they are able to quit, they get that control back.”
Identify triggers, seek social support and have some self-compassion
Triggers — certain people, situations or feelings — can lead you to act in ways that might be bad for your health.
The study also found that 57% of adolescents who currently vaped nicotine had depressive symptoms in the last year, and 61% had anxiety symptoms, Dahne said.
If you’re vaping to relieve troubles, psychological treatment and healthy activities such as walking or listening to music can help manage your stress and take your mind off vaping. You can also find a replacement behavior, like chewing gum or calling a friend.
Doing this on your own can be hard, Levy added, so ask for support from your doctor, family and friends. Be specific about what you need — maybe they can keep you distracted so you don’t vape. Others can help keep you accountable while you’re trying to change, Levy said.
And don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up, which can happen several times. “Acknowledge that relapse is normal when trying to change any behavior, including quitting vaping,” Dahne said. “It’s important to learn from what worked and what didn’t work during past quit attempts and to try to quit again.”
Imagine your vape-free self
If vaping is something you regularly do, imagining your life without it might be hard. The you who feels weird at first will eventually become your new normal.
Thinking of yourself as someone who doesn’t vape can separate you from vaping and give you the confidence to move forward. Write a list of all the great things about yourself that don’t involve vaping — vaping doesn’t define who you are.
Picture the future you who you want. How does that person compare with who you are now? How does vaping stand in the way? All of these steps can help you bridge that gap.