Myth: Vaping Can Help Depression

Teen boy vaping

Vaping or using similar e-cigarette products only makes depression worse. Vaping can increase depression symptoms, which makes it more likely that someone will continue to vape. Learn more about the link between vaping and depression below.

Vaping Can Worsen Depression Symptoms

The idea that vaping can help depression is a dangerous myth. Individuals who vape could be at increased risk of developing depression symptoms.

“Depression and vaping are seen to have a bi-directional relationship. Depression leads to vaping and vaping increases depression symptoms over time.”

— Dr. Tracey Marks, Marks Psychiatry

The American Brain Society found that vape users are more than twice as likely to report having depression symptoms than individuals who do not vape. These research findings align with previous studies that linked tobacco products such as cigarettes to depression.

Vaping and e-cigarettes are very popular among teenagers, so parents should carefully monitor their child’s mental health and encourage them to quit vaping.

How Vaping and Depression Are Linked

Researchers are still studying why there is a link between vaping and depression. Currently, it is believed that the nicotine in vape products affects the brain’s ability to produce a chemical called dopamine.

Dopamine plays a significant role in motivating us to perform certain activities. It is released into the brain when a pleasurable activity is performed. Nicotine alters the process in which dopamine is released, making users more sensitive to stress and rewarding them for using more nicotine-based products.

While any drug containing nicotine is dangerous, vape products are particularly risky for several reasons.

  1. Many vape products contain just as much, if not more, nicotine than traditional cigarettes. A 2020 study found that the nicotine levels in rats exposed to JUUL products were five to eight times higher than in rats exposed to other nicotine products.
  2. Some e-cigarette labels do not disclose that the products contain nicotine even when they do. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 99% of e-cigarettes sold in the United States contained nicotine.

These factors mean that those who vape may consume nicotine at higher levels without even realizing it — putting them in great danger of nicotine addiction and mental health issues like depression.

Teenagers at Risk of Depression From Vaping

Nicotine can have an especially negative impact on teenagers, as their brains are still developing.

“Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.”

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Sadly, it is believed that JUUL and other vape companies marketed their products to teenagers using flashy advertisements and social media coordination. As a result, roughly 20% of high schoolers reported using vape products regularly, according to a CDC report from September 2020.

This widespread use of vape products among younger people has been linked to increased symptoms of depression.

For example, in the ongoing Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, 57% of teenagers who vape said they experienced symptoms of depression. Dr. Marks also noted that those who vape are at risk of long-term depression even if they’ve stopped vaping.

Other Health Risks Associated With Vaping

Although depression is one of the more serious mental health issues associated with vaping, it is not the only problem. There are other health risks of vaping that parents and teenagers need to be aware of.

Other health issues linked to vaping include:

  • Anxiety
  • Lung damage
  • Injuries from exploding batteries
  • Death

Respiratory damage is a particularly important health risk that researchers are finding more evidence of in vaping users. There have been reports in recent years of relatively new vaping users going to the hospital with life-threatening vape related lung injuries.

Parents: Protect Children From Depression and Vaping

You have options if your child is vaping and at risk of health problems, including depression or other problems.

First, encourage your child to stop vaping and remind them of the risks. Remember, most teenagers who vape are consuming nicotine, even if they think they aren’t. Make sure that your child knows the dangers of vaping and how it can affect their future.

You can also help your child find healthy alternatives to vaping, such as exercise.

Finally, take note of your child’s mental health if you know they are vaping. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may want to seek out mental health counseling for your child.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Excess sleepiness
  • Mood swings
  • General sadness
  • Lack of interest in hobbies

Depression and other health problems associated with vaping can be very serious or even deadly — but there is hope. With the right support system, teenagers can stop vaping and find help for any mental health problems they may have developed.

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