By now you've probably read a horrible story or two about vaping. It's in the news every day – you can't miss it.
People – mostly teenagers who often use e-cigarettes – end up in the hospital fighting for their lives. One boy's lungs were so damaged that doctors said they looked like a 70-year-old who had smoked his entire life. Another teenager's e-cigarette exploded in his mouth, breaking his jaw. A 17-year-old died unexpectedly after developing a severe respiratory illness related to vaping. And overall, there are more than 25 deaths and 1,229 vamping-related lung injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Small USB-like devices have been marketed so well as a safer alternative to cigarettes that it's no wonder people are scratching them. Now people are hooked and they pay a terrible price for it.
Medical researchers are in a hurry to understand exactly what happens to the body when exposed to electronic cigarettes and why people get sick so much. "Our understanding of the exact biology that happens in disease is still in its earliest stages," says Angela Rogers, a pulmonologist at the Stanford Breast Clinic.
Here's what we know so far about how vaping affects the body and the brain:
You can feel the buzzing.
Let's start with what attracts so many people in the first place: the buzz. Both nicotine and marijuana based cigarettes can make you feel good as they release delicious chemicals into your brain (think about dopamine and serotonin). It makes people feel high.
Quick point: if you are experiencing something with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, the high amount you get, will be more intense than the noise you get from nicotine, naturally.
You crave more.
Vaping is not really a one-off deal. Nicotine itself is extremely addictive ̵
That's because newer vaping products are "designed to easily deliver more nicotine to the brain, faster and with less coarseness," says Bonnie Halpern-Felscher, a pediatric physician at Stanford University and founder and director of the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit.
This is especially true for young people whose brains are still developing and remain very vulnerable to nicotine exposure. "Given that brain development continues until about the age of 25, adolescents are significantly more likely to be addicted to nicotine than adults," says Halpern-Felscher.
Nicotine is much more addictive than THC, but the same principle applies to weed-based preparations. The more you use it, the more you can crave it.
You may experience withdrawal symptoms.
This goes hand in hand with the point of addiction: Some people will start to experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not disappear regularly. These symptoms include sweating, nausea, headache, irritability and insomnia. And they more or less nourish the cycle of addiction.
"If you smoke, you get the drug effect quickly, but then the effect disappears a little later. Then you may want to regain the drug effect or take the medicine to prevent withdrawal symptoms, ”explained Stephen Baldasari, a Yale Medicine pulmonologist who specializes in treating people addicted to tobacco and nicotine.
Compare this to a patch that delivers nicotine slowly over a day. The long lasting effect of the patch reduces your chances of downloading.
The lungs will be beaten.
As noted, experts don't really have very hard data on what happens in the lungs when you get tired. But, anecdotally, those who vary, damage their lungs and suffer from respiratory problems. Consider coughing, shortness of breath and inflammation of the lungs.
Early data indicate that these results are related to all additives in e-cigarettes.
'There may be acrolein in fumes, a herbicide used to kill weeds that can cause acute lung injury, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer and asthma. E-liquid fillers in vapor, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are toxic to lung cells, "says Melody Pirzada, chief of pediatric pulmonology at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Long Island, New York.
There is also a flavoring called diacetyl. which is oily in taste. This chemical, Pirzada said, is associated with a condition called bronchiolitis obliterated, which can cause irreversible scarring of the lungs.
Your eyes may burn.
Vaping releases coarse chemicals into the air – such as formaldehyde, acrolein and acetaldehyde. – which may irritate your eyes. Expect to feel a watery, burning sensation that can eventually make your eyes dry and bloody, Pirzada said.
Even worse is for people who wear contacts, according to the American Optometry Association. An increase in blood pressure that causes vaping can also damage the blood vessels in the retina, a condition known as hypertonic retinopathy.
Your heart rate and blood pressure surge.
After a few swells, your blood pressure and heart rate will rise. Therefore, long-term use of vaping may put you at higher risk of heart attack, stroke, angina, and heart disease.
This is true with any nicotine product, but because vaping devices get a nicotine pump through your body so quickly, your heart rate rises even earlier with vaping than with traditional smoking or chewing tobacco.
Your teeth and gums may be irritated.
Finally, it appears that vaping can harm the teeth and gums. Previous studies have found that the aerosol component in e-cigarettes contributes to bacterial growth on dental surfaces. In other words, vaping can very well give you cavities.
Another study found that vaping was associated with gum inflammation. This is a known factor that contributes to periodontal diseases that can cause your gums to recede and bleed over time.
Generally speaking, vaping can push your body through the vein in several ways. We still have a lot to learn about e-cigarettes, but healthcare providers are now trying to better investigate patients for vaping-induced health problems.
If you experience irregular symptoms after vaping, mention them to your doctor. Most health experts recommend getting rid of e-cigarettes entirely, at least for now. "Avoiding completely letting go of the vapa is our strong advice," says Rogers.