Vaping nicotine, THC may increase depression, anxiety in young adults: study

Mental Health

February 28, 2023 | 9:52 p.m.

A new study by the American Heart Association has linked vaping nicotine and THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana – to symptoms of depression and anxiety in teens and young adults.

“Young people have long been vulnerable to tobacco use, may experience greater harm from nicotine and other drugs, and may be targeted by tobacco advertisers and distributors,” the author of the report said on Tuesday. the study, Dr. Joy Hart, in a statement.

Survey results of more than 2,500 teens and young adults follow recent reports that marijuana use is skyrocketing among young adults as more states move to legalize it .

“E-cigarette devices are still relatively new compared to other tobacco products, such as combustible cigarettes and pipes. Further research is therefore needed to try to better understand the popularity of electronic cigarettes, including the reasons for vaping and the associated health risks among young people. added Hart, who is also a professor of communication at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

In the online survey, 2,505 teens and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24 answered questions about their mental health and vaping use.

Notably, a number of participants said they started vaping to “calm down” or “feel less depressed” – but the study suggested the opposite may be happening.
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The researchers compared responses between THC-only vapers, nicotine-only vapers, dual vapers, and non-vapers. Of these, the study primarily focused on responses from 1,921 people who identified themselves as non-vapers or those who had vaped within 30 days.

Of the 159 respondents who only vaped THC, 70% said they experienced “worries, flashbacks, panic attacks and situational anxiety” in the previous week, compared to 40% of the 562 non-vapers. .

The survey also includes responses from 370 nicotine vapers and 830 dual vapers, 60% of whom reported feelings of anxiety.

Overall, more than half of vapers reported suffering from depression, finding it difficult to engage or be interested in activities they once enjoyed. Yet only a quarter of non-vapers reported depression.

More than half of vapers across all categories also reported suicidal thoughts in the past year, a stark contrast to one-third of non-vapers.

Notably, a number of participants said they started vaping to calm down or feel less depressed – but the study suggested the opposite may be happening.

“This study has shown the striking importance of mental health issues among users of nicotine vapes as well as THC vapes, and as new products continue to come to market, I think that’s something that we’ll continue to see,” said Dr. Loren Wold, who led the writing committee for the American Heart Association’s 2022 statement on the cardiopulmonary consequences of vaping in adolescents.

Studies have shown that teenagers as young as 14 have become addicted to vaping, with some reaching for their e-cigarettes within minutes of opening their eyes in the morning.

“When better coping skills are developed, there may be less temptation to try to manage anxiety symptoms and similar mental health issues through vaping, as well as better refusal skills if offered an e-cigarette,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Rose Marie Robertson.

“Increased prioritization of more positive behaviors to ease tension and manage symptoms of anxiety may reduce the likelihood of vaping, possible addiction, and increased risk of negative health outcomes,” added Robertson, who is also associate scientific director and physician of the American Heart Association.

She also cited an “urgent need” for campaigns and educational programs to warn young people about the risks of vaping and e-cigarettes. On TikTok last year, a religious vaper said he nearly died after his lung “spontaneously collapsed”, urging other young adults to ditch their e-cigs for good.

The American Heart Association survey also found that dual vapers were more likely to exhibit nicotine addictive behaviors – such as waking up in the middle of the night to pick up the habit – but they also reported feeling less depressed after vaping compared to their counterparts.

Meanwhile, strict nicotine vapers were more likely to report that the substance had no impact on their feelings of depression.

“Although we knew THC was commonly vaped, we were surprised to see so many dual vapers – more than double the nicotine-only vapers,” Hart said, stressing how vital it is to teach people healthy coping mechanisms. “Dual use can either worsen the addictive nature of vaping, or attract people who are more prone to addiction, and impact symptoms of depression.”

The study will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions on Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle, and Cardiometabolic Health, Feb. 28-March 3. The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“These products were developed as smoking cessation tools for those who use traditional cigarettes, so I’m very curious to know what the mental health implications are for users who use these products to help quit smoking,” said said Wold.

E-cigarettes were designed to help cigarette smokers quit the carcinogenic habit for good – but young non-smokers gravitate to the sweet-tasting pods and get addicted.

Vaping has been linked to erectile dysfunction, high blood sugar, diabetes and even eating disorders, catching the attention of lawmakers. Earlier this year, Governor Kathy Hochul proposed a statewide ban on flavored tobacco and vaping products.

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