Scientists Discover Link Between Depression and E-Cigarette Use
Author: Shernide Delva
E-cigarettes skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade. While some consider e-cigarettes to be a healthier alternative to cigarettes, scientists are not so convinced. Scientists are unraveling many questions about the impact e-cigs have on health, including how the product interacts with depression. Turns out, there could be a connection between depression and initiation of e-cigarette use among college students.
Since the emergence of e-cigarettes, scientists have had many questions about their impact on health. A recent study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
“This is the first study to establish a longitudinal relationship between elevated depressive symptoms and e-cigarette use,” said lead author Frank Bandiera, Ph.D.
In a sample of 5,445 undergraduate students from 24 colleges across Texas, students who experienced elevated levels of depression symptoms were significantly more likely to start using e-cigarettes six months later in comparison to those who did not experience depression symptoms. This led scientists to theorize that the reason for e-cig use was as a form of self-medication.
“We don’t know why depression leads to e-cigarette use. It may be self-medication. Just like with cigarettes, when students feel stressed out, using e-cigarettes may make them feel better. Or it could be that since e-cigarettes have been marketed as a smoking cessation device, depressed students may be using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking traditional cigarettes,” said Bandiera.
Still, Bandiera notes that there is little evidence to support that e-cigarettes help people quit traditional smoking. He was initially surprised by the results because a previous study found a similar relationship between depression and traditional e-cigarette use. He assumed the same would be true for e-cigarettes.
“Since e-cigarettes typically deliver less nicotine per puff than cigarettes, it is possible that the lower content of nicotine in e-cigarettes could explain the null findings,” Bandiera wrote in the paper.
The data was gathered by the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth and Young Adults (Texas TCORS). The center focuses on developing researcher that can progress decisions on tobacco regulations at the national levels. The researchers decided to study college students since e-cigarette use is higher among adolescents and young adults.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the brain. Furthermore, there have been various studies that reveal the harmful side effects of using e-cigarettes.
One illness that can occur is “popcorn lung,” which is a respiratory illness obtained from the artificial flavorings used in e-cigarettes. The name “popcorn lung” comes from the popcorn factory where the condition was first discovered. It was found that the artificial flavoring in the popcorn resulted in the condition in the factory workers.
Overall, the study concludes that e-cigarette and depression may be linked. It seems likely that the use of e-cigarettes could be a coping mechanism for young adults and teenagers to deal with symptoms of depression. However, just like cigarettes, long-term use of e-cigarettes leads to various health consequences.
Depression is a serious illness that should be treated s such. Mental illness stigmas prevent those struggling from seeking help for their condition. However, the use of substances is never the answer to help resolve those issues. There are a variety of treatments to help with depression including therapy, alternative medicines, and prescription anti-depressants. The best treatments should be discussed with a doctor.
E-cigarette use continues to skyrocket in popularity but it is important to understand that they are not harmless. There is yet to be a conclusive study to determine if they are safer than smoking regular cigarettes. Make it a goal to reduce or quit smoking. In recovery, your health should become priority. If you are struggling with any addiction or mental illness, do not wait. Call now.
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