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05-12 Changes in teen drug/alcohol trends: the rise of the e-cigarette

Changes in teen drug/alcohol trends: the rise of the e-cigarette

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual report in December 2014 which included e-cigarettes for the first time. The results that showed a reduction among teens in the use of cigarettes, prescription painkillers and alcohol since 2013. Marijuana use had stabilized and did not appear to be increasing as only 6.5 percent of eighth graders reported smoking pot in the prior month as did 17 percent of 10th graders and 21 percent of 12th graders. Six percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana daily. Likewise, synthetic marijuana is being tried by fewer teens than before. Six percent of high school seniors reported using the substance in the past year, down from 11 and 8 percent respectively in prior years.

Prescription painkiller use is now down to six percent though opioid overdoses are still occurring. Although alcohol remains the most commonly abused substance, even binge drinking has declined with only one in five high school seniors reporting they consumed five or more drinks in a row during the prior two week period, defined as binge drinking.

While all these downward drug use trends are good, this report was not entirely positive. The one upward trend the report found was for e-cigarettes which had exceeded traditional smoking in popularity.

The rise of the e-cigarette

An electronic or e-cigarette is a battery powered device intended to be used like a cigarette.  The nicotine delivery device inside the e-cigarette converts the nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor which is inhaled and exhaled by the e-cigarette smoker. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tar.

It was the rise in the use of e-cigarettes that surprised researchers. Nine percent of eighth graders reported using an e-cigarette in the prior month while only four percent reported smoking a traditional cigarette. E-cigarette use increased with age. Sixteen percent of 10th graders reported vaping, another name for e-cigarette use is commonly called.

Unfortunately, many young people mistakenly believe that e-cigarettes carry no danger to health. Although they are free of the tar contained in traditional cigarettes, the vaporized substance in e-cigarettes contains “potentially cancer causing chemicals,” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). E-cigarettes still contain nicotine and the concern of the FDA is that, because nicotine is addictive, it can have detrimental effects on the developing brains of teens.

“I worry that the tremendous progress that we’ve made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes,” said Lloyd Johnston, professor at the University of Michigan.

E-cigarettes are often described as a less dangerous alternative to tobacco cigarettes for those who can’t or don’t want to quit smoking. They may not contain the same tar and chemicals as tobacco but the devices produce vapor infused with potentially addictive nicotine.

Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a treatment center specifically for teens. Our clinicians and staff stay on top of the latest research and statistics to help patients achieve and maintain optimal health.We specialize in the treatment of substance abuse, mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions. If you would like further information please call 866-615-7266 to speak with a member of our team.

Written by Veronica McNamara Sovereign Health Group writer

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