Depression is a global public health concern, affecting 322 million people worldwide (1)(2). Though there are no found direct links between electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette), mostly referred to as “vaping,” causing depression, there have been links found between depression and vaping. One study using data from 2016-2017 found that individuals that vaped were two times more likely to be depressed compared to the non-vapers.
Vaping, Inflammation, and Depression
Research on e-cigarette use, systemic inflammation, and depression explain inflammation occurring in the lungs and other organs in vaping use are similar to traditional cigarettes, presenting C-reactive protein (CRP) at higher levels. Depressive symptoms are also associated with “pro-inflammatory processes.” The research suggests that inflammatory proteins such as CRP are associated with major depression (2), therefore linking not only vaping and depression but vaping, inflammation, and depression.
Vaping, Mood-Regulating Chemicals, and Depression
The dysregulated mood attribute of depression has been linked to mood-regulating chemicals in our bodies that include dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Nicotine stimulates dopamine, creating a short-lived increase to a positive mood. Prolonged use disrupts the dopamine pathway causing sensitivity to stress, and a decrease in the ability to cope with depressive symptoms. (3)
Vaping and Psychotropic Medications
It was found that traditional cigarette smoking affects the metabolism of a handful of psychotropic medications, reducing therapeutic effectiveness. E-cigarettes were found to have the same attributes as traditional cigarettes, reducing therapeutic effectiveness as well. This raises concern for individuals with mental health conditions, complicating their treatment and continued persisting depression.
Vaping and Other Mental Health Issues
Vaping can reduce your ability to develop healthy coping skills. Such as when feeling dysregulated turning to vape in lieu of exercise, grounding, and healthy communication with family and friends. Though to be clear, vaping has not been found to cause mental health conditions, it’s been found to increase mental health conditions and serve as a maladaptive behavior for coping. It’s easier to reach for the vape for instant relief than to activate a coping strategy. (4)
Who is Vaping?
E-cigarettes are the most used tobacco product among youth.
- In 2015, 29.8% of adult e-cigarette users were former traditional cigarette users, 58.8% were currently traditional cigarette users, and 11.4% never used traditional cigarettes.
- In 2015, adults 45 years and older 1.3% of e-cigarette users never used traditional cigarettes.
- In 2015, adults aged 18-24 who used e-cigarettes, 40% never used tobacco products prior.
- In 2017, 2.8% of adults were current e-cigarette users.
- In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle school and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, 4.9% were middle school students and 20.8% were high school students.
Wanting to Quit?
- Be persistent, and patient. For some, it may only take a short time and for others multiple attempts. Remember your motivation and stick to a routine. (4)
- Nicotine replacement therapy may be useful if you are a long-time user. To ween off you can utilize patches, inhalers, sprays, chewing gum, and lozenges. Speak with your medical provider and they can offer you options that work for you. (4)
- Avoid triggering activities and environments that make it more difficult such as hanging out with friends who smoke, vape, or do both. (4)
- Utilize mental health treatment or support to address any underlying conditions promoting the use of vaping or smoking. If you find yourself more depressed and anxious treatment can reduce the symptoms and cravings. (4)
- Learn to manage your depression without reaching for your vape: trying physical activity to boost your mood; stay busy sticking to a daily routine so as not to let in negative thoughts; engage in something enjoyable daily and it can be something small like listening to music or watching a show; socialize with friends and family; be of service to others, small acts of kindness can boost your mood; Understand and accept life’s ups and downs. (5)
Be Aware of Withdrawal
Often you will experience withdrawal when attempting to quit. Your body just needs to get used to going without. Pay attention to irritability, restlessness, headaches, increased sweating, feeling down, anxious, tired, difficulties concentrating, trouble sleeping, increased appetite, and intense cravings. It can be managed, and the negative symptoms do fade over time. Some tips for managing withdrawal symptoms: Stay hydrated, keep a consistent sleep schedule, eat healthy snacks, get support from friends and family, tell them you are quitting, have a plan for cravings to help you resist the urge, and tell your medical provider so they can provide helpful supports if needed. (6)
Things To Keep in Mind
- Nicotine is highly addictive
- It’s harmful to pregnant women and toxic to a developing fetus
- It can harm developing adolescent brains continuing to mid-’20s
- E-cigarettes can contain aerosol that is cancer-causing and harmful to the body
- They include batteries that can catch on fire or explode
- They are not an FDA-approved smoking cessation tool
- World Health Organization. Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. World Health Organization; Geneva, Switzerland: 2017.