woman in a depressive state

Is Vaping Linked to Clinical Depression?

By Nicole Arzt is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in providing psychotherapy for individuals, families, and groups struggling with substance use disorders and psychiatric illnesses.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

woman in a depressive state

Vaping continues to be a controversial trend in America, particularly amongst its youth. In 2018, a study examining 44,000 high school students found that 37 percent of 12th graders reported vaping.

In some forms, vaping is used as a method of smoking and nicotine cessation. Habitual cigarette users have turned to vapes in an attempt to wean themselves. In some cases, they can quit smoking altogether. In other cases, however, they continue vaping in the same problematic and compulsive fashion.

A recent study found that individuals who reported vaping had a greater chance of also reporting a comorbid history of clinical depression compared to those who had never vaped.

Many vape and vape juice companies aggressively target their products as "less harmful" than other nicotine products. But, while these products are relatively new, they are far from harmless.

Risks of Vaping

When they were first introduced into the US marketplace, companies marketed vapes as safe nicotine alternatives. However, nicotine concentrations range anywhere from 0-59 mg/ML, and many of the products contain toxic ingredients like arsenic, lead, and formaldehyde.

Nicotine, a key ingredient in most vapes, is undoubtedly addictive. That means your body develops a tolerance to it. Upon stopping, you'll experience distressing withdrawal symptoms that may include irritability, headaches, depression, concentration problems, and intense cravings.

Nicotine is associated with numerous health consequences including:

  • increased blood pressure
  • heartburn
  • indigestion
  • peptic ulcers
  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • joint pain
  • lung spasms
  • pneumonia
  • insulin resistance

To date, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and cigarette smoking causes about 20 percent of all deaths each year. While the long-term health consequences of vaping remain unknown, experts speculate that inherent risk exists.

Vaping and Clinical Depression

A recent study examining over 800,000 participants in 2016-2017 found that individuals who reported vaping had a greater chance of also reporting a comorbid history of clinical depression compared to those who had never vaped. Likewise, an increased frequency of vaping was associated with higher odds of reporting depression.

While there isn't long-term research on the effects of vaping, some emerging evidence suggests that it may be associated with clinical depression. Of course, correlation does not equal causation. In other words, it isn't possible to discern if one problem "causes" the other.

Instead, this phenomenon is likely due to a variety of factors. For example, people who are depressed may turn to self-medicating their symptoms with mood-altering substances (drugs, alcohol, nicotine) for relief. As nicotine can cause short-term pleasure and mood enhancement, it makes sense why some choose to vape. However, if you don't address the root causes associated with depression (and learn and implement healthy coping skills), the problems rarely improve on their own.

Unfortunately, the vaping itself may also cause depression symptoms. If an individual is trying to stop, the continued use can increase feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessnessall of which can perpetuate depression.

Final Thoughts

Researchers are still discovering the short-term effects of vaping on both physical and mental health. In time, more evidence will reveal long-term consequences. For now, it appears that vapingin all amounts and formsdoes pose apparent risks to one's well-being.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to start the road to recovery.

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