The Facts on the Drug Overtaking Youth

It is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, a national health observance created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for teens to learn about the myths and facts surrounding drugs and alcohol. This event offers you a great opportunity to discuss drugs with your teenager. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides many resources that can help on their website. In today’s blog, we will be providing you information about the most alarming trend among teenagers: vaping.

Every year, NIDA surveys America’s high school students about their drug use and attitudes. The results of the 2018 survey contained some surprises. On the positive side, use of illicit drugs, including opioids, has declined among teens. The survey showed no real change in marijuana use over the past few years. But the disappointing news was a stunning rise in the use of nicotine in vaping devices (e-cigarette, Juul, etc.).

Between January 2017 and January 2018, the percentage of 12th graders who reported vaping nicotine during the past 30 days nearly doubled, from 11% to nearly 21%; among 10th graders, the increase was almost as great, from 8.2% to 16.1%. These are the biggest one-year increases ever seen for any substance in the history of NIDA’s survey.

Teens like using e-cigarettes because they love the flavoring, it’s easy to perform “tricks” with the vapor, and they believe that vaping is a “healthy” form of smoking. In fact, when polled, many teens are not aware they are using nicotine because of the sweet flavors.

Vaping is not a safe form of smoking. Nicotine is highly addictive and it is more harmful to adolescents than adults because it can harm a teenager’s developing brain. Nicotine actually slows brain development in the areas of long-term memory production, impulse control, attention, mood and learning ability. Research also shows that vaping, with or without nicotine, is harmful to the respiratory system. There could be additional negative effects, but vaping is so new that we don’t have enough research to know the long-term effects. It is essential that you talk to your teen about the risks of vaping and dispel the myth that vaping is safe.

What are the signs your teen is vaping?

It can be difficult to tell if your teen is vaping, because the vapor dissipates quickly and leaves no residue, but there are a few signs to pay attention for:

  • Increased thirst. Vaping removes hydration from the mouth and throat, leaving users with a dry palate. Notice if your teen heavily increases their liquid consumption.
  • Nosebleeds. Just like vaping dries the mouth, it dries the skin of the nose as well. When the nose gets dry, it can bleed.
  • Reduced caffeine intake. Some e-cig users suddenly find themselves developing sensitivity to caffeine. So, if your teen used to enjoy Starbucks and Red Bull, but is now suddenly passing on their favorite caffeinated drinks, this could be a red flag.
  • Pneumonia. Research shows that there are nanoparticles present in e-cig vapor that cause inflammation in the lungs. When lungs get inflamed, it can lead to pockets of bacterial infection and cause pneumonia.
  • Sweet smells. E-cigarettes don’t put off the same odor as a traditional cigarette. They smell like a variety of sweet flavors, like bubble gum or fruit.
  • Online purchases. Be aware of your teen’s online purchases because this is the number one way teens obtain vaping supplies. If packages come to your home addressed to your teen, pay attention to what your teen is buying.
  • Finding unfamiliar tools. If you come across an unusual looking pen or USB drive, often with holes on each end, chances are it’s a vaping device. In addition, e-cigarettes have parts and cartridges that need to be exchanged and replaced. Look for spare wires, thin metallic coils, cotton balls or small containers (“pods”) that are used to contain e-juice.


How do I prevent my teen from vaping?

The number one thing parents can do to prevent their teens from vaping is talk to them about it. Strike up a conversation when you see someone vaping or when you pass an e-cigarette shop. Get the conversation rolling by asking an open-ended question like, “Do kids at your school vape?” The key things to tell your teen is that, although most teens think e-cigarettes are harmless, vaping is another device that can lead to addiction and mess up their brain and respiratory health. The Surgeon General offers a great fact sheet for how to talk to your teen about vaping: Tip Sheet for Parents.

Additional Resources:

We recommend that you provide this article to your teenager: Drugs and the Teen Brain. This article explains how your teen’s brain is developing, why teens are more at risk to addiction, and how drugs can impact their brain.

Scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse host a “National Drugs & Alcohol Chat Day,” which is an annual live online chat for high school students. Teachers can register their classes to participate, and the scientists will answer students’ questions. This year’s Chat Day is Thursday, January 24, 2019. Regardless of whether you participate in this year’s Chat Day, you and your teen can review past transcripts of all Chat Days online.

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