E-cigarettes aren’t necessarily new, but the devices are becoming increasingly popular among young people. E-Cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among teens. An estimated 1.5 million adolescents began using e-cigarettes between 2017 and 2018. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 3.6 million adolescent e-cigarette users.

One particular brand has caught the attention of young people as well as policymakers and public health officials. The JUUL device comes in “fun” flavors, and its small size makes it discreet and highly portable. Many say JUUL went out of its way to create teen-friendly marketing, especially with how they introduced and advertised their product flavors.

Some opponents of JUUL and similar vaping devices have pointed out the detrimental effects nicotine can have on the teenage brain. Many pediatricians are saying that the effects of e-cigarettes on the brain can be more similar to the effects of other addictive substances. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is especially vulnerable to the effects of nicotine during adolescence. This part of the brain controls emotions and impulses, and it’s not fully developed until around the age of 25.

When young people use nicotine products, it can interfere with the signals in the prefrontal cortex and release chemicals like dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good brain neuron released when addictive substances are used, including opioids. With repeated exposure to nicotine, the brain starts to have difficulty producing its own dopamine. This is similar to what occurs with other substance use disorders.

As teens continue to use nicotine, they need more of it to get the same effects. Repeated nicotine use can trigger side effects, including depression or anxiety. The effects of teen addiction to nicotine can be long-lasting, and it may lead to problems with impulse control, focus and attention in adulthood. Nicotine affects the development of the brain’s reward system. This means that continued use of vaping devices can lead to nicotine addiction and also make an addiction to other substances more likely to form.

There was recently a story in the media about Cade Beauparlant. His mother had become fearful of him after his anxiety, mood swings and sudden outbursts continued to grow. It took three years and the help of a well-known pediatrician to figure out her son had a nicotine addiction.

Rising Popularity of Teens JUULing

Researchers from the Truth Initiative organization have conducted studies to see how popular teen JUUL use really is. A recent study found people aged 15 to 17 are 16 times more likely to be a current JUUL user than people aged 25 to 34.

The same data indicated that among people aged 15 to 17 who used a JUUL in the past 30 days, 56% said they’d used their device on three or more days. Federal data shows an anticipated 77% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students compared to 2017.

When JUULing Becomes an Addiction

Kids who use JUULs may experience a greater risk of addiction because of how these products are designed. When kids or teens use e-cigarettes like JUUL, they are getting a much higher dose of nicotine than they would with traditional cigarettes. Health care professionals say the dose of nicotine matters.

Teens tend to use e-cigarettes much faster than traditional cigarettes. Some teens report using a pod or more in a single day, which means they’re exposed to the same amount of nicotine that’s found in an entire pack of cigarettes. Teen vaping doesn’t cause burning in the throat like cigarettes do, so it can be easier to use e-cigarettes more frequently.

When a young person is addicted to JUUL, the behaviors they exhibit are similar to teens with an opioid or marijuana addiction. These behaviors weren’t typically seen with the use of traditional cigarettes in the past. JUUL has defended its products, saying they were designed for adult use only.

Some of the possible signs that can indicate teen vaping include 

  • Increased thirst: Vaping removes hydration from a person’s mouth and throat, so the body will crave more liquids.
  • Cravings for flavor: If a teen seems to be favoring strong flavors such as salty or spicy food, it could be due to vaping. Vaping causes the mouth to dry, which reduces the perception of flavors.
  • Nosebleeds: Vaping dries the nasal skin as well as the mouth, which can lead to bleeding.
  • Acne: Sometimes, vaping may affect the facial skin.
  • Less caffeine intake: If your teen used to enjoy caffeine but doesn’t as much anymore, it could be the result of vaping. Vaping can cause anxiety and other side effects, and cutting down on caffeine may help reduce these.
  • USB drives or battery chargers: Parents may find parts of an e-cigarette device such as a cartridge or charger.

If your teen needs help for an addiction to nicotine or other substances, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn about treatment plans and programs that can work well for your child.