United States health officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are actively investigating a startling question: Can vaping cause seizures?

There are dozens of reports that Americans — mostly young people — are having seizures after using vapes or e-cigarettes. Are these reports true? So far, the FDA has not provided a definitive answer. However, they found the reports to be troubling enough to warrant investigation.

If it is true that vaping can cause seizures and if seizures are added to the list of side effects of vaping, the impact could be very widespread, as about 10.8 million American adults currently use e-cigarettes, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

What Are Seizures?

Anyone who has ever had a seizure or witnessed someone else have one knows what a frightening and potentially dangerous event this is. A seizure can be caused by many different diseases and circumstances and may include convulsions. Regardless, a seizure occurs when there is a sudden electrical disturbance in the brain.

  • Different seizures have varying symptoms, such as:

    • Temporary confusion
    • Staring for long periods of time
    • Walking in circles
    • Changes in how things look, taste or smell
    • Tingling and numbness
    • Feeling dizzy and having problems with balance
    • Uncontrollable jerking movements in the limbs
    • Loss of consciousness or awareness
    • Loss of bladder control
    • Feelings of fear and anxiety

Side Effects of Vaping

Even though e-cigarettes are relatively new and the health effects of vaping are still being researched, there are some well-established side effects of vaping.

  • Common Side Effects of Vaping:

    • Nicotine addiction
    • Damage to blood vessels and heart
    • Damage to reproductive tract
    • Consumption of harmful trace metals
    • Consumption of carcinogens
    • Increased lung infections
    • Respiratory failure

With all of these harmful side effects, is vaping safe? That depends whether you are comparing vaping to traditional cigarettes or not smoking at all. Compared to smoking cigarettes, vaping is most likely safer because it exposes people to fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes. However, it’s also true that vaping is ultimately unhealthy because it can lead to nicotine addiction. Additionally, the effects of vaping are not as well understood as those of traditional tobacco smoking, so only time will tell if there are additional side effects from vaping.

Vaping and Seizures

Because the FDA is still investigating whether or not there is a relationship between vaping and seizures, it’s still unknown if they are linked. While the 35 reports that the FDA received might not seem like a big number, they’re still concerning, especially since some of the symptoms of a seizure can go unnoticed, meaning that there could be a lot of underreporting.

At present, FDA officials have speculated that if these young people are truly having seizures as a result of vaping, it could be linked to nicotine consumption. It is possible that vapes and e-cigarettes facilitate people inhaling massive amounts of tobacco relatively quickly. However, this is not definitive, and there are many other factors that could be causing the symptoms.

In the meantime, the FDA is encouraging the public to report any potential incidences of seizures and other problems that are happening after vaping on their online Safety Reporting Portal for Tobacco Products.

Key Points: Vaping and Seizures

  • After receiving dozens of complaints over the last decade, the FDA is actively investigating the potential relationship between vaping and seizures
  • Seizures can take many forms and the symptoms can be as mild as confusion and staring into space or as severe as falling unconscious and shaking uncontrollably on the ground
  • Because seizures can manifest in so many different ways, it’s important to pay attention and to treat vaping as it is: A new, unstudied practice that has the potential for harmful side effects
  • If you notice one or some of the side effects of seizures and suspect that a seizure is taking place, call 911 immediately and get emergency medical assistance

If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance abuse problem and are interested in learning about treatment options and resources that are available, reach out to The Recovery Village. You are not alone, and making a call is the first step on your path to living without substances.