Vaping is a major concern in the United States. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of its use to understand how vaping can negatively affect someone.

Vaping is becoming increasingly popular, but it is not as harmless as some people may think. Vaping can lead to addiction. There are also many side effects of vaping. It is important to be able to recognize the side effects and get help before there are serious health consequences.

Article at a Glance:

It is important to understand the side effects of vaping. Vaping generally affects three main systems:

  • Mouth and airways: Irritation, cough and increased airway resistance
  • Heart and circulation: Chest pain, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate
  • Stomach: Vomiting and nausea

Other key points about vaping use include:

  • You can vape drugs other than nicotine, such as THC and CBD
  • It is possible to overdose on nicotine through vaping
  • Addiction to nicotine is also a serious side effect of vaping

Signs and Symptoms of Vaping Too Much

How can you tell if someone is vaping too much? One study has shown that glycol and glycerin, two ingredients commonly used in vape juices, are upper airway irritants that can cause irritation of the throat and mouth as well as trigger a dry cough. But perhaps the biggest symptom of vaping too much is developing an addiction to nicotine, the chemical most commonly vaped.

Vaping nicotine is addictive because of the way it works in your brain. Nicotine enters the brain quickly to activate reward pathways and cause the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. Vaping is a particularly powerful way of exposing your brain to nicotine because the juices used have such a concentrated amount of nicotine. The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes is absorbed far more quickly compared to nicotine from tobacco in regular cigarettes. This effect makes nicotine poisoning a real possibility among people who use vape products. There are also many other side effects of vaping.

What Are the Side Effects of Vaping?

Many side effects of vaping have been reported, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Cough
  • Dry skin
  • Itchiness
  • Dry eyes
  • Nosebleeds

Side Effects of Vaping Nicotine:

The biggest side effect of vaping nicotine is developing a nicotine addiction. Other side effects of nicotine include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. High doses of nicotine may cause tachycardia, high blood pressure, seizures, coma and death.

Side Effects of Vaping Marijuana:

A study compared the effects of vaping marijuana versus smoking marijuana. They found that vaping was associated with increased effects of the drug, increased incidence of adverse effects (such as anxiety and paranoia) and impairments in both cognition and motor abilities. One person in the study hallucinated after vaping marijuana oil.

The reason there are increased negative side effects from vaping cannabis oil is that vaped marijuana contains a much higher concentration of the chemical responsible for that high, 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Additionally, when you buy marijuana oils on the street, you never really know what chemicals you are actually getting, which increases the risks associated with vaping marijuana.

Side Effects of Vaping CBD:

Cannabidiol (CBD) vaporizers don’t contain nicotine or THC, but they can still cause side effects. There is minimal research on the side effects of vaping CBD, but some general side effects of vaping CBD that have been reported include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Side Effects of Vaping Without Nicotine:

Vape juice doesn’t have to contain nicotine (or other drugs) to have side effects. There are also side effects of nicotine-free vapes. The flavorings found in vape juice themselves contain potentially dangerous chemicals such as diacetyl, acetylpropionyl and acetoin. The base fluid that makes up vape juice includes the ingredients glycol and glycerin, which cause irritation of the throat and mouth and can also cause a dry cough.

What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of Vaping?

Vaping is relatively new, and as a result, there are few long-term studies demonstrating its effects. However, the U.S. Surgeon General cautions that long-term risks can include nicotine addiction, mood disorders and even lowered impulse control. Nicotine can also change how connections in the brain, called synapses, are formed, which may impair the areas in the brain related to attention and learning. In addition, there are concerns about the impact of vaping on lung and heart health.  

What Does Vaping Do to Your Lungs?

Other more severe and adverse side effects of vaping have also started to appear. While studies are still emerging, literature published during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests vaping may harm lung health, though none are definitive yet. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released an emergency report about the risk of severe pulmonary disease among e-cigarette users. As of August 27, 2019, 215 confirmed cases of severe pulmonary disease associated with using e-cigarettes had been reported across the country.

What Is Popcorn Lung From Vaping?

Popcorn lung was initially described after factory workers regularly exposed to diacetyl died, and hundreds were diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, the medical term for popcorn lung. Diacetyl was a chemical used in popcorn and caramel, and this tragic situation resulted in the removal of diacetyl from these foods. However, diacetyl is often used in vape juices so commonly that a Harvard study found it in 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands tested.

Bronchiolitis obliterans happens when the tiny sacs in the lungs (bronchioles) are damaged and scarred. Over time, this damage leads to thickening and narrowing of the airways and eventually causes coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing.

What Does Vaping Do to Your Heart?

Studies are emerging, but research has found that using e-cigarette devices daily doubles an individual’s risk of experiencing a heart attack. Unfortunately, long-term studies on this topic are few and far between. So far, long-term studies evaluating e-cigarettes are often conducted on former smokers, which can cloud the results of vapes. However, the effects of nicotine on cardiac health are well established and could be similar between smokers and e-cigarette users.  

What Does Vaping Do to Your Brain?

European cardiologists warned about the dangers of vaping in 2019 through the European Society of Cardiology. In their warning, they caution that vaping can alter the way that the body responds to stress and can compensate for varying pressures in the heart and brain. 

Specifically, as it relates to brain health in younger people, the U.S. Surgeon General cautions that vaping can affect the parts of the brain responsible for attention and learning by changing how connections in the brain are made. This realization is highly concerning since vapes are used increasingly in younger populations worldwide.  

What Does Vaping Do to Your Teeth?

While studies on vaping and oral health are limited, some published studies suggest vaping may have negative impacts on mouth dryness and irritation as well as gum disease. One possible reason for this may be that people who use vapes have different bacteria in their mouths that are more harmful to overall health than those who don’t. 

Can You Overdose From Vaping?

A vaping overdose is possible. It is also possible to overdose on a nicotine vape. As of August 31, 2019, poison control centers handled 2,961 cases related to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine this year alone.

Nicotine Overdose Symptoms from Vaping 

There are several key symptoms of a vape-induced nicotine overdose. The symptoms can be divided into two groups: early and late symptoms. If you suspect that you or someone you love has overdosed on nicotine, seek medical attention immediately.

Early symptoms (within the first 15 minutes to an hour following use) include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Excessive saliva
  • Quick, heavy breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Pale skin
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy, off-balance or confused

Late-phase symptoms (around 30 minutes to four hours later) include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling weak
  • Experiencing slow reflexes or the inability to control muscles
  • Seizures

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Leila Khurshid BCPS, PharmD

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.