Switching to vaping helps patients with severe mental illness, say scientists

People suffering from severe mental illnesses like chronic depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD, and schizophrenia are often misunderstood by society.  The same can be said about vaping enthusiasts, especially since the recent outbreak of a mysterious lung disorder attributed by the CDC to the vaping of contraband THC-enhanced cartridges. In a study involving some 24,000 mentally challenged patients who smoke, scientists now believe that switching to vaping can add years to their lifespans.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an estimated 41 percent of patients living with severe mental health issues are also daily smokers.  Their physicians and counselors often struggle with how to best advise them to quit.  Quitting smoking is a challenge for anyone, but it can be especially problematic for those with emotional disorders.  The added stress of quitting can easily exacerbate their sometimes life-threatening symptoms.

Overview of the vape research related to severe mental illness

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that about 33 percent of all combustible tobacco cigarettes sold in the United States are purchased by the mentally impaired.  NAMI confirms this statistic and provides some others of its own.  According to NAMI, approximately 70 percent of bipolar patients, 90 percent of schizophrenics, 60 percent of patients living with chronic depression, and 60 percent of PSTD patients are reported to be daily smokers.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) also reports that about 18 percent or 16 million Americans who suffer from anxiety issues or panic disorders are also smokers.  A vape study conducted by researchers from the South London and Maudsley National Health Service Foundation Trust suggests that transitioning from smoking to vaping can both improve their overall health and even lengthen their lifespan by as much as 20 years.

Related Article:   No, vaping is NOT bad for the heart. In fact, research shows the exact opposite is true.

The scientists began by monitoring and evaluating the smoking and vaping behaviors of tens of thousands of patients over a period of several years.  As the participants were asked to make the switch to electronic cigarettes, their anxiety levels were carefully recorded by mental health counselors to ensure the maximum safety of the patients.  Patients were monitored 30-months prior to and 12-months after their transition to vaping.

      • Approximately 24,000 patients took part in the years-long study.
      • 17 percent of patients exhibited prior histories of possible physical violence during high stress situations.
      • Nearly 5 percent had been involved in a physical altercation on a mental healthcare worker in previous attempts to quit smoking “the old-fashioned way.”
      • From 2014 to 2015, over 4,500 physical assaults occurred against mental health professionals by patients living with severe mental illness who were trying to quit smoking at the time.
      • After making the successful switch to vaping, physical altercations dropped by a whopping 39 percent overall.

Smoking as a means of self-medication when under stress and anxiety is nothing new.   For example, people who first enter Alcoholics Anonymous are often encouraged to smoke more tobacco cigarettes as a way to avoid an alcoholic relapse.   Furthermore, those suffering from panic disorders might smoke as a way to keep calm and avoid future attacks.

According to the American Phycological Association,  "People with panic attacks, for instance, may have a harder time quitting because the symptoms of withdrawal — such as increased heart rate — can trigger an attack."  Transitioning to vaping can be a safe and effective way to quit smoking without triggering the harmful stress and anxiety linked to patients’ mental health disorders. 

Related Article:  CDC finally confirms: ZERO nicotine-based e-cigs linked to ‘vaping-related’ illness

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