What Your Patients are Hearing

Liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes could prove more addictive; gratitude tied to less anxiety, depression


The image of inhaling the vapor from electronic cigarettes – vaping – is presented by some as an innocuous substitute to smoking traditional cigarettes. It is true that vaping might pose less danger than cigarettes and can wean people off smoking, vaping can be addictive and, consequently, tough to quit.

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“Oh man, [withdrawal] was hell,” said Andrea “Nick” Tattanelli, a 39-year-old mortgage banker who reported engaging in vaping for more than 20 years, in a USA Today article. Mr. Tattanelli said quitting left him depressed.

Malissa M. Barbosa, DO, an addiction medicine specialist, wonders whether vaping is the best way to get patients to stop smoking. “The thing is, the studies aren’t fully available around vaping, and I’m very conservative. This is new, and I say, ‘Why aren’t we thinking of traditional means of quitting?’ ”

Vaping is more addictive than smoking traditional cigarettes “because the concentrated liquid form is more quickly metabolized,” said Dr. Barbosa, area medical director of CleanSlate Outpatient Addiction Medicine in Orlando.

And as the number of vapers grows, evidence is mounting that, rather than using it as a stepping stone to becoming nicotine-free, vaping is increasingly being used by adolescents as a form of delivering nicotine.

“We know how hard it is to quit smoking,” said Michael J. Blaha, MD, MPH, a cardiologist who serves as director of clinical research at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. “[With vaping], we’re really dealing with much of the same problem. Early on, there were some reports vaping was less addictive, but that’s still something that can be debated.”

In the United States, vapers include nearly 4 million middle and high school students. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, has suggested raising prices as a strategy aimed at curbing adolescent use.

Impact of gratitude on the brain

The beginning of a new year can be a time for reflection that can include a sense of gratitude for a relatively happy and secure life. And, according to an article at theconversation.com, the ability to have a sense of gratitude is good for well-being.

“Not only does gratitude go along with more optimism, less anxiety and depression, and greater goal attainment, but it’s also associated with fewer symptoms of illness and other physical benefits;” wrote Christina Karns, PhD, research associate in psychology at the University of Oregon, Portland.

A feeling of gratitude stimulates a part of the brain that controls the release of neurochemicals that confer pleasure. The benefits of gratitude aren’t just between the ears. Feeling gratitude can motivate people to pay it forward as altruistic behavior that helps others. Put another way, feeling good about life can trigger kindness.

Research by Dr. Karns and her colleagues also has demonstrated that this link between personal good feeling and altruism can be learned and accentuated. “So in terms of the brain’s reward response, it really can be true that giving is better than receiving,” wrote Dr. Karns, who also is affiliated with the Center for Brain Injury Research and Training at the university.

Imagine if the recipients of such goodwill, in turn, did some good for others, and they for others, and so on.

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