E-cigarettes Make Smoke Addicts More Alcoholic Than Before – Study Proves

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If smoking e-cigarettes is regarded to be a healthier option, well then, here is the breaking news – E-smoking can make you more prone to alcoholic addiction. Based on the new research study that was published on Addictive Behaviors, e-cigarette usage is likely to show enhanced problematic behavior related to alcohol consumption.

The authors of this new study consider it crucial to establish not only “ the direct health effects of e-cigarette use…but it’s vital to look at the secondary effects too.”

E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes, according to Wikipedia definition, is a ‘battery-powered vaporizer’ that helps to stimulate the feeling or the urge to smoke, without the need to burn a tobacco. Some of the ingredients that one can find in an e-cigarette are a battery, a nicotine cartridge, a solution containing glycerin mixed with water or one of propylene glycol and an atomiser that helps to turn the nicotine solution into vapor or a fine mist. When a person inhales on an e-cigarette, the nicotine solution gets heated up and evoporates. The smoker gets to inhale a hit of nicotine, similar to smoking an ordinary cigarette. There are different concentrations of nicotine cartridges available in the market and they come in different flavors like coffee, chocolate, mint, etc. I am sure you must have come across one of those e-cigarette advertisements where they are often touted as the ‘healthy alternative’. Almost 6% of the general population (including 17% of users with addictions) smoke e-cigarettes. The rapid rise in its usage has led many researchers to focus on its health benefits.

What Makes e-Cigarettes Different From The Traditional Cigarettes?

A traditional tobacco containing cigarette will contain somewhat around 4000 different chemicals, which include toxins such as radioactive polonium – 210 and arsenic as well. The tobacco generated smoke has long been recognized as a carcinogen that is capable of producing cancer. The absence of tobacco in e-cigarette might logically prove that they are safer mediums through which users can get an intake of the nicotine hit. Nevertheless, some studies prove that e-cigarette emissions too have their share of hazardous substances. According to a U.S Food and Drug Administration report in 2014, the e-cigarette might contain varying level of nicotine and other harmful substances namely, metals, aldehydes, phenolic compounds, volatile organic compounds, etc. Some of the chemical substances and the ultrafine particles have been identified to be carcinogenic, toxic and even distress causing.

E-Cigarettes or Traditional Cigarettes: It is the Nicotine that People Smoke Anyway

People smoke because of the nicotine,” says researcher Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD; who is also a tobacco and e-cigarette expert at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. Smoking can increase one’s vulnerability to drug abuse. Research at The Scripps Research Institute prove how exposure to nicotine can promote alcohol dependence. Biologist Oliver George explains, “Nicotine makes individuals crave alcohol to ‘reward’ the brain and reduce stress.”

Nicotine and Alcohol Addiction Help To Perpetuate Each Other

In fact, recent research will likely indicate that nicotine incites a smoker’s biological urge to crave for alcohol. Nicotine brings over a tremendous impact on the neurotransmitters that are present in our brain. It stimulates the discharge of large amounts of norepinephrine, acetylcholine, serotinin, epinephrine, endorphins, arginine, vasopressin, and dopamine. Stimulation of the neurotransmitters in excess results in the slower release of the neurotransmitters. As a result, this leads to increased craving for addictive substances such as alcohol. It happens because the brain will reduce the production of the neurotransmitter receptors or even cease to make it. The Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is involved in the reward pathway that is responsible for giving out feelings of pleasure or well-being. This is same when we consume other mind altering drugs like alcohol. The Serotinin acts as a natural antidepressant and the acetylcholine that is vital for anything related to the cognitive function. The Endorphins are responsible for producing a feeling of empowerment and well-being and acts as the natural pain killers of the body. The Norepinephrine makes us stay alert and excess of which can lead to giving out of feelings such as anxiousness, hypertension, etc. Insufficient production of these neurotransmitters give rise to cravings for addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. This is because the addictive substances work as an alternative that can mimic the effect of the natural transmitters.

If you are wondering why people smoke and drink simultaneously, then this is what can give clarity to your curiosity – smoking constricts the blood vessels of the human body. Drinking alcohol can help to dilute it. This makes smoking and drinking work out as antidote to one another, thus creating a vicious cycle that the human body needs to counteract one other.

What Happens In The Brain When You Smoke?

  • When one inhales the smoke, the nicotine reaches the brain within seconds.

  • The nicotine helps to stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, dopamine, etc in high levels. This is what gives you the relaxing high feeling.

  • After a few seconds, the nicotine reaches the liver where the organ gets stimulated and releases sugar into the blood stream. The release of sugar leads to an emotional boost and the human body feels confident and energized. But the pancreas now releases insulin in order to bring down the sugar level that it recognizes as being too much in the blood stream.

  • The release of the insulin by the pancreas causes a decrease in the blood sugar level, while at the same time the neurotransmitters have also stopped releasing.

  • This causes the brain to become desensitized to the high levels of the neurotransmitters, which ultimately requires one to intake more of nicotine in order to achieve the same feeling of pleasure. The human brain is unable to relax, focus or even function properly until the body decides to smoke once more.

Thus excessive stimulation of the neurotransmitters gives way to the euphoric feeling and the disruption of these can cause addiction and other symptoms like depression or anxiety.

Craving To Drinking Will Continue As Long As Nicotine Is In The Picture

Electronic or tobacco, no matter how you consume it, Nicotine is an addictive drug. The lack of tobacco in an e-cigarette might make it sound as if they are the safest way to get a hit of nicotine. Nevertheless, questions still linger with regard to how much safe are the chemicals present inside an e-cigarette. The current lack of any regulation indicates that there is no way of finding out about the specific contents inside the e-cigarette. The proponents of the product might claim that e-cigarettes are healthier, however, we know very little about some of the chemical substances that some e-cigarettes might contain. For example, we are not yet sure about the level of safety of using propylene glycol that are found in many e-cigs while too much of Nicotine can itself become highly toxic. There are some e-cigarettes that contain small amounts of acetaldehyde, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and other toxins like acrolein, which can be traced in tobacco smoke at higher levels. In fact, the amount of nicotine that is found in an e-cigarette is comparatively higher than the one found in an actual cigarette. The facts and the study details on these products are even more frightening.

E-cigs therefore do not relieve one of nicotine addiction, but rather push one to become even more addicted. So can e-cigs aid in smoking cessation?

Overcoming addiction to smoking and restoration of the neurotransmitters requires proper diet, lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements. This can be done with the help of behavioral interventions that play an important role in treating an addiction either using medication or alone. Quitting is the only answer. However, a addict might experience symptoms like irritability, anxiety, insomnia, difficulty. This is called nicotine withdrawal symptom. Patients who suffer from substance abuse, require psychological and emotional support more than anything else. They might feel the need to choose between outpatient and inpatient programs, which is why choosing the right kind of rehabilitation center is also important in such a case.

Chloe Paltrow
Chloe Paltrow, MD, is a psychiatrist with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a researcher in the field of neurology. Dr. Paltrow sees patients with different neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. She has shared her knowledge in various websites and blogs like Collective Evolution, PsychCentral and Pick The Brain. Currently, she is studying how brain injury and brain disorders can be treated with hyperbaric chamber, of which OxyHealth is a leading provider.