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Vaping Trends and Marijuana Legalization Will Likely Exacerbate Opiate Epidemic

WEST ORANGE, N.J., Feb. 13, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The CDC reported a 38% increase in tobacco use among America's youth in 2018, driven primarily by e-cigarettes (vapes). "The popularity of vaping is dangerous, as a significant portion of e-cigarette users progress to marijuana use, which, in turn, will likely lead to increased opiate abuse," commented Indra Cidambi, M.D., Addiction Expert and Medical Director at Center for Network Therapy (CNT).

"While age-related restriction on tobacco product sales apply, lack of comprehensive regulation around manufacturing and retailing of e-cigarettes is responsible for the vaping epidemic," said Dr. Cidambi.

Manufacturers such as JUUL are allowed to make deceptive-looking vaping devices that kids find to be "cool" or are hard to detect by adults. "JUUL's e-cigarettes look like flash drives, making it easy for kids to conceal their induction into tobacco use or dependence on it from adults," said Dr. Cidambi.

The e-liquid cartridges are also not regulated and their high potency eases the path to addiction. The nicotine content in some cartridges is as high as that of a pack of 20 cigarettes. "Nicotine is addictive, as it increases the level of dopamine in the brain and primes the reward pathways for other drugs," said Dr. Cidambi. "This is a big concern because eventually these teenagers will develop tolerance to nicotine and will seek more potent stimulants to release increased amounts of dopamine to get the same euphoric effect," added Dr. Cidambi.

As per a study*, 25% of teenagers who used e-cigarettes progressed to smoking marijuana as compared to one in eight (12.5%) of teenagers who did not use e-cigarettes. "Marijuana is also available as an e-liquid and progression to marijuana is a distinct possibility. Additionally, marijuana is the first drug individuals experiment with before they progress to experimenting with, and getting addicted to more potent drugs," commented Dr. Cidambi. "Consequently, it is highly likely that vaping/marijuana use will eventually lead to higher rates of addiction to opiates and other drugs," she added.

Adding fuel to the fire, drug dealers, in their quest to deliver a higher high and create more opioid users, have started to spike street marijuana with heroin or fentanyl.

"Inhaling/vaping is a preferred method of drug delivery as the drug hits the brain almost as fast as injecting the drug," noted Dr. Cidambi. "Heroin and cocaine need high-heat to vaporize and, therefore, are not "vape friendly," added Dr. Cidambi. Tight crystal structures in heroin and cocaine bind molecules strongly**, and they may need to be mixed with weak alkalis to create freebases before they could be used in vaping devices. "In my opinion, it is inevitable that high-potency drugs will eventually be sold as vapable e-liquids. That is when the real consequences of the vaping epidemic and legalization of marijuana for recreational use will come home to roost," warned Dr. Cidambi.

* Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO.
** Global Drug Survey

About Dr. Cidambi
Indra Cidambi, M.D., Medical Director, Center for Network Therapy, is a pioneer in Addiction Treatment. She introduced Ambulatory Detoxification for treating withdrawal from Alcohol, Benzodiazepines, and Opiates. She has a fellowship in addiction from NYU/Bellevue and is board certified in Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry.

About Center for Network Therapy (CNT)
CNT,, is New Jersey's first facility to be licensed to provide Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification and Withdrawal Management for alcohol, anesthetics, benzodiazepines, and opiates. Led by Board Certified Addiction Psychiatrist, Indra Cidambi, M.D., experienced physicians and nurses provide high-quality treatment. Dr. Cidambi and team have successfully detoxed over 1500 patients in 5+ years.

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SOURCE Center for Network Therapy

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Last Updated: 13-Feb-2019