We have written before in Real Answers with Dr. Lavin about the catastrophic explosion of addiction to nicotine that has been inflicted on our children, right now, just in the last 1-3 years.
As noted in that posting, nicotine is widely regarded as one of the most addictive of chemicals. As a reminder, if you give 100 people a regular dose of heroin every day about 10 will be stuck on heroin for most of their lives, which means heroin has a rate of addiction of about 10%. It turns out that cocaine also has an addiction rate of about 10%. Even alcohol, about 10% of people at all those frat parties will end up with a lifelong addiction to alcohol, which of course has its own name, alcoholism.
But nicotine is special. Give about 100 people nicotine a day for awhile, and many more than 10 will be hooked. The number is 33. That’s right, use nicotine for a bit, it really doesn’t take that many doses, and 1 in 3 people will be addicted to nicotine, often for the rest of their lives.
When we joined the rest of America in horror as we saw an entire generation of our kids in middle school, high school, and college flock in great masses to vape nicotine, we were shocked, how could a generation so aware of the dangers of smoking, run to get addicted? And we were horrified. If a million kids vaped, 333,333 would end up addicted to nicotine for the lives.
That is why we talk about it at health care visits. That is why we issue warnings on this blog.
But sadly, today, we have to report the nightmare is coming true. The New York Times has reported this week that a tidal wave of actual youth addiction is happening and happening right now.
I think many people hoped that since the Juul and other such vaping devices, were so casual in appearance, that their children’s tie to the nicotine it delivers would be casual as well. But nicotine is just a chemical, it of course cares nothing for whether it is delivered by cigarette, cigar, or a sleek looking tool like the Juul. Once in the body, it goes to work, changes your brain, and hooks you, often deeply, often for life.
And so now we are confronting the catastrophe that the wild appearance of vaping has set into motion. A generation of our kids our now confronting the fact that their minds have been re-wired, and they feel like they cannot live without their nicotine, they are fully addicted.
The real tragedy is that this very real addiction cannot be gotten rid of easily, it will take all the work of any recovery from addiction. The millions of children suddenly getting hooked leaves everyone who wants to help, parents, doctors, teachers scrambling. Programs for addicted youth are simply not in existence for a surge of this scale.
But the steps forward are clear for those already addicted. Meet with your doctor, connect with a trained addiction recovery professional, prepare for a difficult road ahead that requires a long time of care and recovery.
One last note. Many have asked me, why did this happen? How did nearly every high school and college in America suddenly get flooded with these nicotine-addicting devices? The answer seems quite evident, money. Just today it was announced that the people who make the Juul and sell it to our children are getting rewarded. Those people are in line to be given over $35 billion for succeeding beyond anyone’s expectations in selling their poison. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/health/juul-altria-e-cigarettes.html
This and the fact that Juul, Inc. sold their first $10 billion in sales faster than Apple, tells us about all we need to know about why this catastrophe was allowed to unfold.
- The dreaded consequences of the widespread sale of nicotine addicting devices to our children has come to pass. We are right now seeing a surge, a tidal wave in adolescents finding out that after playing with these devices, they now are truly and fully addicted to nicotine.
- The widespread sale of these nicotine addicting devices was fueled by the promise of billions in sales, a fact dramatized in news that the leading brand Juul is in line to be rewarded with $35 billion for its great success in selling these devices. As we know, many of these sales were to our kids.
- Even though the nicotine in these devices is presented to our kids in cute formats and childish flavors, the addiction is every bit as real as in any smoker. Addiction to nicotine is very hard to break, but people do recover from it.
- The sudden, completely national explosion of use of nicotine addicting devices took our country by surprise, happening all within just one year or so. It is a true catastrophe, as it now leaves hundreds of thousands of our children addicted to a powerful drug, and many of them will go on to obtain their nicotine with cigarettes, which expose them to now very serious and deadly diseases.
It takes a real, well-planned, and most importantly, sustained effort to achieve recovery from nicotine addiction. We are so saddened that so many we all care about will now need to do this work, but we stand ready to help.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin