Psychiatric organizations around the world are endorsing vaping
As the world watches the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recent move to ban flavored vapes like Juul, multiple psychiatric and mental health groups are left shaking their heads. How can a technological advancement designed specifically for tobacco harm reduction come under fire by any reputable public health agency?
Mental health organizations in the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere are finally speaking out and officially endorsing vaping as a life-saving alternative to smoking. One such organization is the Mental Health & Smoking Partnership (MHSP) which published its official endorsement on SmokeFreeAction.org, a non-profit funded by the British government.
“When appropriately tailored these interventions are also effective for people with mental health conditions. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is effective, but is likely to be required in high doses, for longer durations and with more intensive behavioural support than in the general population of smokers. Provision of the nicotine that smokers are addicted to without the harmful components of tobacco smoke can prevent most of the harm from smoking.”
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Scientists have known for decades that patients suffering from severe mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) are far more likely to be addicted to smoking. For example, national statistics estimate that schizophrenics smoke at a rate that is three times the national average.
Unfortunately, mental health professionals also know that asking their mentally challenged patients to quit smoking may exacerbate their associated symptoms dramatically. The MHSP hopes that its endorsement of vaping will convince legislators to learn the positive benefits of e-cigs before banning vapor products outright. And others are also following suit.
Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australia (DANA) also supports vaping
A report published in the journal Medical Daily indicates that 76.3 percent of patients in treatment programs for alcohol and drug addiction are also active smokers. And just like psychiatrists, addiction counselors of patients new to recovery are often left with a difficult choice.
Should they look the other way when their patients begin substituting smoking for their addiction to more deadly substances like heroin, cocaine, or alcohol? Or should patients new to recovery give up everything – all addictions, including tobacco – simultaneously? The Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australia (DANA) also endorses vaping through its official position statement on e-cigarettes.
“People with drug and alcohol dependence have high smoking rates and greater difficulty quitting than other smokers. They are more likely to die from a tobacco-related disease than from their primary drug problem. Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid solution, which may or may not contain nicotine into a vapour for inhalation, simulating the behavioural and sensory aspects of smoking, and they are currently seen as a legitimate form of tobacco harm reduction. Nurses have an important role in asking people about their smoking, assessing the risk of tobacco use, advising about the risks, assisting smokers to stop or reduce their tobacco consumption, and arranging further support as appropriate.”
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The paper goes on to say that the addictions of smoking and other substances no longer require separate treatment programs, thanks largely to the technological advancements of e-cigarettes in recent years. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) also agree.
“The RANZCP believes that harm minimisation is an essential component of any policy framework that aims to improve health outcomes for people who smoke. E-cigarettes and vaporisers provide a safer way to deliver nicotine to those who are unable to stop smoking, thereby minimising the harms associated with smoking tobacco and reducing some of the health disparities experienced by people with mental illness. The RANZCP is concerned that policies with an unduly narrow focus on smoking cessation risk exacerbating the health disparities, and perpetuating the discrimination, which people living with mental illness currently experience.”
The endorsements of vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking by mental health organizations around the globe are only the first of many obstacles to overcome before widespread acceptance within the psychiatric communities-at-large can be achieved. Just like in the United States, many addiction treatment and mental health facilities abroad also prohibit both indoor smoking and vaping. Many even ban outdoor use, as well.
In many cases, these anti-vaping policies are not implemented by facility administrators but from state, local, or federal legislative mandates. By offering their collective endorsements of vaping, the MHSP, DANA, RANZCP hope to convince lawmakers to revise or overturn these somewhat puritanical laws once and for all.
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