Vaping May Be A Game Changer For People With Mental Illnesses

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A new study shows allowing e-cigarettes in mental health institutions can greatly reduce rates of violence, bolstering claims vaping can be a useful tool for those suffering from mental illnesses.

Researchers in the United Kingdom investigated the impact tobacco addiction has on patients and staff in mental health facilities, particularly its influence on violence. They found the agitation often associated with quitting cigarettes can lead to violent outbursts in patients, resulting in harm to themselves or others. Researcher found banning cigarettes and transitioning patients to e-cigarettes can reduce violent incidents by nearly 40 percent.

The study monitored 23,972 patients in mental health facilities for 30-days prior to using a vape and 12-months after successfully transitioning off cigarettes. While the medical community agrees smoke-free policies at mental health facilities should be the goal, the effects tobacco withdrawal has on patients often hold them back from implementing those rules.

“Smoke-free policies are important to protect health and reduce health inequalities,” the researchers said in the study. “A major barrier to policy implementation in psychiatric hospitals is staff concern that physical violence will increase.”

The researchers found a 39 percent reduction in physical assaults per month after patients switched to a vaping device.

The psychiatric community is generally becoming more vocal in their support of vaping for patients who use tobacco, noting smoking rates are disproportionately higher for individuals who struggle with mental health conditions. Roughly 41 percent of people with a mental illness in the U.S. smoke, compared to only 18 percent of people in the general population.

Data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows more than 50 percent of Americans with depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia smoke cigarettes.

The psychiatric community is currently petitioning the Australian government to lift the county’s ban on vaping liquid. Vaping devices are legal in the country, but the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes is banned, leaving a legal gray area for smokers trying to give up the habit.

Mental health professionals in the country argue that greater access to vaping products would go a long way in improving overall health among those with mental health disorders and cutting the high rates of smoking among those populations.

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