Withdrawal Symptoms of Teens with a Vaping Addiction

Withdrawal Symptoms of Teens with a Vaping Addiction

November 11, 2022

People vape for many reasons. One of the primary reasons teens (and adults vape) is because they believe it is safer or less addictive than smoking cigarettes. Some may also feel that vaping is an ideal way to quit smoking because the properties of vape liquids are perceived as less addictive than smoking. There are many misconceptions and (despite how long e-cigarettes have been available) many aspects of vaping that are still unclear. This lack of knowledge or inaccurate knowledge is part of what leads to vaping addiction.


What is Vaping?

The simplest way to explain vaping is that it is the practice of inhaling vapor through an electronic device or e-cigarette. Recent reports show that vaping is more common among youth and teens than any other tobacco product. Details released as part of the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey indicate more than two million American youth of middle and high school age reported using e-cigarettes during 2021. Of those, more than 80% used flavored e-cigarettes.


Reasons Teens Choose Vaping Over Smoking

Studies show there are several reasons why teens prefer vaping over using traditional cigarettes. The key reason is that youth believe vaping is less dangerous and has fewer harmful effects than smoking.   This is perhaps one of the most common and most dangerous misconceptions about vaping. When teens vape, it can negatively impact their brains, lungs, and other body systems. In teens, the parts of the brain responsible for impulse control and decision-making are not fully developed. Often, the development of these regions is not complete until one reaches approximately age 25. For this reason, youth and young adults who use drugs that affect the brain are at a greater risk of long-term effects from substance use.


Another significant risk of vaping is nicotine addiction. Again, until age 25, your teen’s brain is still developing. Each time a new skill is performed, the brain builds connections or synapses between the cells that help various body parts “remember” how to perform that function. Teen and adolescent brains build these connections far more quickly than adult brains. Because addiction is a type of learning, it is easier for the brain to build synapses related to addictive processes allowing teens to become addicted to activities and substances more easily than adults. 


In addition to addiction and structural changes to the brain, vaping is not without risk. Vape cartridges contain nicotine, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and thousands of other unknown chemicals. The aerosol contained in e-cigarettes is inhaled into the lungs just as the smoke from traditional cigarettes. Researchers are still discovering the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes for both the primary user and for those exposed to second hand. Currently, many questions remain about how long-term vaping as a teen will affect someone throughout their lives.  


Symptoms of a Teen Vaping Addiction

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for parents to know if their teens are vaping unless they happen to witness it first-hand. That said, there are several potential cues you can look for that may suggest your teen is vaping or has a vaping addiction that could benefit from treatment at Hillcrest.


Vaping pods or devices in the trash

Although this may seem like the most obvious indication that your teen is vaping, it is also crucial to watch for. If you notice strange items such as pods, atomizers (the part of a vaping device that turns liquid into vapor), discarded cotton balls, or metallic oils in your trash or your child’s backpack, it likely suggests that they are vaping.


“Smokers cough” or new mouth sores

Several studies have recently linked vaping or the use of e-cigarettes to mouth sores that do not heal. Also, similar studies have linked vaping to a smoker’s cough, similar to that common with traditional cigarettes.


Increased frequency of nosebleeds

A specific chemical in e-cigarettes, propylene glycol, may increase your child’s risk of experiencing frequent nosebleeds. Propylene glycol is a dehydrating chemical. In some cases, it has been found to reduce moisture levels inside the nostrils. When someone vapes, they often exhale the vapor through their nose, increasing dryness. Increased dryness in the nasal cavities may lead to nosebleeds.


Increased dehydration

Similar to nosebleeds, the propylene glycol in vaping liquids may also lead to dry mouth or dehydration in other body areas. If you notice that your teen is drinking more water than usual or exhibits other common symptoms of dehydration, it may help to investigate the root causes further.


Strange pens or USB drives

Although vaping devices come in many shapes and sizes, many look like a pen or USB (flash drive). These presentations make vaping devices more portable but also easier to disguise. One crucial distinction between the traditional USB drive or pen used for writing is that vaping devices have holes on each end that allow for inhalation of the vapor and/or release of the vapor into the air.


Sweet-smelling or different smelling air

most traditional tobacco products do not have a pleasing aroma. The smell of cigarette smoke that comes from cigarettes and several other tobacco products often lingers in the hair and on the clothes. It can also remain attached to the skin and on one’s breath after they have been smoking. On the other hand, e-cigarettes come in several different flavors and scents. Before a recent ban on flavor-enhancing chemicals in vaping products, many vaping pods included sweet flavorings that lingered in the air after they were used. These flavored pods were often preferred by teens. It is possible that your teen may still have some of these products. 


Recovering from a Vaping Addiction

Most vaping cartridges contain nicotine. The nicotine contained in e-cigarettes is no less addictive than that found in a “regular” cigarette. With time, your teen’s body grows accustomed to having a certain nicotine level in their system. This means they will experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms or vape withdrawal symptoms when they try to overcome a vaping addiction.


Examples of common withdrawal symptoms

When someone tries to quit vaping, they will experience many of the same withdrawal symptoms as someone who tries to quit smoking. Although withdrawal symptoms may vary slightly from person to person, almost everyone will experience nicotine withdrawal if they have developed an addiction to it. Unlike certain drugs, nicotine withdrawal symptoms rarely lead to harmful medical side effects. However, they can still be unpleasant and challenging to manage without help from a treatment program like ours at Hillcrest. With support and time, nicotine withdrawal symptoms will begin to fade if your teen does not return to smoking.


Examples of common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Urges or cravings for nicotine
  • Mood-related symptoms such as irritability, grouchiness, or generally feeling upset when you can’t smoke
  • difficulties with concentration
  • Problems with sleep
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, or overall feelings of sadness
  • Feeling restless or jumpy
  • Increased hunger and, in some cases, weight gain


As previously mentioned, as long as your teen remains smoke-free, many nicotine withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside after a few days. The first symptoms of nicotine withdrawal often occur within the first four to 24 hours after the last time someone vapes or smokes. Generally, withdrawal symptoms peak (are at their worst) on the 3rd and 4th day. Foremost, withdrawal symptoms will taper off over the course of the next three to four weeks, eventually subsiding entirely.


Like many substance addictions, the duration and severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms will vary based on how much or how often your teen vapes. Someone who vapes frequently or has a severe addiction will likely experience a longer and potentially more severe period of withdrawal than someone who only uses occasionally but still wants to stop using entirely. Seeking help at a treatment program like ours at Hillcrest can help your teen successfully quit vaping for good.


Rehab and treatment at Hillcrest

As previously mentioned, overcoming nicotine addiction is not as medically dangerous as achieving sobriety from other substances such as alcohol or heroin. However, quitting smoking for good often requires a multifaceted, comprehensive treatment approach that includes behavioral therapy, peer support groups comma and sometimes comma medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms. Studies show that teens (and adults) who receive a combination of behavioral therapy and medications to help overcome nicotine addiction achieve success at higher rates than those who try to quit “cold Turkey” or without support and assistance.


Behavioral therapies for vaping addiction often include several sessions of in-person counseling. Behavioral therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based therapies, can help your teen better understand the triggers and behaviors that led them to begin vaping. These therapies can also teach relapse prevention skills and coping strategies your teen can use to remain smoke-free after treatment ends.


In some cases, medications such as nicotine replacement therapy, of which there are several different formulas, can help relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the cravings that may lead your team to relapse. Many people who use nicotine replacement therapies do so during the early stages of quitting to help keep cravings under control period also, someone with a severe addiction it requires longer-term treatment can benefit from nicotine replacement therapy. Studies show that nicotine replacement therapy may increase success rates by as much as 70%.


Rehab and treatment at Hillcrest

If you are a parent who is concerned your teen has a vaping addiction, seeking help in a teen-focused treatment program like our Los Angeles treatment center can provide them with the best opportunity to quit vaping (and using other tobacco products). While it is possible to quit nicotine without treatment, many who try cold turkey are unsuccessful. Also, choosing to quit outside of a supported treatment program does not offer the same type of behavioral and peer support interventions. 


The best way to quit vaping is for your teen to understand the reasons why they started. It is also beneficial to learn safe and effective coping and craving management tools to use when the urge to vape occurs after treatment ends. To learn more about our programs and how we can help your teen overcome their vaping addiction, contact a member of our admissions team at Hillcrest today