RE@LBlog Interview #2 Of 3: Dr. Anne Griffiths Shares Experiences with Teen Vaping & Lung Injuries + Findings for Nicotine-Free Wellness!
RE@L’s “1Up On Vaping™” LearningProduct brings to our RE@LBlog Readers a series of interview blogs from two local doctors on the perils of teen vaping and nicotine use: Dr. Anne Griffiths and Dr. Rose Marie Leslie.
All six RE@LBlog interviews were conducted by RE@L Media Content Producer, Tacy Mangan. Each will be shared with our readers in coming weeks.
Dr. Anne Griffiths is a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Minnesota and Children’s Respiratory and Critical Care Specialists.
Her work with teenagers includes treating those with vaping associated lung injury. Click on the photo to the left to read Dr. Anne Griffiths’ Blog Interview #1 if you missed it.
BLOG INTERVIEW #2 of 3: “VAPING, TEENS AND ADDICTION”
Dr. Griffths: “(Vaping) causes a behavioral piece and use becomes habitual, since they’re constantly vaping throughout the day in a way that seems to really be a higher burden of use compared to traditional cigarette use.”
TM:”You’re affiliated with Children’s Minnesota, where you have treated young patients dealing with vaping related illnesses. Tell us about the Children’s Minnesota “Only One” anti-vaping campaign that you’re a part of and what kind of information is included.
AG:We’re really excited about this. We know that vaping is an epidemic in our teen population. In the past couple of years, we’ve had up to 25 percent of teens say they vaped in the past 30 days. That’s a huge problem. We’re excited to see that from both the patient side and the family consumer side, they’re responding to the website and they’re spending time on it and that’s been really neat because we know that we’re getting some of that educational points across. The health care provider page is also important, and we want doctors and nurses to be able to have a resource and to reach out to us when desired. There are links for mental health, primary care and for respiratory care, and there are also links for quit programs.
Quitting and teens is a challenging topic. Time and time again, it’s not enough that a teenager just wants to quit, because many times they do want to quit. The question is what are they going to replace it with? How are they going to cope in a different way with their stress and anxiety or loneliness or other problems that have come up in the past or will occur in the future? Stress doesn’t go away. It returns, so having a proactive plan, a preemptive strike in place of other ways to handle that stress, is really important and helps lead to their success.
“Let’s talk about treatments…”
TM:Let’s talk about treatment options. When we first started our work on the 1Up On Vaping project, there was very little known about treatment options. At this point, what has changed or what options are out there now for teens?
AG:Well, one of the things we know is that the kids who came in last summer with e-cigarettes or vaping products, most had done THC based vaping, but many also vaped nicotine products. What we found was that in the emergency room when they came in sick and you asked about their past medical history, 75 percent of patients had a history of anxiety or depression or other mental health concerns before they got sick and they were self-medicating. So, it’s important to have a plan that involves a therapist, a counselor, and sometimes a psychiatrist or medication received through a primary care doctor.
That’s critical because whether or not they’re diagnosed with a medical problem or a mental health problem, even beyond getting to the point of anxiety and depression diagnoses, we know these kids are coping by self-medicating. We know that this is something they’re doing to cope and we’re trying to figure out how we give them healthy tools to cope better. I think having that social work contact, that counseling, that behavioral piece is critical. Whether or not you have a diagnosis of an underlying mental health problem, that has to be a part of the quit plan to navigate towards success.
“The path to quitting!”
AG:Unfortunately, there’s no nicotine replacement therapy approved right now through the FDA for those under 18, although providers with significant expertise have chosen to at times prescribe nicotine replacement therapy for teenagers. If there’s a chemical dependency issue, having a chemical dependency counselor or therapist or psychiatrist involved in their care can really be helpful, because if we address the behavioral piece, we may get rid of vaping. They still can have an addictive tendency that’s formed in their brain, and so what does that get replaced with? The brain wants to put somebody back on that highway and it’s willing to take another car or truck on the road if it’s no longer seeing enough passengers.
Do they pick up opiates or other drugs they never would have considered before? Do they pick up things like exercise, or become zealous about their eating behaviors? Can we use something, like community service and something more fulfilling instead? Are we thinking about the hormones in the brain and the activity of happiness versus contentment? All of those things are a really important part of that path to quitting.
“What are your greatest concerns moving forward?”
TM: This is new information for many of us. What’s your greatest concern regarding teens and vaping today?
AG:My greatest concern is that I think they’re being lied to. I think they’re being fooled into a false sense of security and safety and I worry about what that looks like 10, 15, 20 years down the road. I worry about if they’ll struggle with other addictions in adulthood. Will they struggle with other mental consequences from overuse of drugs and chemical dependency as teenagers? What will their fulfillment look like in adulthood? Are we setting up behaviors that lead to successful adulthood? That’s what I’m most worried about. My biggest concern is really the chemical dependency piece and if we are setting up teens to be unsatisfied or fulfilled adults.
TM:We’ve heard from some teachers that the 1Up On Vaping curriculum has really made a difference when it comes to student peer pressure. Students start supporting each other, by really talking about the issue. How important do you think it is for students to also be able to connect with each other and talk openly about vaping?
AG:Yes, and peer pressure from teammates to avoid vaping can be helpful and engages that part of the teen brain that thinks about short-term motivation. I also think there’s a misperception that these are bad kids. Sometimes I hear from parents, I have a good kid here. I stress that a child who vapes is not a bad child. For them, it really just comes down to thinking through good or poor decisions, misinformed decisions, and well-intentioned decisions. Someone isn’t good or bad if the choices they made were good or bad choices and I’m trying to focus on that with the parents. It’s OK to have that kind of engagement of trying to build a relationship of trust with their kids while maintaining boundaries, as well.
“Celebrate the wins where we can have them!”
TM:Anything else we should know about teens who want to stop vaping?
AG:Celebrating the wins where we can have them, I think, is how we empower teenagers to make more progress in terms of quitting. They’re afraid of failing and they’re worried about, “Well, I tried to quit once before and it didn’t work.” So, they don’t want to try to quit again because they’re afraid they’re going to fail.
Trying to celebrate that you didn’t vape all week this week, that’s a really big deal. You should be really proud of that. And having that mindset of cheering them on, I think is really important for the parents.”
RE@LBlog adds: Ponder this closing quote by Dr. Griffths:
“Celebrating the wins where we can have them is how we empower teenagers to make more progress in terms of quitting.”
COMING SOON: Part 3, the closing interview with Dr. Griffiths: “Tips for educators and parents: How to talk with teens about vaping and nicotine use: The beginning of the ending!”