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E-cig study: Vaping reduces violence in patients with mental illnesses

A new e-cig study suggests that by implementing a smoke-free policy in mental health institutions and allowing patients to vape instead, the cases of physical violence can decrease by as much as 39%.  The paper was published by a group of UK scientists in coordination with the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service Foundation Trust.

According to the paper, the researchers implemented the policy and recorded the resulting data from 30-months prior to the transition to vaping and for 12-months thereafter.  The study entitled Effect of implementation of a smoke-free policy on physical violence in a psychiatric inpatient setting: an interrupted time series analysis is readily available on The Lancet Psychiatry website. 

Overview of the UK vaping study

The UK research follows several other scientific studies surrounding the topic of vaping and mental health.  An Italian paper from 2014 focuses primarily on schizophrenic patients, and an Australian study targeted “severe mental illness’ in general.  Regardless of the country of original, most mental health experts seem to agree on one major point.  Patients suffering from mental health disorders are far more likely to smoke than those who do not. 


Understandably, their physicians know all too well how harmful smoking can be to the body, but getting their patients to quit is another matter entirely.  In many cases, when mentally challenged patients try to quit smoking, the associated symptoms of their mental disorder tend to become exacerbated.

With the increased stress and anxiety that come from quitting – even when using more traditional nicotine replacement therapies - the patients can become more easily agitated as a result.  It is this agitation that can trigger the violent outbursts towards themselves, other patients, and the mental healthcare workers who attend to them.

The SLaM physicians conducted a lengthy series of tests involving thousands of patients.  The study also recorded thousands of physical assaults in the process.  The primary guidelines of the UK e-cig study include the following.

      • The researchers conducted 35 different studies overall.
      • 23,972 patients were monitored throughout the course of the study.
      • 17% had previous histories of physical violence as inpatients at related mental health facilities.
      • From 2014 to 2015, the researchers recorded over 4,500 assaults just on hospital staff alone.
      • The study lasted from 30-months prior to the institutional transition to a smoke-free, vape-friendly environment to 12-months thereafter.
      • The resulting data shows a 39% reduction in physical assaults per month after the transition.
      • Only 4.9% of physical altercations resulted from withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

The SLaM study also mentions that patients were given more than just a vape mod as part of their experimental therapy.  They also received regularly scheduled behavioral counselling, professional psychological support, and prescription medications to assist in managing their smokers’ cravings.  However, the resulting data as related to this UK e-cig study is still considered extremely positive by many leaders of the scientific community.  If mental health specialists can help their patients to quit smoking and increase the physical safety of their healthcare staff simultaneously, it’s a win-win.



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