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Switching to vaping can add 20 years of life to patients with severe mental illness

Did you know that according to national statistics, one in five Americans suffers from a severe mental disorder?  Diagnoses range from chronic depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and anxiety disorders.  Perhaps even more alarming, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that about 41 percent of the mentally challenged population are smokers.

A recent vaping study conducted by scientists from the South London and Maudsley’s (SLaM) National Health Service Foundation Trust suggests that patients with severe mental illness who switch from smoking to vaping can add as much as 20 years to their lifespans.  It can also vastly improve their quality of life by decreasing the numbers, frequencies, and severity of stress-related episodic events associated with their mental disorders. 

Overview of the UK vaping study

The vaping study is entitled Effect of implementation of a smoke-free policy on physical violence in a psychiatric inpatient setting: an interrupted time series analysis.  The report is published in its entirety in the medical journal Lancet Psychiatry.

The research team led by Dr. Debbie Robinson conducted one of the most extensive, longitudinal vaping studies to date involving an astonishing 24,000 mentally ill patients who were also daily smokers.  Over a period of several years, the researchers monitored the patients as they transitioned from smoking to vaping.  Participants also spanned various age groups from 20 to 70 and across virtually every race and culture.

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35 separate clinical trials were conducted over the course of the research, and during each experiment, biomarker levels associated with mental illness were carefully monitored, tracked, and analyzed. Researchers looked for changes in behaviors related to anxiety levels, manic episodes, physical assaults, moodiness, stress levels, and other emotional triggers and signals.   Meanwhile, another group of smoking patients attempting to quit smoking the old-fashioned way – the cold turkey method – acted as the control group.

  • The testing portion of the vaping study lasted for 42-weeks.
  • The participating patients were consistently monitored and evaluated by medical physicians for a period of 30-months before their transition to vaping and another 12-months after the transition began.
  • Of the participants with prior histories of physical altercations during times of high stress, occurrences dropped dramatically by 39 percent among the vaping group.
  • Of the remaining percentage of altercations from within the vaping group, only 4.9 percent were determined to be resulting from the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

To keep the playing field even, all participants in the vaping group were provided the device and e-liquids.  They were also under constant supervision by medical personnel. Both the smoking and vaping groups further received professional behavioral counseling to help them better manage the withdrawal symptoms that often accompany an attempt to quit smoking.

Statistics indicate beyond a shadow of a doubt that people suffering from severe mental illness are more likely to be smokers. Unfortunately, due to their diminished capacities to manage stress effectively, these same people usually find quitting smoking to be substantially more difficult than average.   As a result, researchers now believe that by allowing the mentally challenged to use vaping devices as a tobacco harm reduction tool, the patient can add as much as 20-years to their lifespans.

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