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Could E-Cigarettes Influence Drug Use?

First Posted: Sep 04, 2014 05:19 PM EDT

The verdict's still out on whether or not electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are completely safe.

A new study looks at how they could even be considered a gateway drug, in some instances.

Researchers analyzed 2004 epidemiologic data from a large, longitudinal sample that suggests that nicotine also primes human brains to respond to cocaine. Findings also showed that the same reward centers stimulated in the brain by e-cigarette use could also increase the same risk for other drug addictions.

"E-cigarettes have the same physiological effects on the brain and may pose the same risk of addiction to other drugs as regular cigarettes, especially in adolescence during a critical period of brain development," the researchers added, in a news release. "We don't yet know whether e-cigarettes will prove to be a gateway to the use of conventional cigarettes and illicit drugs, but that's certainly a possibility. Nicotine clearly acts as a gateway drug on the brain, and this effect is likely to occur whether the exposure comes from smoking cigarettes, passive tobacco smoke, or e-cigarettes."

To add to that, though there is no evidence, yet, that the vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful, any health risks associated with long-term use of the device are still unclear.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the New England Journal of Medicine Science.

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