To quit smoking, many people turn to electronic cigarettes. But once this first step has been taken, is it possible to wean yourself off e-cigarettes afterwards? How is it actually done ? Explanations from Dr Olivier Galera, tobacco specialist at the Saint-Orens clinic in Haute-Garonne.
“If you ask me if it is possible to wean yourself from electronic cigarettes, the answer is ori” immediately indicates Dr Olivier Galera, tobacco specialist at the Saint-Orens clinic in Haute-Garonne. “But there are different cases that must be clearly differentiated..
The case of the person who exclusively uses the e-cigarette
In the case of a person who vapes exclusively, having previously stopped consuming traditional cigarettes, nicotine dependence will always be present. “In this case, this represents around 80% of e-cigarette smokers, the need for nicotine will always be felt. And the problem with the e-cigarettes currently on the market is that they deliver a “shoot” of nicotine to the brain, which shows their dependence” first explains Dr. Galera.
“So in reality, these people are switching from nicotine from tobacco, therefore from a very toxic cigarette, to nicotine from an electronic cigarette, which we assume, based on current data, is less toxic.. But nicotine addiction is in reality not resolved.
To help these patients, Dr. Galera first asks them about their nicotine consumption. “This is something they often ignore. They will answer 6 mg, the quantity indicated on the e-liquid. But this does not correspond to the quantity of nicotine consumed per day, but to that contained in one milliliter of product. So if the person consumes 3 mL per day, they will have 18 mg of nicotine, almost the equivalent of what is in a patch, or in an entire pack of cigarettes.“.
According to the doctor, the solution for these people is to prescribe them a daily nicotine patch which will diffuse the substance into their body continuously, for a prolonged period. “By having their nicotine patch, they will gradually give up their vape. We subsequently estimate that we can reduce the dose of nicotine by 7 mg per month: from a patch of 21 mg, we will go to 14 then 7 mg: in three months, on average, sometimes a little more, the person can be completely weaned” adds the doctor.
The case of people who vape without nicotine in the liquid used
Some people vape but do not consume nicotine. They use an e-liquid on which it is indicated 0 mg of nicotine. “In this case, we are rather faced with a person who has an addiction linked to behavior” explains Dr. Galera. “She needs to be helped by cognitive-behavioral therapy, in order to understand this need and get rid of it“. It all depends on the individual, but this type of follow-up could be much longer.
The case of people who vape and smoke at the same time
In the case of people who continue smoking after starting vaping, the problem comes from nicotine dosage. “These people have no benefit, on the contrary, they combine the potential risks of the two products“.
Why don’t they stop smoking? “This is because the nicotine contained in their e-cigarette is too low, so they need to supplement their dose with tobacco.” indicates our expert, who recalls that physical dependence on nicotine exceeds that of other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.
To get rid of this addiction, the help of a tobacco specialist is essential. “There is nothing to be ashamed of. Often these people feel guilty or feel worthless when faced with one or more failed quit attempts. You need help, nicotine is an addiction that you can wean yourself off with the help of a doctor.” further supports Olivier Galera.
What are the effects of withdrawing from electronic cigarettes and how can you avoid going back for more?
When weaning is done well, patients feel good. According to the tobacco specialist, “there is no nervousness, mood disorders, no snacking to compensate“.
And to avoid diving back in, what are the recommendations if you feel like it? “You have to divert your attention, a desire to vape never lasts long, between three and five minutes on average. We can recommend drinking a glass of water, doing sports, or starting an activity to distract yourself, such as calling a friend. Meditation or cardiac coherence are also tools to help eliminate any desire to vape. concludes the doctor.