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E-cigs: The Gateway Drug

E-cigarettes: a new, safe alternative to regular cigarettes. A great way to quit smoking. A lot healthier for your body than inhaling gross, thick cigarette smoke. Not addictive, and way less nicotine.

Right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, aaaaand wrong… yep, all of that is WRONG.

But unfortunately, that seems to be what everyone thinks. E-cigs are marketed to make people think that they aren’t as bad as cigarettes. This new industry wants to make people think they are a “new, safe alternative,” and they want cigarette smokers to start using e-cigs when they attempt to “quit.”

E-cigs are battery powered smoking devices that are designed to look and feel like regular cigarettes. They have cartridges filled with liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings (fruity, chocolate, mint, whatever), and other chemicals that aren’t good for you. The e-cig heats up and the heat turns the liquid into a vapor, which is then breathed into the lungs.

Because of the way e-cig companies make their product come across, people who don’t do their RESEARCH are convinced that they’re not so bad for you. And, sadly, most people aren’t seeming to do their research. The e-cig industry is growing… and they are especially popular among teenagers.

Sure, when you smoke an e-cig, you aren’t breathing smoke into your lungs, which is why people think they’re so much better. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t breathing all kinds of other garbage into your lungs. With e-cigs, you are still putting just as much nicotine in your system as with cigarettes.

Here’s what nicotine does to you:

  • affects your brain
  • affects your nervous system
  • affects your heart and heart rate, and puts you at risk for heart failure
  • puts you at risk for getting blood clots
  • puts you at risk for getting stomach ulcers

Nicotine is also SUPER addictive. If you try it, even once or twice, you will crave it. And when you have a craving, you can become depressed and feel really tired. It can also be toxic and kill you if you have too much.

Researchers have done tons of studies on e-cigs and teenagers, and they have found that teens who smoke e-cigs are MUCH more likely to smoke regular cigarettes (and vice versa) and become addicted to those, too; six times more likely, to be exact. They are usually even associated with causing teens who are just experimenting with cigarettes to become regular, established smokers. Basically, they’re a gateway drug.

So if you think that e-cigs will help with your temptation to try regular cigarettes, or that they’ll help you quit smoking… think again. They’re really no different.

If you or a friend are smoking e-cigs, or regular cigarettes, here are some things you can do to quit:

  • Make a plan. If you are currently smoking 10 times a day, try to smoke one less time per day until you’re not smoking at all. Or, quit altogether. Sit down with someone who will help hold you accountable, have them help you make a plan to quit, and then stick to it.
  • Stay busy. When you feel a craving coming on, try to distract yourself by doing something else. You won’t smoke if you’re too busy doing something else. You can try things like going for a run, going to a movie with friends (who don’t smoke), painting a picture, or writing a story. Whatever you enjoy!
  • Keep focused on why you want to quit. Remember how much money your addiction has been costing you? Remember how you feel when you walk up a flight of stairs, or run at practice? Remember all the things that are unhealthy about smoking?
  • Get support. Tell your friends that you really do want to quit, and ask them to encourage you to stay strong whenever you get the urge. Ask a couple people if you can call or text them every time you get the urge, and they can help keep you accountable. Things like this are way easier when you don’t have to do it all yourself.
  • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. This is a totally free hotline where professionals are available 24/7 to help you with your addiction. They can help you come up with a plan, give you tips on how to quit, and tell you all about WHY you should quit.

Smoking may seem “cool,” and e-cigs may appear to be a better alternative. But really, just take care of your body and stay away from them.

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The Dangers of Cocaine

Cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs out there. Teens think it’s cool because it’s a stimulant drug, meaning it gives you tons of energy so you can stay up all night long and party and hang with friends. But it can also kill you.

Stimulants are drugs that elevate your mood, give you more energy, and increase your feelings of well-being. Basically, they cause your body to speed up… which means they also elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, which is incredibly dangerous.

Cocaine is available in two different forms. It can be in powder form, which people can either snort or inject with a needle (if they mix it with water); or it’s sometimes in the form of small white rocks, otherwise known as “crack cocaine,” and can be smoked. Some street names for cocaine are coke, coca, snow, blow, flake, candy, or rock; it’s also called “speedball” when it’s mixed with other drugs.

Here are some of the short-term effects of cocaine:

  • faster heartbeat
  • body feels hot
  • shaking and twitching
  • can’t sleep or eat
  • feelings of anger, nervousness, paranoia, and fear
  • stomach pain
  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • fainting
  • weight loss
  • after the high wears off, you will crash and feel tired and sad for days (and crave it)

And here are some of the long-term effects:

  • built up tolerance (so you crave more and need more to feel the same high)
  • strange unpredictable behavior, like panic attacks and feeling paranoid
  • snorting can lead to hoarseness, loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, and a constant runny nose
  • seizures
  • stroke
  • respiratory problems
  • heart attack
  • brain damage
  • violent behavior
  • sudden death (even for first time users)

If you suspect that one of your friends may be using cocaine, you definitely need to get them help. It could save their life. You can usually tell that something sketchy is going on when friends start acting really weird, and not like themselves: if they’re starting to not do as well in school, hanging out with a different crowd, if they seem depressed and have lost weight, lost their motivation, and aren’t taking care of their appearance and hygiene. People using drugs are also very moody, might have changed their sleeping pattern, and have bloodshot, tired looking eyes. They also might always be asking for money, or even stealing money.

Try talking to your friend and ask if something’s going on. In some cases, they may actually open up and be honest with you about what they’ve been doing. But sometimes, probably in most cases, teens can be afraid or embarrassed to admit that they’re using drugs, and will lie to even their closest friends. They might get angry with you. If that happens, you need to tell an adult. You aren’t telling on them, or getting them in trouble… you’re literally saving their life by telling someone. It’s nothing to feel bad about. Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, school counselor, teacher, or coach. They can help you confront your friend and get them the help they need.

You could also have your friend call either 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-662-HELP. By calling these hotlines, your friend can talk to a professional about the steps they should take to get over their cocaine addiction. Or, you can go online with them and visit http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment and find a local treatment center where they can receive help.

Cocaine is highly addictive, so even if your friend has only tried it a few times, they’re still craving it. Or if they’ve been using for a long time, it’s going to continue to get worse. It’s only a matter of time until something happens to them. Get them the help they need NOW.