Since their widespread introduction over the past few years, much of the debate surrounding electronic cigarettes has focused on their potential health impact. Traditional cigarette smoking remains a largely taboo activity owing to the demonstrably negative effects it has on physical health. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs given that nicotine, the primary addictive ingredient in both tobacco and the liquid in electronic cigarettes, is gradually having its value for mental health patients revealed and studied.

Before broaching the topic of how nicotine might be used to improve the quality of life for patients struggling with mental health issues, it’s worth establishing whether or not e-cigarettes can act as a safe way of administering the drug. Simply stated, e-cigarettes far and away lack the same physically-damaging effects that traditional tobacco cigarettes produce. The devices themselves, despite the occasional malfunction that occurs with any device that uses a lithium battery, are no more dangerous than a cellphone or laptop. Where they truly shine, however, is in their ability to provide smokers the look and feel of a cigarette without the dangerous chemical additives present in traditional tobacco. Likewise, because they deliver nicotine through vaporization rather than smoke, e-cigarettes provide nicotine without the hazardous carcinogens that form when burning tobacco leaves.

In terms of actual benefits, it’s clear that nicotine provides some measure of relief to patients with severe cases of schizophrenia, depression, and other mental health conditions. Granted, this relief is part chemical and part psychological, but that shouldn’t dismiss the therapeutic benefit of e-cigarettes out-of-hand. People diagnosed with mental health disorders account for 31 percent of all smokers within the United States. The analysis determined that nicotine can help patients cope with symptoms of schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, chronic depression, and other conditions. That said, this relief comes at the cost of the damage caused by traditional cigarettes. On average, mental health patients confined to psychiatric hospitals die 25 years earlier, with some cases naturally stemming from an addiction to cigarettes. E-cigarettes, therefore, could allow patients to access the benefits of nicotine without negatively impacting their physical health.

E-cigarettes are not only safer but have also been proven to work as a smoking cessation therapy. 90 percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia use nicotine and find it more difficult to quit than those with other disorders. According to a study performed by the University of Catania, e-cigarettes made it easier for those with schizophrenia to cut down on their nicotine consumption and, more importantly, did so without causing the symptoms of their disease to become more severe. In short, while more study is definitely needed, e-cigarettes clearly provide some measure of relief in a way less damaging than traditional cigarettes and should, at the very least, be employed within psychiatric wards alongside other smoking cessation products.

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