Our article this month is on something that impacts adolescents and college students and I am constantly asked questions about these things. The topic is the array of confusing contraptions that kids are using these days to smoke nicotine, marijuana and only sometimes just water. We are hearing more and more terms like: Vaping, Juuling and dabbing.
Let’s clear up terminology and definitions:
Vaping and JUULING are the same thing and both refer to e-cigarettes. JUULING is the new term used by adolescents and JUUL is actually just a brand (juul.com). Both have been previously called e-cigarettes. The terms vaping originated from the word “vapor” because the nicotine is distributed through a liquid called e-juice. This juice forms a vapor. They can come in almost any flavor which kids appear to really like. There has been a lot of controversy around these things because it is becoming more and more apparent that young people are who juul the most. Juul’s resemble a flash drive and often teachers don’t even know that they are a form of smoking.
Dabbing is a word thrown around a lot now and it refers to a new way of smoking pot. Dabs are a small concentrated form of THC oils (also called butane hash oil because of how they are made). It is more potent than regular marijuana. Dabs are smoked out of Dab pens and can give the user a more intense high.
What’s it all look like:
It is true that for adults e-cigarettes are often used to quit smoking but this is rarely reported amongst teens and young adults. It appears more so that people think this is better for you than smoking (which is still very debatable).
A lot of parents also ask me if kids can smoke marijuana out of e-cigarettes and the answer is yes. People are now smoking marijuana in a several different ways. They can put their marijuana in the e-juice and there are special “pens” for smoking pot. It is more potent than regular marijuana. Dabs are smoked out of Dab pens and are also more potent. People are also putting marijuana into their vape pens. It appears that this is often due to its ease and again there seems to be this focus on it being healthier than regular cigarettes.
What to do:
As a counselor, of course, I do assess and look at safety components but I also look at the psychological impact and overall reasoning behind the actions of adolescents and young adults. In other words, I look at what they are getting out of their actions and how to help them have a greater understanding of themselves and their choices.
In my experience, when young people engage in smoking they are often responding to tough emotions. These tough emotions can be a sense of being left out, lonely, feeling inadequate, or a number of other feelings. Smoking becomes a way of self-soothing and regulating high stress emotions. It can also be a way to find safety and a sense of belonging with their peers. This is the question I try to get young people to think about:
How do you regulate your own emotions and self-soothe?
Instead of just telling kids to stop using their favorite Juul (which I do understand sometimes parents have to do), I ask them if they have noticed when they are most likely to smoke? Have they figured out what emotions they are feeling when they smoke? Is it nervousness, fear, anger, joy, sadness? Do they smoke more alone or in groups?
I also encourage kids to find balance. I tell them, “It’s okay to notice that you smoke when you feel angry, but do you have other things that you do when you are angry too?” I educate people to understand that we often use self-soothing mechanisms such as smoking as a way to belong in a specific social setting. I get people to notice how many people engage in these activities when they are in a group or new to a group. It’s about connecting these actions to feelings of insecurity or fear—fear of not fitting in or not being liked. From here, it’s about finding ways they can calm their emotions when they are feeling unsure of themselves. We list ways that they feel okay about themselves and all they have to offer. We may practice other ways to calm nervousness such as a flavored toothpick, a stress ball or fidget.
It’s helpful to build up these skill sets prior to young people (or anyone for that matter) being able to let go of something that helps them cope. They have to understand why they are choosing what they choose and that there are other options before they are ever ready to try something new.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for next month’s articles Talking to your college student about Sex even when they don’t want to hear it (per special request) and supporting your college student’s anxiety.
September’s Bridge Box is full of the usual 14-16 yummy snacks while also focusing on themes of Anxiety: what it is and how to help yourself. We provide college students with concrete skills and a special tool to help them through moments of overwhelm. Order now!
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Have a great September!