May 13, 2019 11:04 AM EDT
In new research led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, young adults with a history of childhood neglect or abuse are more prone to using e-cigarettes during the transition to adulthood. The researchers have published the results of the study in The American Journal on Addictions, the official journal of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.
An associate professor in the School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, Sunny Shin, Ph.D., said that the use of e-cigarette had overtaken cigarette smoking among American adolescents. Those of them that have experienced childhood maltreatment may be at particular risk of using an e-cigarette, as these experiences have been linked to future nicotine dependence. Because e-cigarettes are relatively new, however, research is limited in the area.
The research leaned on a sample of 208 participants aged 18 to 21 and reviewed the relationship between childhood maltreatment and e-cigarette use, and explored the potential role of impulsivity in linking childhood maltreatment to e-cigarette use via a series of models controlling for demographic characteristics.
In addition to discovering childhood maltreatment is significantly connected with e-cigarette use, the study found that childhood maltreatment was also related to "negative urgency" - or the tendency to engage in impulsive, risky behavior in response to intense emotions - which, in turn, was also significantly correlated with lifetime e-cigarette use.
Shin explained that what they discovered is that not only are maltreated young adults more likely to use e-cigarettes, but they are doing so because they are unable to stop their behavior when distressed. They may use e-cigarettes to cope with trauma-related negative emotions-related impulsivity may be most effective in preventing e-cigarette use among victimized young adults.
It is unclear as to the long-term consequences of e-cigarette, but recent studies have connected e-cigarette use to various adverse health outcomes such as heart attack, respiratory problems, and asthma.
The interest of the researchers was in looking at e-cigarette use among young adults as nicotine is highly addictive and harmful to adolescent brain development. Young people exposed to adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect were considered to be a particularly high-risk population.
The conclusion of the study is that to understand the findings fully, the researchers need further research, including using longitudinal designs, more representative sample, and measures of motives to use e-cigarettes.
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