Electronic cigarettes are being used to vape illegal substances like cannabis, crack cocaine, ecstasy and heroin as part of a disturbing new drugs culture.
A study by public health experts has revealed alarming numbers of e-cigarette users are modifying their vaping devices so they can inhale vapour from banned drugs.
The research found 39 per cent of people with electronic vaping devices admit to using them to take illegal drugs or former ‘legal highs’ such as mephedrone.
The researchers who led the study warned too little is known about the risks of taking drugs in this way and that it could easily lead to overdoses among other problems.
Dr Matthew Blundell, a toxicologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, and his colleagues said: ‘Vaping of recreational drugs and new psychoactive substances poses a serious potential public health risk.
‘This novel culture could increase the prevalence of use, decrease the age of onset of use and lead to more problematic use of cannabis and other recreational drugs via vaping devices.’
Dr Matthew Blundell said vaping of recreational drugs poses a serious potential public health risk (stock photo)
Fuelling the UK’s drug culture
Around 2.6 million people now use e-cigarettes in the UK and numbers have soared in recent years as public health officials have tried to encourage smokers to use the devices instead.
While the World Health Organisation has expressed concern over e-cigarettes, Public Health England has said vaping may be 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco.
The Government is also pushing to lift bans on vaping at work as part of its Tobacco Control Plan to stamp out smoking.
But the new research, which is published in the leading medical journal QJM, suggests growing use of electronic vaping devices could also fuel the country’s drug culture.
Dr Blundell, together with colleagues at King’s College London, said modern e-cigarettes, tabletop vaporisers and vape pens can be modified for use with illegal drugs.
They conducted a survey of 2,500 people, of whom 861 currently used vaping devices or had done in the past.
They found 13.6 per cent of those questioned – or 39 per cent of those who had used e-cigarettes – admitted to having vaped illegal drugs.
More than two-thirds of those who had vaped drugs had done so will cannabis, while 42 per cent said they had done the same with MDMA or ecstasy and 39 per cent with cocaine.
The former ‘legal high’ mephedrone had been vaped by 31 per cent of respondents while 25 per cent said they had vaped heroin in the past.
Other drugs also to be reported as having being vaped included ketamine, the date rape drug GHB and LSD.
VEGETARIAN DIET IN PREGNANCY AND ABUSE DRUGS AND ALCOHOL LINK
Women who avoid meat during pregnancy dramatically raise the risk of their children becoming hooked on drugs and alcohol, according to new research.
A study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that adolescents aged 15 whose mothers refrained from eating meat while they were pregnant were more prone to substance abuse.
Specifically, they were almost twice as likely to indulge in underage drinking and smoking, and nearly three times as likely to use cannabis.
While recent health trends reflect larger numbers of people converting to vegetarianism, researchers are warning of the adverse affects of the lifestyle that could harm children.
A growing problem
The researchers said one of the most common reason for vaping drugs was that users thought it was safer than taking them in other ways.
Writing in the journal, the researchers added: ‘Increasing availability, use and acceptance of vaping devices, especially amongst teens and young adults, which may lead to greater use of recreational drugs by this route, thereby increasing overall drug exposure.
‘The ability to vape deodorised drugs, especially cannabis, more discreetly with no smell – known as ‘stealth vaping’ – makes drug use harder to detect and therefore prevent.’
Nick Hickmott, early intervention lead at Young Addaction, which supports people with alcohol and drug addiction, said it was clear vaping with drugs was a growing problem.
He said: ‘We’ve seen little evidence of vaporisers being used for street drugs such as heroin and cocaine, but our experience is that the use of vaporisers for cannabis slowly increasing.
‘Young people don’t want to use tobacco due to the health risks, but do want to use cannabis. As such, vaping is increasing in popularity.’