Plus: A pandemic-related surge in cigarette sales, and new questions about whether e-cigarettes actually help you quit smoking
By William Wagner
If a study of U.S. military veterans is even somewhat representative of the public at large, America’s overdose crisis goes way beyond opioids. Cocaine, meth and other stimulants are now also leaving significant wreckage in their paths.
We also examine two tobacco-related topics this week: the increase of cigarette sales during the pandemic and whether e-cigarettes really do help people quit smoking.
The OD Crisis Transcends Opioids
A study of U.S. military veterans, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, should sound alarm bells about cocaine, meth and other stimulants. According to the findings, there were about three times more stimulant-related overdose deaths among veterans in 2018 than in 2012. In all, 3,631 veterans died from ODs involving stimulants during that period.
“We need to build better awareness of the role of stimulants as a risk factor for overdose, and of the need for those who have stimulant use disorders to be referred for treatment, regardless if they are also using opioids,” Laura Coughlin, PhD, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction at Michigan and one of the study’s authors, said in a news release. “We know that cocaine and methamphetamine are much more likely to be adulterated with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids now, so those who use them need to be equipped with rescue doses of naloxone to use and need to know about the risk for overdose in case they or someone they’re with experiences an unexpected, life-threatening reaction.”
From the Annals of Internal Medicine:
Cigarette Sales Rose in the Pandemic
We know that alcohol and drug use have increased during the pandemic. It seems tobacco use is on an upswing, too. During the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the American Cancer Society, cigarette sales were about 14% higher than what would typically be expected over that timeframe.
Some of [the reasons for increased cigarette sales] are the stay-at-home orders. Remember, some people used to work in workplaces where we have smoking bans. Now that they’re staying at home, they have their freedom to do whatever they want at home.”—Samuel Asare, American Cancer Society
Why the rise? The researchers have their theories, including this one from Samuel Asare, a co-author of the study: “Some of [the reasons] are the stay-at-home orders. Remember, some people used to work in workplaces where we have smoking bans. Now that they’re staying at home, they have their freedom to do whatever they want at home.”
From the JAMA Network:
Judging from studies that have been released recently, there is debate about whether e-cigarettes are helpful or harmful in helping people quit smoking. In our July 6 edition of “From the Journals,” we cited a study from Queen Mary University stating that e-cigarettes show promise for smoking cessation. Now comes research from the University of California San Diego that states just the opposite: “Our findings suggest that individuals who quit smoking and switched to e-cigarettes or other tobacco products actually increased their risk of a relapse back to smoking over the next year by 8.5 percentage points compared to those who quit using all tobacco products,” said first author John P. Pierce, PhD., distinguished professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.