On TikTok, it seems there’s no shortage of Gen Z creators discussing several aspects of nicotine-slash-vape addiction — be it the negative changes they’ve noticed to their skin and oral health, or their documentation of trying to kick the habit. In fact, according to a 2022 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 24.8% of middle and high school students say they’ve tried a tobacco product at least once, and 20% say they’ve tried vaping.
On Sept. 16, 21-year-old Rhegan Coursey (@rhegancoursey) revealed via TikTok that, after seven years of vaping, she’d successfully quit and has been nicotine- and vape-free for one-and-a-half months.
“It’s officially been one and a half months of me being nicotine-free, vape-free after seven years of vaping,” Coursey said. “Up until now, it was hard for me to talk about it because I was still struggling…I was so addicted, I didn’t even care for the benefits that I was gonna see if I quit.”
In a recent study, Dr. Teresa To, a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada, found a link between vaping and chronic stress among young people.
“Chronic stress can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression,” To said at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan in September, News Medical Life Sciences reported. “It’s important for young people experiencing chronic stress to be given support early on to help them avoid resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms like vaping or smoking. Vaping is not an effective way to cope with stress, but stress and anxiety can trigger vape cravings, and make it harder for a user to quit.”
During a trip to Target, Coursey said that she purchased nicotine gum on a whim, as she was curious to see if it’d actually help curb her cravings. It did, she revealed, and she ended up having two pieces that first day. On the second day, she purchased sour spray and popsicles, the latter of which Coursey claimed was “the No. 1 thing” that got her through. She also relied on gum and Lifesaver mints.
On the third or fourth day into quitting, Coursey got what she described as “quitter’s flu” in addition to nicotine withdrawal. Post-flu, however, “everything was a breeze,” she said.
“Because I got sick and my body was purging, it almost felt liberating,” she added. “I knew that my body was purging and getting this thing out. So I was like, ‘I feel so s*** right now because it’s so bad for me that it’s making my body feel this way because I don’t have it.’ And it just made me want to push even more.”
The absence of nicotine for someone who used to regularly smoke or vape, can, in fact, cause flu-like symptoms.
“Nicotine flu is a collection of flu-like symptoms experienced by individuals shortly after they stop using nicotine, particularly from quitting smoking. It’s the body’s reaction to the sudden absence of nicotine, a substance it had grown accustomed to,” Dr. Ryan Sultan, a substance abuse therapist and professor at Columbia University, told In The Know by Yahoo via email. “The body gets used to the regular intake of nicotine when one smokes. Once smoking ceases, the body has to recalibrate itself to function without nicotine.”
Remedies for nicotine flu, according to Sultan, include:
Plenty of liquids: Drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins and ease some of the symptoms.
Rest: Your body is going through a significant transition. Allow yourself ample rest to facilitate healing.
A balanced diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can provide essential nutrients that aid in recovery.
Good support: Engaging in support groups or seeking counseling can provide moral and emotional support during this challenging phase.
Coursey said she also deliberately left her vape in her apartment and within her eyesight.
“I didn’t throw away my vape. I fully tested myself. If I was gonna discipline myself and quit, then I was gonna have one around because I knew that at some point I was gonna go out with my friends, and someone was gonna have one,” she explained. “So I kept one out. I kept one in my eyesight.”
On the seventh day, according to Coursey, she felt as though she could “really breathe again.” Other than the nicotine withdrawals, she said the only other thing that was difficult to endure was the brain fog.
Added Coursey, “Prove to yourself that you can quit because guess what? You can. No one wants to vape. No one wants to be addicted. You feel like you need it but you don’t.”
TikTok users praised Coursey for her achievement and got vulnerable about their own struggles.
“Kept a vape in my bedside table when I quit and just tossed it the other week after being nic free for 6+ months!” @chanaseidner commented, to which Coursey replied, “I still have some all around my house, it forces me to be super disciplined having them pop up randomly but I feel like it’s helped me so much with the mental challenge!!”
“I literally quit for 100 something days then picked it up again. I am gonna quit again, just scared of those withdraws again,” @katie.405 admitted.
Added @lexmartell, “I’m 2 months on the 15th after 6 years. The cravings are still there but they don’t outweigh the feeling of not being addicted!!”
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