Part 1. The X-Factor
Does this sound familiar?
After two or three weeks of vaping, there’s a sense of depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, or other symptoms suggesting that vaping is not doing the same thing as cigarettes were. Something isn’t right.
You might have smoked two packs of 100s a day, or a half-pack of ultralights a day.
You might be vaping 36mg or 12mg.
You might have tried every solution out there to make vaping work – quality equipment, good liquid, behavior changes.
But in the end, smoking was providing something that vaping doesn’t.
Here are some experiences that may ring true.
Yes, I still got a "buzz" every morning with the first of the day and anytime I went a longer than normal period without. Ecigs don't provide that. Like my tobacco, it didn't take me long to locate and buy the highest strength nic (75mg) I could find to reproduce the same effect. I found out I could get myself feeling oogy, but that's as far as it went, no "buzz", the feeling of calm, brain stimulus […] I've described to my wife (a lifetime non-smoker) it's kind of like being in a mental desert. Just kind of a constant mood instead of the rewarding uplift, satisfying focus I got after having a smoke.
The "relax" factor is there but the "concentration" factor is not.
I Enjoyed a Cigarette. I don't enjoy Vaping. It is something i do to keep my Nicotine Level up and to stop me from smoking an analogue.
I felt satisfied and "normal" vaping once. It involved using 48mg liquid non-stop (no breath of fresh air between drags) for over an hour straight.
Otherwise, I was useless at work (terrible concentration/focus issues) unless I had a cigarette every now and then. And I'd develop a horrendous headache that at first I thought was caused by too much nicotine.. until I discovered that just a couple of drags from a cigarette made it disappear instantly. Hmm...
What confuses me is that my brother consistently smoked three or four packs of full flavor cigs a day... in some cases, unfiltered rollies.. and yet he is satisfied on 24mg and gets a buzz from 36mg….
Hopelessness, lack of motivation, lack of appetite, poor concentration, etc. Nicotine alone helps but still leaves me in a very bad place, even after months without tobacco of any kind.
I could never quit using e-cigs, not even close. I could vape for an hour straight and I still needed a cig.
I'm now into my fourth month of vaping and I'm still having one or two cigarettes a day. The crazy thing is that they taste a bit foul now, and I no longer enjoy smoking them. But they satisfy (minimally) a need for something I'm not getting in the vapor.
This is just a small sample.
Many posts pointed out that there is a group that just can’t vape enough. Or they find themselves unable to break the habit of smoking. Or nicotine alone just doesn’t feel good.
Maybe you’re trying to increase your nicotine – 24, 36, even 48mg or more to find that buzz, that clarity or calm from cigarettes. We think more nicotine will be the solution. So we keep vaping more and using higher-milligram levels, thinking we’ll feel satisfied finally. Some of us vape ourselves sick trying to find it.
That’s a sign something is missing.
Tobacco is more than just nicotine.
[Note: I left out the usernames in case people didn't want to be cited - I couldn't decide whether or not to totally anonymize, so I left the post numbers for reference.]
2. The Rest of Tobacco
Why do smoking cessation treatments fail so badly for so many?
Tobacco research took a wrong turn somewhere, as DVap put it.
Smoking cessation treatments focus entirely on nicotine replacement, or in the case of Chantix (varenicline) and Wellbutrin (Zyban, bupropion), on the nicotinic receptors in the brain.
Nicotine is the most common (90%) alkaloid in tobacco, but there are others: anatabine, anabasine, nornicotine, and several more.
Some of these (such as anabasine) work in a similar manner to nicotine. We don’t fully understand how the chemical “stew” works in synergy.
What we do know is that these other alkaloids are psychoactive: they all exert some action on the brain. It follows that they were all, to some extent, part of the psychological and physical sensations we craved in tobacco.
One particular group of psychoactives in tobacco stands out: the beta-carboline alkaloids, which act as MAO inhibitors (MAOIs). The ones in tobacco are known as harman and norharman.
They exist in tiny quantities in tobacco smoke, but multiple that by 20-40+ cigarettes per day, every day, and over time they have a considerable effect.
MAO inhibitors vary in their chemical structure (as well as in side effects and drug interactions, etc.), but virtually all MAOI-acting chemicals have some kind of antidepressant action.
Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an enzyme present throughout the body and brain that breaks down excess neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and phenethylamine.
So, an MAOI both raises and prolong the rush from nicotine, by inhibiting the breakdown of dopamine which is released by nicotine.
By increasing the brain concentration of serotonin and norepinephrine, MAOIs also act as antidepressants.
For those who find anxiety, stress, insomnia or depression a problem after switching from smoking to vaping, this offers a very plausible explanation.
(And for those who find digestive disorders, such as constipation, a particular problem after switching from smoking to vaping, there is a good reason: Serotonin receptors in the gut also regulate digestion and elimination. This is why antidepressants are often used for irritable bowel syndrome [IBS].)
kinabaloo posted some information about MAOIs and addictiveness here.
One interesting point is that in several animal studies, nicotine alone is not especially addictive – it’s difficult to get rats or monkeys to self-administer nicotine (i.e. become dependent upon it). When given in conjunction with an MAOI, the self-administration of nicotine jumps.
Translation: With an MAOI in the mix, nicotine feels a lot better.
Moreover, long-time smokers show a significant inhibition of MAO in the body and brain – almost as much as people taking a pharmaceutical MAOI antidepressant.
Translation: We smokers have gotten used to having MAO inhibition, and a higher level of certain neurotransmitters. We've been taking a psychoactive drug all these years. And we stopped it when we switched to vaping.
So, are the beta-carboline MAOIs the main piece we are missing when we switch from smoking to vaping? It’s a very plausible explanation at this point. Keep in mind that it is only a good hunch. There’s much unknown about how the other alkaloids work.
The major point remains: There are components to tobacco other than nicotine.
That remaining 10% of the alkaloids in tobacco are, in a sense, the essential puzzle pieces for some.
Onto Part 3
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