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Risk Factors for Illicit Substance Vaporizer Use in Adolescents

Tankersley, William, MD*; Martz, Gloria, DO*; Mekala, Hema M., MD*; Motiwala, Huda, MD

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: March 2019 - Volume 18 - Issue 1 - p 22–27
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000143
Original Articles

Objective: The use of vaporizers for nicotine and other illicit substances is increasing among adolescents. Our study aims to identify the risk factors for vaping illicit drugs in adolescents.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from 692 patients, aged 13 to 17, admitted to the Children's Recovery Center, Norman, Oklahoma, between August 11, 2014 and March 30, 2016. Descriptive statistics were computed to evaluate the study population and identify the rate of nicotine and other substance abuse in the adolescents. Logistic regression and adjusted odds ratio were performed to identify the risk factors for vaping illicit drugs.

Results: Of 692 adolescents, 70.6% (n=489) reported using nicotine at least once in their lifetime. Among them, 56.4% (n=276) were daily tobacco users and 82.4% (n=403) described smoking by means of a vaporizer/electronic cigarette (e-cigarette). Among the study population, 67.4% (n=467) stated using illicit substances at least once, out of which, 18.4% (n=86) reported consuming illicit drugs through a vaporizer/e-cigarette. Male sex, history of nicotine use with a vaporizer/e-cigarette, and previous drug abuse are evidenced as risk factors for vaping illicit substances in adolescents (P<0.05).

Conclusions: Our study results indicate that nicotine use by means of a vaporizer/e-cigarette, history of illicit drug abuse increase the likelihood of vaping illicit substances among adolescents. With increasing popularity in battery-powered smoking devices, it is necessary to understand the potential dangers and consequences that might occur with vaping illegal drugs.

*Department of Psychiatry, Griffin Memorial Hospital, Norman

Department of Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Oklahoma, Tulsa, OK

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Hema M. Mekala, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Griffin Memorial Hospital, 900 E Main St., Norman, OK 73071 (e-mail:

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