So far, this blog has been basically a placeholder for personal things that do not necessarily fit under my capacity as a reporter for the finnish vaping association Vapers Finland RY, but I've been thinking about dependence and addiction lately and thought I might as well write down some of my own personal experiences as a thought exercise instead of a more official article. So don't expect anything polished or even necessarily coherent :)
I've always considered myself as a sort of "addictive" personality, prone to hyper-focusing on things and of course, while I was a smoker it was fairly clear that it was a major addiction (using that term subjectively here, mind you. Actual coherent definition is needed, but I'm sure most of the current versions would include what I did as a smoker). But after I found vaping and got rid of the smoking dependence issue.. I've been thinking about the issue a lot more and maybe even more analytically than before. When I smoked, it was just sort of something I did. I had all the usual signs: irritability while abstaining, irresistible cravings after an hour or so, pack a day without fail, really really really wanted to quit but was unable to.
What I never really experienced is the euphoria that's supposedly an integral part of the process and mechanisms of addiction. No sense of a supposed "nicotine-rush", only the occasional dizziness that's almost certainly attributable to carbon dioxide exposure. So what was the benefit I was getting from cigarettes then? The moment of relaxation of going out on the balcony and inhaling deep perhaps? Just the pleasure of the behaviour itself?
Clearly there was something to it that kept me doing it for over a decade.
Now, most people you would present this scenario to would instantly answer that "obviously you are just addicted to nicotine".
But in all honesty, is that even true?
The difference now is almost not even comparable. My vaping experience has totally transformed my thinking on the whole concept of dependence, since none of the classic signs are really present. I do use nicotine all the same, inhaling like I used to, but all the cravings and withdrawal effects are just gone. The major difference now I actually find pleasure in the behavior, especially since I can really fine tune the experience to match my preferences of throat hit, flavor, warmth and volume.
So am I still addicted?
For example, the DSM5 criterion list:
Use longer and larger amounts than intended. Not really. I never really thought about how long and how much should or should not use nicotine. I vape when I feel like it, so unless there's an objective measure for this it does not even apply.
Wanting to cut down or quit and not being able. Not really, no. Neither option is appealing to me, the benefits are much larger than abstinence.
Spending a lot of time obtaining nicotine. Definitely not, though I do enjoy a lot of flavors so designing recipes is a part of the habit. Maybe that counts, kinda? I don't really know.
Cravings or strong urges. This happens on occasion, depending on my liquid. Takes most of the day, but I can easily avoid this by using flavorings like rhubarb, chili or others that simulate the throat hit from nicotine. So clearly even the withdrawal is not caused by nicotine itself, but rather the sensory experience.
Activities, responsibilities, interpersonal relation problems and such only really apply to drug abuse I think. Even most smokers don't seem to experience these. So no, none of this.
Recurrent use in hazardous situations. Noo.. don't think so? Pretty sure I don't need to take out my mod regardless of the situation.
Consistent use despite acknowledgement of physical and psychological harm. Unlikely, I'm fairly confident these are not present in vaping. I do however acknowledge the inherent risks in inhalation exposure, so maybe this applies? But again, benefits are much larger so I'm making the informed choice to do so.
Tolerance. Decreasing steadily, I actually need to drop nicotine volume in liquids slightly from time to time, because I get the feeling it's too strong even though I'm absolutely sure it's not actually stronger. Enough said I think.
Withdrawal. See cravings, it's the only classic symptom I have experienced.
Apparently, I'm not addicted. Then when did I get cured, since I never actually stopped using nicotine but just changed the delivery method? Clearly I was highly dependent on smoking, but none of that is apparent with vaping.. So what gives? Logically it was NOT the nicotine in cigarettes, as conventional wisdom would suggest, but something else entirely.
Nowadays I'm leaning heavily on "no".