Addiction is a powerful motivation. It never ceases to amaze me, how creative the addicted mind can be in search of a new high. The latest technique, called “Dripping”, with its fancy nickname and optically alluring thick clouds of flowery smoke, seems like it came straight out of a Madison Avenue marketers’ playbook. Tobacco, alcohol and sugar producers of the world have made huge profits for generations promoting the idea that their products will make you feel sexier, happier, refreshed or more fulfilled. Over time, these same tactics were studied and adopted by the entire drug counter-culture, tempting potential addicts with new ways to excite and tease the brain. Their ability to innovate and market by developing new techniques and creating inventive nicknames continually takes on new forms. The potential for abuse with this new process appears is limited solely by users’ capacities to be creative.
“Dripping” is derived from people vaping electronic cigarettes, battery operated devices that heat liquid and turn it into a vapor, instead of smoke, which a person inhales. E-Cigarettes have been universally promoted as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes because proper use leads to a lower ingestion of harmful chemicals and the elimination of second-hand smoke. What goes unaccounted for, is that the growing popularity has led to increased use by adolescents legally prohibited from smoking, as well as several other alternative uses for these devices including smoke trick competitions, helping to foster the “cool” factor.
“Dripping” itself is pretty simple. It involves the dropping of e-cigarette liquid directly onto the hot coils of the electronic cigarette to produce a thicker, more flavorful smoke. This is dangerous enough in and of itself because it exposes users to higher levels of nicotine and other harmful toxins such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which are known carcinogens. However, the growing availability of marijuana in the form of THC oil, makes that use the inevitable next troubling step in the evolution of this concerning trend. It could also be used to experiment with any number of other drugs typically consumed by smoking. This is of particular concern because of its growing availability to adolescents. Study-after-study demonstrates that people who start smoking in their youth are as much as 80% more likely to become addicts as adults, than their non-smoking counterparts.
The CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, defends e-cigarettes by pointing out that users who ‘drip’ represent just a small sliver of the people who enjoy vaping and that the existence of vaping does reduce the smoking of more harmful traditional cigarettes. He emphasizes that the industry in no way condones “dripping” because, “at the end of the day, I don’t think they serve any kind of purpose”. However, we must appreciate the fact that he’s motivated by a particularly biased perspective, not all that much different from those in the alcohol industry with their ‘responsible drinking’ campaigns.
It’s developments like this which highlight the importance of flexibility and open-mindedness in addiction treatment. We are constantly bombarded with frustrating twists and turns, making it seem like we’re playing one giant game of addiction ‘whack-a-mole’. One minute, we’re combating synthetic drugs like FLACCA (bath salts), and the next minute, synthetic marijuana like K2, then the wind changes and “Dripping” is all the rage. Our need to remain vigilant and aware of new developments is more important than ever. Addicts are often fragile and susceptible to the latest trend with a cool name. Unless we’re persistent and consistent with our message these trends have a way spiraling out of control. The stakes are high. That’s why it’s critical for us to loudly voice our concerns when troubling challenges develop, to nip them in the bud before we find ourselves bracing for yet another tidal wave of substance abuse pounding up against our shores.