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Can Vaping Reduce Violence in Mentally Ill Patients?

Can Vaping Reduce Violence in Mentally Ill Patients?


A new study has surfaced in the UK claiming that mental institutions that have implemented a smoke-free policy that allows their patients to vape instead have seen a significant decrease of cases involving physical violence.


The paper, published by Lancet Psychiatry, reads that “findings from a meta-analysis of 35 studies, including 23,972 inpatients, showed that 17% of inpatients committed at least one violent act during a hospital admission.” It's also reported that in 2014-2015, there were 187 assaults reported per 1,000 staff members of mental health institutions in the UK, compared to 21 per 1,000 staff members in general medical environments.


While nearly all physicians agree that quitting cigarettes is highly advisable, the process of quitting for mentally ill patients is a different story. In many cases, patients who've attempted to quit cigarettes experience a rapid increase in the symptoms of their mental disorder.


Obviously, once the smoking ban was introduced, most expected that acts of violence committed by mental health patients would only increase. "Cigarettes have traditionally been used as a tool to motivate patients to do things like get out of bed in the morning," says Dr. Debbie Robson, a senior post-doctoral researcher in tobacco addiction at King's College. "They have been an important currency on the ward between patients and patients and patients and staff."


Following the implementation of smoke-free policies, patients were offered nicotine replacement therapies including patches and gum, as well as e-cigarettes. Instead of causing further violence, the amount of violent incidents had reduced by 39% per month, with only 4.9% of violent assaults reported being smoking-related. These patients, though, weren't only given these products, but also received regular behavioral counseling, psychological support, and prescription medications to assist in managing their nicotine cravings.


The study, conducted by the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service Foundation Trust, further stated that "patients should only use disposable e-cigarettes in designated and discreet areas such as hospital grounds and single bedrooms. They should not be used in communal indoor areas, ward gardens or any other places where patients or staff congregate."


Their stance, though, still seems a bit odd and broken. SLaM's smokefree policy states that "focus group discussions have indicated that there is a desire among patients and staff to use e-cigarettes to support cutting down or quitting tobacco. It is critically important that e-cigarettes do not simply replace cigarettes so that a culture of e-cigarettes replaces the smoking culture."


While this may stand in some extent, how much more of a reduction in violence would've occurred had patients been allowed to use e-cigarettes in a less restricted way?


Regardless of the process, the data related to UK e-cig studies is still considered a huge plus for many leaders of the scientific community. If mentally-ill patients are finally able to quit smoking and increase their overall physical safety, then this should be considered worldwide.