So, they turned to rehab.
“I found on the internet that it should be treated like a substance abuse issue. That helped when I called the insurance company and told them we need a referral for a substance abuse treatment.”
E-cigarettes, which were originally created as a way to wean people from smoking cigarettes, contain nicotine, and are extremely addictive. One Juul pod contains as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. And teens like Luka are going through several Juul pods every single day.
Contrary to popular belief, vaping is not a “healthier alternative” to smoking. It’s nicotine. It’s an addictive substance, and it is causing harm to people nationwide in what the Food and Drug Administration is calling a vaping epidemic.
Just this week, reports of a mysterious lung disease have skyrocketed with more than 480 people having been hospitalized nationwide. Doctors are at a loss, with only one common factor among all of the patients being e-cigarette use.
As of Monday, six people have died in cases believed to be related to vaping.
Luka spent 39 days in an addiction rehab facility before he was able to fully overcome his vaping habits.
“I did not want to go at all. I was upset,” he says, adding that while the experience was very useful, and informative, he was “very, very lonely.”
“For two weeks, I had pretty intense withdrawal. I was very nauseous, had a lot of insomnia and anxiety, headaches. At the rehab, they had a psychiatrist who was able to get me anti-anxiety medicine and a sleeping medication. That definitely helped ease the withdrawal.”
Luka says when he returned home from rehab, he had every opportunity to vape but decided it was no longer for him.
“I would tell parents who are worried about their teens vaping to be really accepting and supportive. That’s the biggest thing. If your child is vaping and they are addicted to it, they’re going through a lot of shame. If you punish them, if you shame them, it’s just going to add on to their shame. They’re just going to isolate and pull away from you even more.”
Since going through rehab and sharing his story, Luka has partnered with the Truth Initiative, which has a quitline exclusively for those who are struggling with a vaping addiction.
Although he was able to quit vaping altogether, Luka says the addiction has radically changed his life.
“My health is pretty good now, but there’s no way I’m fully recovered. I haven’t even had a year of sobriety yet. Every day, I’m still in recovery. That’s how it’s going to be the rest of my life.”
Luka now travels around the state of North Carolina, sharing his story at schools just like his, with the hope that it would help others with their vaping addiction. The 16-year-old hopes to one day travel the country and help put an end to vaping altogether.