A wide range of healthcare and addiction among Americans young issues drew headlines in 2019, disrupting the lives of millions of Americans, as did one big change in heart health guidelines.
Vaping, New Dangers Emerge
Perhaps no health issue dominated headlines this past year as much as the surge in vaping rates—and new, severe illnesses related to the nicotine-driven habit.
By the end of December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 2,500 people across all 50 states had been hospitalized with life-threatening respiratory dysfunction tied to recent e-cigarette use. Fifty-four of those patients died.
Research strongly suggests that an additive sometimes used in pot-laced vapes, called vitamin E acetate, may be triggering these illnesses.
But health experts have also raised a more general alarm about soaring rates of e-cigarette use among teens. One CDC report issued in November found about 1 in every 5 high school students said they’d vaped within the past month. Many experts are worried that hard-won gains against smoking will be lost as vaping—and its potential health hazards—gains new ground.
In the second half of the year, this crisis exploded onto America’s consciousness. Hundreds of people were stricken with lung illnesses, and dozens of deaths were recorded. But beyond the medical concerns, Americans struggled to address the problem. For example, schools debated whether to handle vaping as an issue of discipline or public health.
Many states have already banned the flavored varieties of e-cigarettes thought to be most enticing to youth. The Trump administration earlier this year suggested a similar ban, but so far has not followed through.
The Opioid Scourge Continues
Across the United States, the misery unleashed by a flood of opioid prescription painkillers, as well as illicit opioids such as fentanyl and heroin, continued in 2019.
Tens of thousands of lives were lost to drug overdoses, and those tragedies have perhaps contributed to the first decline in U.S. life expectancy in generations, experts said.
The young are being hit especially hard. According to a study released in November from Virginia Commonwealth University, between 2014 and 2017, there’s been a 6% increase in death rates among people aged 25 to 64, with death rates jumping 25% among young adults aged 25 to 44.
Even the youngest Americans aren’t unscathed by the opioid crisis: A study published in December found that the care of American babies born with opioid-withdrawal syndrome costs $500 million annually.
In the meantime, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma—the drug company whose aggressive marketing of opioid painkillers has been blamed for triggering the crisis—filed bankruptcy in September. As reported by the New York Times, there are more than 2,600 pending federal and state lawsuits lodged against the company, and the pharmaceutical giant has proposed a resolution to most of them as part of its bankruptcy filing.
As the crisis continued to ravage America — and governments sought compensation from drug makers — communities searched for creative solutions.
In Kentucky, new programs helped grandparents and others who were caring for the children of mothers and fathers struggling with addiction. In Indiana, a group handled their grief in an unusual way: by boxing in a small gym. And a Side Effects investigation highlighted the questionable claims of a therapy touted as a sure-fire way to overcome addiction.
Surging Interest in Pot, CBD
As state after state relaxed laws over the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, Americans took to the once-illicit drug in droves. And that had many parents and health experts concerned.
In fact, one study published in June found that regular pot use by U.S. teens has jumped 10-fold since the 1990s—from 0.6% of high schoolers in 1991 to 6.3% of teens by 2017. Many are vaping pot, or trying “edibles.”
And there could be a real downside to the trend. Another study published in November found that in the four states that first legalized recreational marijuana use, rates of problematic “cannabis use disorder” have risen by 25% among teens and by 37% among adults over 25.
Interest in cannabidiol (CBD), an ingredient in cannabis that doesn’t provide a high, also soared among consumers in 2019. CBD oils, edibles, aromatherapies, and even CBD-infused massages seemed to be everywhere this year.
But questions remain about the medicinal claims—and safety—of CBD products. So far, the FDA has only approved CBD for the easing of seizures in two rare forms of epilepsy.
More information about Vaping Health in 2019 :
- American Lung Association Does Not Recommend Using Vaping to Quit Smoking
- Lung Disease Associated with Vitamin E Oil and Lipid-Laden Macrophages
- Denmark Looks into E-Cigarette Following U.S. Lung Disease
- Vapor Technology Association Files Lawsuit Against New York Department of Health and Public Health and Health Planning Council to Stop Ill-Considered Flavor Ban