Motor Skills Affected by Alcohol in E-Cigarettes

Some commercially available e-cigarettes contain enough alcohol to impact motor skills, a new Yale University School of Medicine study shows.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine by vaporizing liquids, which often contain alcohol and other chemicals in addition to nicotine. In the new study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers tested subjects who used two commercially available e-cigarettes with liquids containing either high (23.5%) or low (0.4%) amounts of alcohol.

While neither group reported feeling differently after inhaling vapor, the group who used e-cigarettes with the high alcohol level performed more poorly on psychomotor tests and in some instances also had detectable levels of alcohol in their urine.

About 75% of the commercial e-cigarette liquids tested in the study contained less than 1% alcohol. However, the authors note some e-cig users create their own liquids with higher alcohol content and that almost nothing is known about the prevalence and patterns of using e-liquids that contain alcohol.

The researchers also said it was possible that the presence of alcohol might reinforce the addictive properties of both nicotine and alcohol if inhaled.

“Given the widespread and unregulated use of e-cigarettes, especially by youth and other vulnerable populations, further studies are needed to evaluate both the acute safety and long-term health risks of using alcohol-containing e-cigarettes,” said Mehmet Sofuoglu, of Yale’s Department of Psychiatry and VA Connecticut Healthcare system, who is senior author of the paper.

Image shows a man smoking an e-cig.
The researchers also said it was possible that the presence of alcohol might reinforce the addictive properties of both nicotine and alcohol if inhaled. Image is adapted from the Yale press release.
About this neuroscience research

Gerald Valentine of Yale is first author of the paper. Other Yale authors include Peter Jatlow, Marcedes Coffman, Haleh Nadim, and Ralitza Gueorguieva

Funding: Funding for the research was provided by the New England Mental Illness Research Education Clinical, Centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute for Drug Abuse, and FDA Center for Tobacco Products.

Source: Bill Hathaway – Yale
Image Source: The image is adapted from the Yale press release
Original Research: Full open access research for “The effects of alcohol-containing e-cigarettes on young adult smokers” by Gerald W. Valentine, Peter I. Jatlow, Marcedes Coffman, Haleh Nadim, Ralitza Gueorguieva, and Mehmet Sofuoglu in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Published online December 24 2015 doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.12.011


Abstract

The effects of alcohol-containing e-cigarettes on young adult smokers

Background

The liquids (e-liquids) used in an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) contain myriad chemicals without adequate human inhalation safety data. Furthermore, the absence of e-liquid labeling requirements poses a formidable challenge to understanding how e-liquid constituents may promote nicotine addiction and/or have independent or synergistic biological effects when combined with nicotine. Ethyl alcohol is such a constituent, but has received little scientific interest in this context.

Methods

Using a randomized, double blind, crossover design, acute changes in subjective drug effects, motor performance and biochemical measures of alcohol and nicotine intake were evaluated after directed and ad lib puffing from two commercially available e-liquids containing nicotine (8 mg/ml), vanilla flavor and either 23.5% (high) or 0.4% (trace) alcohol.

Results

While no differences in subjective drug effects were observed between alcohol conditions, performance on the Purdue Pegboard Dexterity Test (PPDT) improved under the trace, but not under the 23.5% alcohol condition. Although plasma alcohol levels remained undetectable during testing, urine ethyl glucuronide (EtG), an alcohol metabolite, became measurable in three participants after puffing from the 23.5% alcohol e-cigarette.

Conclusions

Brief use of a widely available type of e-cigarette containing an e-liquid purchased from an internet vendor can negatively impact psychomotor performance and in some instances, produce detectable levels of a urine alcohol metabolite. Given the widespread and unregulated use of e-cigarettes, especially by youth and other vulnerable populations, further studies are needed to evaluate both the acute safety and long-term health risks of using alcohol-containing e-cigarettes.

“The effects of alcohol-containing e-cigarettes on young adult smokers” by Gerald W. Valentine, Peter I. Jatlow, Marcedes Coffman, Haleh Nadim, Ralitza Gueorguieva, and Mehmet Sofuoglu in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Published online December 24 2015 doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.12.011

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