Tobacco (Cigarette) Addiction

Addiction to tobacco is the second-leading cause of death worldwide.  It’s a massively deadly addiction; responsible for more than 5 million deaths every year. It is estimated that about 1.5 Billion smokers live in the world today and, despite the health warnings, smoking is on the increase in many areas of the world.  While there has been a significant drop in cigarette smoking in North America in the past two decades, smoking is on the rise in certain sectors of the population. The largest rate of growth is seen among the young – ages 15 to 25.

The reason tobacco is highly-addictive is due to the Nicotine infused into the cigarette-making process.    What many people don’t know is that Nicotine is a drug; a drug whose effects include a feeling of euphoria which serves as a reinforcer of use of Nicotine. Like in all addictions, people abuse the drug to get the feelings it supplies.   Nicotine has two other side effects which often go unrecognized; it is a stimulant and can also act as a depressant.

Here is how Nicotine operates: It releases hormones into the system which act on various receptors in the brain. Because it is a stimulant, use can result in more efficient processing of information and in significant reduction of fatigue. Stimulant effects also include heart rate and blood pressure along with decreasing appetite, which results in weight loss.  On the flip side, it has sedative effects such as reducing anxiety and the euphoric feeling mentioned earlier.  How one will be affected depends on the level introduced into the blood stream and the speed at which it builds in the brain’s receptors.

What makes tobacco addiction deadly?

It can be responsible for the following; sometimes in combination:

  • Lung cancer
  • Atherosclerotic vascular disease
  • Throat Cancer (cancer can be found in other areas as well)
  • Chronic Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  •  Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Peri-natal Mortality

Some experts say the drug is more addictive than cocaine, heroin and alcohol. A person who smokes as few as 5 cigarettes a day (initially) can easily develop a lifelong addiction.   The best and easiest way not to become addicted to smoking is to never start.

Signs that you are addicted or on the road to addiction:

  • Building tolerance to Nicotine – receiving decreased effects the user must keep increasing the dose
  • Reducing work, social or once enjoyable activities in order to smoke more
  • Despite best efforts to quit the desire to smoke continues and grows
  • An inordinate portion of time spent smoking and obtaining tobacco
  • Despite negative side effects (including health hazards) use continues
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when cutting down or stopping use

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Inability to concentrate or a significant decrease in ability to concentrate
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain due to appetite levels returning to normal
  • Slower heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Irritability

The good news is withdrawal symptoms usually reach their peak in the very first days and disappear in about 30 days.

When you are ready to quit smoking, there are a number of options which will help you to reach your goal.

Did you know that 90% of long-time smokers quit cold turkey?  If you’ve tried this approach without success don’t give up.  Here is a list of other types of aid available.

  • Professional Group Therapy
  • Individual Counseling
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy which includes: Nicotine patches worn on the skin; nasal spray, gum, lozenge, tablet and vapor inhaler (This type of therapy may produce adverse effects such as headaches, nausea and dizziness) These products supply the body with Nicotine in steadily decreasing amounts until user is drug-free
  • Prescription Medication: There are some anti-depressants, as well as other types of drugs, which have proven successful in the cessation process.   You must meet with a physician to discuss this option.

Many people are successful the first time they attempt to quit smoking. More, however, experience relapse and try several times before finding freedom from smoking. The important thing to keep in mind is “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”.  With determination and support you can conquer this often deadly addiction.