Smoking, in simple words, means drawing and exhaling smoke from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. Tobacco smoke contains a stimulant, ‘nicotine’ which is as highly an addictive drug as heroin or cocaine. Recent studies by the National Institute of Health suggest that nicotine is actually a “gateway” drug that leads to an increased likelihood of illicit drug use and addiction, by increasing the effect of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. In the long run, nicotine forms in the user a strong physical and psychological dependence. Dependence is strongest when tobacco smoke is inhaled into the lungs and with time it increases the speed and quantity of nicotine absorption.
But, is nicotine that highly addictive? The answer is ‘yes’. Why? When taken in small amounts nicotine creates a pleasant feeling which makes the smoker want to smoke more. Moreover, when a smoker tries to quit, he suffers from physical withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, headaches and trouble sleeping. It also affects the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system. Ultimately the smoker finds it hard to quit.
What is the difference between physiological and psychological addiction? Physiological Addiction occurs when an individual is addicted to a substance (nicotine) on which the body has grown dependent. When a person stops taking the chemical substance, symptoms of withdrawal, the body’s way of responding to the cessation, occur by stating, “Hey, what did you do? I need more of what you’ve been taking.” Withdrawal can result in a variety of real physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains. Tolerance is often seen in long term addiction. Tolerance is the body’s need to acquire more of the substance in order to reach a particular level of relaxation or “high,” and it doesn’t matter if the substance is alcohol or tobacco or other form of drug.
Psychological Addition occurs when the individual may or may not be physically addicted to a substance, but craves the related environmental effects. These effects are the “source” or the “habit” of repeated behavior that relieves or decreases severe anxiety and stress. In the instance of smoking, the psychological addiction is the physical act of smoking and the act of smoking as part of a daily routine or pattern (i.e. first cigarette of the day, smoking after a meal, with alcohol, etc). Despite the impact on work and relationships, individuals typically will go to great lengths to calm the severe stress and anxiety that occurs with the absence of the substance or associated behavior to which they are addicted.
Smokers that attempt to quit or even cut back will feel the effects of both the physiological and psychological addictions, so what are their alternatives? Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is used to assist in the physiological addiction aspect but serves no purpose in the psychological aspect. Smokers using NRT will adopt candy, gum, chewing pencils, etc. but all will admit none of these are even mediocre substitutes. So without a suitable alternative for the “act” of smoking, how successful will the smoker be in reducing the number of cigarettes smoked much less quitting altogether?
Smokers reading this can give the best answer.
The human body is a very complex structure and provides some built in systems that provide us with some help. There are five traditional human senses – taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch. We often add memory as a sixth sense. Why are these important as it relates to smoking? Each of these senses provides us a mechanism from which to tell pleasure from danger, good from bad, etc. How do these related to smoking?
Remember that first cigarette? Smokers’ memory places this as high as any particular aspect in their life. Ask any smoker if they remember that first smoke and 98 of 100 will say yes. Think about it for a minute and then let’s add the other senses.
Taking the cigarette out of the pack and inhaling the tobacco aroma — in most cases it is pleasant enough go to step 2 — placing it in your mouth — tasting the unlit tobacco flavor is still mostly pleasant so we continue to step 3 — lighting up! Whoa! What happened to all the good stuff I was just feeling? We inhale — intense heat goes into the mouth and into the throat and it seems you can feel the heat all the way into your lungs and you are on fire. This is followed simultaneously by severe coughing, dizziness and watery eyes. Starting to bring back memories?
We take puff number 2, 3, 4, etc. When that first smoke is finished, we stink, are sweating and shaking a little bit and we say wow, how about another. If one looks back and seriously reflects on this, is this not a true contradiction of our senses. Every one of our senses is telling us no and we ignore them totally.
Now fast forward “X” number of years that we have been smoking and what is our reflection — for most smokers it is one of “why did I ever smoke that second cigarette” and the answer still evades us. The addiction, the rank smell, the offensive smoke, smoking bans, cigarette taxes, etc. None contribute to a positive aspect of smoking. So what do we do about cutting back and perhaps quitting altogether?
Medical research has proven that smoking is a major contributing factor towards many human health problems such as cancer, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and other disorders. Even nicotine without the tobacco is known to adversely affect 8 different body systems of organs, including the brain, lungs, blood system, muscles, endocrine system and gastro-intestinal tract to name a few. If you sit to jot down the effects of smoking you are sure to come up with all the negative things. It is a habit which makes the smoker its slave. Once acquired it is hard to quit and once quit is easy to regain.